TA: An Elegant Theory

Author : Claude Steiner is a psychotherapist who has written extensively about transactional analysis. His writings have focused especially on life scripts, alcoholism, emotional literacy, and Interpersonal power plays. (Source: www.itaaworld.org)

Transactional analysis can serve as a sophisticated, elegant, and effective system on which to base the practical activities of professionals in psychotherapy, counseling, education, and organizational consultation. It was founded in the 1950s by San Francisco psychiatrist Eric Berne, MD. Transactional analysis has become a worldwide movement with upwards of 10,000 adherents. It is a sophisticated theory of personality, motivation, and problem solving that can be of great use to psychotherapists, counselors, educators, and business consultants.

Transactional analysis can be divided into five theoretical and practical conceptual clusters. These five clusters enjoy varying degrees of recognition within the behavioral sciences. They are listed below along with (between quotes) concepts that parallel them in the behavioral sciences.

  1. The Strokes Cluster. This cluster finds correlates in existing theories of “attachment,” “intimacy,” “warmth,” “tender loving care,” “need to belong,” “contact,” “closeness,” “relationships,” “social support,” and “love.”
  2. The OK Cluster. This cluster finds correlates in existing theories of “positive psychology,” “flow,” “human potential,” “resiliency,” “excellence,” “optimism,” “subjective well-being,” “positive self-concept,” “spontaneous healing,” “nature’s helping hand,” “vis medicatrix naturae” (the healing power of nature), and “the healing power of the mind.”
  3. The Script and Games Cluster. This cluster finds correlates in existing theories of “narratives,” “maladaptive schemas,” “self-narratives,” “story schemas,” “story grammars,” “personal myths,” “personal event memories,” “self-defining memories,” “nuclear scenes,” “gendered narratives,” “narrative coherence,” “narrative complexity,” “core self-beliefs,” and “self-concept.”
  4. The Ego States and Transactions Cluster. The idea of three egos states and the transactional interactions between them are the most distinctive feature of transactional analysis and yet have the least amount of resonance in the literature. However, the utility of this concept is the principal reason why people become interested and maintain their interest in transactional analysis.
  5. The Transactional Analysis Theory of Change Cluster. Transactional analysis is essentially a cognitive-behavioral theory of personality and change that nevertheless retains an interest in the psychodynamic aspect of the personality.

Echoes of each of these clusters of concepts can be found in writings in the fields of psychology, social psychology, and psychotherapy, where they exist independent of any awareness of their possible transactional analysis origins. Transactional analysis includes all five in a sophisticated, interconnected theory of personality and change. From the social sciences literature, we have collected a portfolio of method, theory, and research that corroborates each of the five theoretical clusters. This portfolio is summarized in the following sections.

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