Transactional analysis (TA) is a rational approach to understanding behaviour and is based on the assumption that all individuals can learn to trust themselves, think for themselves, make their own decisions and express their feelings. It is defined by the International Transactional Analysis Association (ITAA) as, “TA is a theory of personality and a systematic psychotherapy for personal growth and personal change”. The principles of TA can be applied at work, home, in a classroom, in social gatherings – effectively wherever people deal with people.
TA as a method of psychotherapy, when used in a Group Sessions can be highly transformative for the members. The group serves as a setting in which people can become more aware of themselves, the structure of their individual personality, how they transact (interact) with other people, the games they play and the scripts they act out. This awareness enables people to see themselves more clearly so that they can change what they choose to change, give up things that no longer serve them and embrace new patterns of thinking and behaviour. Therefore, TA can be used as a powerful tool while conducting workshops for management and communications training and in organizational analysis, Corporate Sessions for employees and management and teachers in educational institutes as well as for social workers.
TA rests upon certain philosophical assumptions:
- People are OK
- Everyone has the capacity to think
- People decide their own destiny, and these decisions can be changed
Change begins with a contract between the therapist and the client. The contractual approach preserves the self-determination of the client and allows them to know when the terms of the contract have been fulfilled. The contract is simply a statement of the intention of the therapy, and serves as a solemn reminder of the intention and commitment of the client to the therapy and to open communication between the client and the therapist.
TA offers a frame of reference for people to define themselves and put to use to improve their lives. TA is concerned with four kinds of analysis:
Structural Analysis: the analysis of individual personality
Transactional Analysis: the analysis of what people do and say to one another
Game Analysis: the analysis of ulterior transactions that lead to a pay off
Script Analysis: the analysis of specific life dramas that people compulsively play out in their lives
The goal of TA is achieving autonomy. To be truly autonomous means being:
- Determining one’s own destiny
- Taking responsibility for one’s own actions and feelings
- Throwing off patterns that are irrelevant and inappropriate to living in the here and now
According to Eric Berne (the founder of TA), a truly autonomous person is one who demonstrates, “the release or recovery of three capacities: awareness, spontaneity and intimacy”.
He wrote, “Man is born free, but one of the first things he learns is to do as he is told, and he spends the rest of his life doing that. Thus his first enslavement is to his parents. He follows their instructions forevermore, retaining only in some cases the right to choose his own methods and consoling himself with the illusion of autonomy”.