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what is transactional analysis?

Transactional analysis is a practical theory of personality and communication that was formulated by Eric Berne in the 1950s. It provides us with concepts to understand who we are and how to change our patterns of behaviour. The goal of transactional analysis is to increase awareness, spontaneity and the capacity for relationship. 

In therapy and coaching, transactional analysis can be used to address our interactions and communication with the purpose of establishing and reinforcing the idea that each individual is valuable and has the capacity for positive change and personal growth. 

the structure of personality: ego states

Berne took inspiration from Sigmund Freud's theories of personality, combining them with his own observations of human interaction in order to develop transactional analysis. Berne proposed we have three distinct states of mind that are constantly changing in response to the environment and stimulus. 




The Parent ego state contains thoughts, feelings and behaviours learnt and experienced in the past as a child from care-givers and authority figures in order to maintain rules, values and boundaries. The positive aspects are being supportive and nurturing. The negative aspects include criticism, over-protection and disempowerment.

The Adult ego state contains the thoughts, feelings and associated behaviours based on your here-and-now experiences. Here we operate with awareness, are responsible for ourselves and accepting of our abilities and vulnerabilities.

The Child ego state contains thoughts, feelings and associated behaviours that you have learned in early childhood. The positive aspects include fun, spontaneity and curiosity. The negative elements include rebellious, reckless and destructive behaviours.


working towards the integrated adult

The integrated Adult encompasses the positive and affirming elements of the Parent and Child ego states appropriately in the moment. In this position we can be aware, close to others and spontaneous, leading to being our authentic self.

We accept our vulnerabilities, positively value and support ourselves whilst being assertive in a way that does not seek to diminish others. This is very similar to Mindfulness, which involves non-judgmental, accepting awareness of what is going on in the present moment. Like Mindfulness, transactional analysis allows us to become fully present in everyday life.

therapy vs. coaching

In both coaching and therapy, clients usually come because their patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviour don’t work anymore in their current situation at home, at work, in relationships and social situations. 

Transactional analysis can be used with both coaching and therapy because developing our self-awareness helps us to address where we feel stuck in our lives and work towards making changes. As we notice how we relate to self and others, we can understand ourselves more and can develop more compassion for ourselves and other people. We then begin to see more options in our lives and can make conscious decisions which are empowering and leads to positive and sustainable changes.

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