by Andrea M. Darcy
Transactional analysis therapy troubleshoots your social interactions and improves your self-awareness.
Created in the 1950s as a challenge to the then popular psychoanalysis, it aimed to be a therapy that was more accessible and produced measurable results.
The result is that TA is a structured and practical system to create change in your relationships and life.
[Read more about what transactional therapy is and how it was created in our article, “What is Transactional Analysis?].
Can transactional analysis therapy work for me?
Could transactional analysis therapy be something that could benefit you? Consider the following questions.
1. Do your relationships cause you anxiety and/or low moods?
Transactional analysis is completely focused on the ways you relate, whether that is at work, home, or in your love life. It doesn’t spend hours looking at your past to find answers to your problems, but believes that it is your social interactions that create both your sense of self and your emotional states.
Each social interaction is seen as a ‘game’. By learning to understand and control this game, you can finally change the ways you think, feel, and act. This leaves you free to write a new ‘script’ for yourself, where relationships no longer drain you.
2. Do you find the way others describe you doesn’t match the idea you have of yourself?
Transactional analysis therapy believes that unless we take the time to know ourselves, we are controlled by our unconscious mind.
We aren’t really that aware of what we really think and feel, or how the ways we behave affect others.
The good news is that TA is a system designed to help you finally become self-aware so that you can understand the ways others react to you.
Would you prefer a type of therapy that is more present-based?
Transactional analysis doesn’t spend hours discussing your past. It looks at the relationships in your life right here and now for answers to improving your wellbeing.
Do you have low self-esteem, or see yourself as flawed compared to others?
Transactional therapy identifies four powerful perspectives, called ‘life positions’, that we take in the way we see ourselves compared to others. We get stuck in one of these positions and it controls how we organise our lives.
If you have low self-esteem you’ll believe that “I”m not OK but you are OK”. Your TA therapist helps you examine the validity of this statement. Together you’ll explore the possibility of a world where “I’m OK and you are OK”.
Does it worry you that you seem to act one way with one person, and entirely differently with another?
It’s actually what a lot of us do. Transactional therapy explains this as living from our ‘ego states’. It identifies three such states, Parent/Adult/Child, or the “PAC model”.
The ways we function and behave depends on the ego state that has triggered for us, as well as the ego state the other person is taking. For example, if another person is always acting from the Parent, you are more likely to resort to the Child.
Of course ideally, we’d always act from the Adult, where we use logic and make good decisions based on who we truly are. Transactional analysis helps you to achieve this, meaning you become more consistent and reliable for those around you.
Do you often wish you could be more yourself around people?
Again, it goes back to your unconscious mind running the show. We don’t understand how and why we behave, and it’s hard to control what we don’t understand.
In transactional therapy the PAC model gives you a practical way to recognise when your behaviours are changing, and just what you can do to bring them back in line with your real adult self.
Of course this will take time and practise. But your TA therapist is there to help you with this, and to act as a sounding board when you are struggling with a particular person or situation.
Are you often called overemotional or overreactive?
Some of us never learned how to act from anything but the Child, or perhaps also the Parent. This combination would mean you veer from being reactive to being judgemental and defensive.
Learning in transactional analysis to move into the Adult ego state helps you act instead from logic. This means you can get your needs met in ways that don’t involve upsetting others.
Does your life seem to be the same pattern repeated again and again, and you just can’t seem to change the channel?
Many of us are constantly stuck in the Child or the Parent. It becomes the role we play with others, until our life becomes like the same movie scene again or again ,what transactional analysis calls our ‘life script’.
By changing the roles we play, the scenes start to change too, until we are finally living out a different story.
Do you long to be better at communication and conflict?
Transactional therapy gives you a system to understand not only your own ego states and behaviours, but also those of others.
This means you’ll be better at knowing when there is a chance for clear communication or when it’s best to let someone cool down. You’ll also be better at resisting matching the other person’s ego state if they are in one that is not helpful.
Do you constantly have issues with your family?
Family issues often involve the same battle played out again and again. We are either taking the same roles, or putting the other person in the same role, such as always talking to them as if they are a child.
Some family therapists use transactional analysis as a way to help clients get clear on such damaging role playing, and learn to step into more helpful ways of communicating.
Do you have borderline personality disorder?
Schema therapy and dialectical therapy are the two types commonly recommended for treating BPD. But transactional therapy also helps with BPD.
The idea is that if you have BPD your Child ego state didn’t develop properly. Transactional analysis helps you understand this. It also works on your boundaries and helps you be less reactive with others.
Or do you have any of the issues in the following list?
To summarise the issues that transactional therapy can help with, they are:
Would you like to try working with a therapist that offers transactional analysis therapy? Harley Therapy now connects you with therapists right across the UK on our new sister site.
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert, who has done some training in person-centred counselling and coaching. She runs a consultancy advising people on how to plan their therapy journey so they get the best results at an effective cost. Find her on Instagram @am_darcy