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About Transactional Analysis

Transactional Analysis, commonly called TA, is a way of looking at what goes on between people and inside people in order to help them to make changes. TA is useful in education, management, organisational change and development and in counselling and psychotherapy.

TA counselling and psychotherapy in the 21st Century: offers an integration of Cognitive Behavioural, Gestalt, Psycho- dynamic, Relational and Transpersonal theory and practice in a humanistic psychotherapy using the TA core model of personality.

Core Concepts

The core concept that I introduce clients to is: that people exhibit relatively stable patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviour. We intuitively recognise these patterns as the personality of the individual.

When we see someone we know coming towards us, we see if they 'look' dejected, happy, agitated, or whatever - that is, from their demeanour (Behaviour) we deduce their emotional state (Feeling), and we can predict the way they are likely to be Thinking.

Such a pattern, constellation, of Feeling, Thinking and Behaving, is called an 'ego state', equivalent to a 'state of mind', or 'state of being'.

If we saw that our friend was agitated or angry, and we wanted to ask them a favour, we might decide "this is not the right time.

I'll ask them later when they have calmed down" - indicating that we expect them to move to another state of mind, another ego state, in time. What I offer can be considered as a therapy of ego states, to take energy from what are now dysfunctional ego states, energise other more functional ones and create new ones both in the therapy and through changed experiences.

Many ego states are a person’s ‘normal responses’: “Oh he/she always gets angry when....”. These responses are not fixed. They have been learned and practiced until they are automatic, but, with the right support,

what was learned in the past can be re-learned. What was ‘decided’ in the past under stress and with limited choices can be re-decided.


Ego States

In the diagram below I present the idea of an ego state as the building block of personality, to include physiological reactions and effects. I also add the circle around to represent the relational context in which 'historical' ego states are created.

The patterns of thinking feeling and behaviour represented by historical ego states are learned. What we experience as our personality is 'software', and as I tell the kids ‘This is where we do upgrades’.

Categories of Ego States

Having identified the useful concept of ego states, and noticed that there are many of them associated with an individual personality, we can make the idea more useful by considering classes or categories of ego states.

The simple division below; the patterns of thinking feeling and behaviour that we have taken in, absorbed, from earlier significant relationships; the thoughts feelings and behaviours we have when reality testing, in full contact with the present moment; and the patterns of thoughts of feelings and behaviour that we have developed to adapt to the relational environment we have experienced, are all that is necessary to understand people's responses in the present, to enhance communication and to facilitate therapeutic change.

Attitudes, feelings, behaviours.

This class is largely formed through the relationship with parents, hence it's nickname: Parent

This accounts for the personalities of caregivers, as well as culture, faith and morality.


Here and Now
Attitudes, feelings,

This represents the resources and capabilities of usually an adult, individual - reality testing, evaluating, problem solving. Hence it's nickname: Adult


Attitudes, feelings, behaviours.

This class is largely formed through the responses to significant adults in childhood, hence it's nickname: Child

This accounts for the personality adaptations and the defences, the habitual coping mechanisms, that the person has developed.


An Integrated Therapy

I introduce the idea of an 'ego state' as, a building block of personality in the section on TA.The diagram that follows develops the ego sate diagram to think about therapy.

The ego state diagram includes Physiology. In my way of working I use the physiological signals as another channel of information from the client. I do not do direct body work but I will ocasionally use contact and holding if appropriate, and agreed beforehand with the client.

We make ‘contact’ with others through sharing thoughts, feelings, or behaviour. Each person, in a particular ego state, will have a preferred way of making contact, and, using the metaphor of ‘doors’, this is called their 'open door'. To make a therapeutic shift they need to add a second point of contact, their 'closed door'. They are usually defensive in the third way of contact and if the therapist goes there too soon the therapy will get into difficulties, so it is called the 'trapdoor'.

Different therapies focus on different points of contact, as shown on the diagram on the next page, and, to my mind, it is the skill and responsibility of the therapist to identify the closed door, open door, and trapdoor, and respond as required. The therapy is likely to flounder if the therapy offered relies on contact at the client’s ‘trapdoor’. The doors change position, perhaps the preferred contact moves from thinking to feeling, as the client shifts ego states, either between sessions or within a session. Using an integrated model I can accommodate these changes, adapting to the client, rather than the client needing to adapt to what I can offer. In this sense, each therapy is tailor made to each individual.

The centre of the diagram is the point of stillness, of awareness, and I offer therapeutic meditation, including Mindfulness, particularly to clients with problematic or obsessive thoughts.

Experienced therapists tend towards a more integrated aproach, and training is now recognising the benefit of integration and flexibility.

Picturing Intergration of Therapies

Real therapists are not as limited as the diagram below might suggest, but it does indicate where the main focus of each school lies.

Single point therapy: Psychoanalysis focuses on insight. Gestalt focuses on awareness and 'contact', Behaviourism focuses on behaviour.

Two point therapy: Rogerian counselling focuses on thinking and feeling. Cognitive- Behavioural focuses on thinking and behaviour and Reality therapy, for addictions, focuses on feelings and behaviour.

Systemic and relational therapy focuses on the nature of the relationships involved.



 Developed & Expressed
In Relationships


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