Transactional Analysis

Transactional Analysis (TA) is a theory developed by Dr Eric Berne in the 1950s.  It is a social psychology and a method to improve communication. 

The theory outlines how we have developed and treat ourselves, how we relate and communicate with others, and offers suggestions and interventions which will enable us to change and grow. 

TA is underpinned by the philosophy that:

  • People can change

  • We all have a right to be in the world and be accepted.

Today TA is used in psychotherapy, counselling, organisations and educational and is an effective method of enhancing relationships with oneself and with others.

Ego States

Berne devised the concept of ego states to help explain how we are made up, and how we relate to others. These are drawn as three stacked circles and they are one of the building blocks of TA. They categorise the ways we think, feel and behave and are called Parent, Adult, and Child. Each ego state is given a capital letter to denote the difference between actual parents, adults and children.


A stroke is a unit of recognition and can take the form of a smile, a frown, a criticism or a compliment.  A stroke can be both positive or negative, verbal or non-verbal and conditional or unconditional.  Any transaction between people is an exchange of strokes.  Most transactions involve both verbal and non-verbal exchanges, with a possible exception of written communications.  Strokes are necessary for human existence and when we can not obtain positive strokes, then we may settle for negative ones because we need any strokes for survival.  Focusing on strokes is an effective way of changing one's relationship with others and understanding our reasons for accepting certain strokes.  Increasing the awareness can allow beneficial and meaningful change. Learning to get or stop filtering the positive strokes, leads to feeling better about oneself.

The Script

The script is a life plan which is developed as we are growing up and made from our early decisions based upon our life experiences.  Depending on our particular script, we can interpret an event in a number of different ways.  There is a beginning, middle and end and there are characters that play significant roles, such as the heroes and those who were the villains, making the story tragic, futile or exciting.   The theory of life-script was developed by Eric Berne who says that our stories are written unconsciously from birth.  Between the ages of 0-7 years, the roles are allocated and by 7 all the main parts of the story are plotted, tweaked and polished through to the age of 12 years. We rely on fantasy based beliefs through our younger years and through adolescence our scripts are updated with more tangible characters.  


Why does this always keep happening to me?  I always keep meeting people who hurt me and then go off and leave me!   We may like to help people and then it goes wrong as the person we are trying to help says that we got it wrong.  When similar situations keep happening over and over again, then the term TA uses for this is a game. Berne states that a game is a familiar pattern of behaviour with a predictable outcome and are played outside of Adult awareness and they are out best attempt to get our needs met but we don't.  Games are learned patterns of behaviour, and we play some favorite games with different people in varying intensities.