A Theory Of Personality And A Systematic Psychotherapy Education Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

This assignment aims to examine TA within adult education by describing what TA is, familiarise the reader with some of the key concepts as a method of communication between teacher and student, to identify some of TA's key benefits then finally discussing my rationale of implementing and utilising TA in my personal practice as a both a counsellor and teacher.

Over the last ten years there has been a huge amount written on the role and dynamics of behaviour management. This information has been explicit in the techniques and methods which influence and manage the behaviour of students. Burton and Dimbleby (1995) argued that rather than thinking of behaviour in a negative way, we should consider it in terms of behaviour development by using a communication method called Transactional Analysis.

"Transactional Analysis is a theory of personality and a systematic psychotherapy for personal growth and change"

Berne (1964:4) states "Transactional Analysis, a neo-Freudian theory that sees any communication as a transaction between two people taking place". It became a nationwide trend in the 1960's due to the best selling success of Berne's book, The Games People Play. This text identified that individuals, irrespective of their age, react differently according to their situation and surroundings.

It is an easily grasped psychological theory that can be used to understand the dynamics of people working individually or in groups. Over the past five decades Eric Berne's theory has evolved so much so that psychotherapists,

counsellors, teachers and organisations throughout the world are implementing this communication tool into their work. These non - therapeutic areas of TA were previously known as special fields but the term Developmental Transactional Analysis has now been adopted as it captures the emphasis on development rather than the Psychotherapeutic focus of cure.

It is argued by Widdowson (2010) that recently, TA seems to have fallen from grace in regards to self-help or counselling literature, but it provides an excellent model for teaching students of all ages and abilities about the appropriate interaction of creative playfulness, technical skill, and self-appreciation.

Transactional Analysis can be divided into five theoretical areas. Berne (1973) suggested that people are essentially OK, by this he meant that individuals are of intrinsic value and have a right to exist - this is commonly known as "I'm OK - You're OK", Harris (1973:4).

I will briefly describe each of the 5 areas to give the reader an overview of the theory.

Firstly, strokes are a simple concept about how people seek and maintain a sense of personal recognition such as attachment, intimacy, contact and love.

Then Berne (1964) described Scripts and Games as negative childhood related interactional patterns that repeat themselves in current relations with associated bad feelings.

TA is essentially a Cognitive Behavioral theory of personality and change, however there are strong links in the psychodynamic aspect of the personality - this is commonly referred to as Transactional Theory of Change.

Berne expanded on Freud's concept of the human psyche (the id, ego, and super-ego) when he suggested that people at any one time are in one of three Ego States which included Parent (P), Adult (A) and Child (C), all of which can be exchanged often and with immediacy according to the circumstances the individual finds themselves in or the people they are interacting with.

The Parent ego state is characterised by the need to establish standards, give orders, instil values and criticise (Berne, 1966). There are two recognised sub-groups of this ego state - controlling parents and nurturing parents.

The Adult ego state is characterised by the ability to act in a removed and reasonable manner, thinking logically as a decision maker.

Lastly, the Child ego state is demonstrated with intense emotion, either in a positive or negative way. There are three sub-groups of this ego state - the natural child, the adapted child and the little professor. Each of these sub groups would create a very different response from the individual.

The three egos states and the transactional interactions between them are the most distinctive feature of TA and yet have the least amount of importance in research and literature terms, Hay (2009). However, the effectiveness of this concept is the primary reason why people become interested and maintain their interest in TA.

It is through recognition of these ego states and the way in which they develop that allows teachers to understand their relationships with students. In recent years, a focus on relationships and relating has become a major trend in the world of psychology, philosophy, education and commerce. This shift sees relationships as central to their work and the vehicle for change. It is a very different approach that we see today as it is realistic, dealing with the process of change, understanding the interactions between people. Interestingly, Newell and Jeffrey (2002) identified that the relationships teachers have with others often reflect the relationship they have with themselves, for example teachers who shout or are angry and aggressive may be stressed, frustrated or have too much self esteem (Controlling Parent) or on the other hand the teacher who is calm, well organised and focused may promote a safer, less tense experience to their students (Adult). This awareness of the TA ego states may help educators to develop personal strategies that assist them in the longer term relationships they have with their students, whilst providing an accessible set of ideas for understanding and maximising the learning process for their students.

The benefits of using TA in the classroom are numerous. Barrow et al (2001:51) said

"TA concepts are particularly good at helping to unravel the complex way humans communicate, so helping us to move forward and look at the way things could be better and less confused".

They refer to TA as offering tools and strategies, a language understandable by all, a decision making process and a practical educational psychology for individuals and teaching centres alike. Adding to this, Hellaby (2004) found that in 20 years of teaching, the use of TA in the classroom had improved behaviour, which in turn had led to a more conducive learning environment, raising self esteem and academic standards.

One question that I believe needs to be asked is whether this is a fair assumption of all educational establishments who use this approach in the classroom. However, Stuart and Algar (2011) dismiss this point when they suggest TA concepts strengthen and inform the pedagogical approach of teachers and the place of learning.

Supporting this concept, Stuart (2008) stated that students and teachers with TA skills have better self-awareness, increased understanding of others and as a consequence better relationships. This can be demonstrated by the impact on attendance, attainment, personal and professional lives and educational climate overall. For example, encouraging students to respond from their adult ego state can be a first step in establishing an effective learning relationship where communication is effective and the learner is receptive. This can be achieved by enabling the creativity and imagination of the student and in doing so holding and focusing their attention. By using this pedagogy approach this influence raises the students' desire to discover, discuss and reflect on their knowledge, putting them at the heart of their own learning process.

When undertaking this research for my Independent Study there was very little critical analysis of TA. One concern that I do have in regards to this discovery are the one-sided opinions of theorists such as Berne and Harris and the subsequent academic writers who followed suit.

It could be argued; that there are some students who may not respond well to this approach in teaching. Depending on their previous and often childhood experiences of teachers, it may be that they expect to be 'parented', being told what to do, what to think and how to work things out, rather than being treated as an adult. However, as I teach in adult education I feel it is my professional duty to treat the student as the adults they are, hence this approach feeling appropriate for me as a teacher.

Teachers can encourage learners to respond from their adult ego state by offering some basic respectful courtesies such as offering information about the lesson format, asking students for their feedback, facilitating peer assessment, holding open forums to discuss any issues that arise and being open themselves to connect from their own Adult ego state.

As a qualified Person-Centred Counsellor I am familiar with the concepts of TA; however it is not something that I use regularly in my practice. However, my desire to increase my knowledge of this approach is strongly linked with my understanding of how TA can enhance my teaching practice. Although TA is not part of the curriculum in teacher training, I am starting to see the benefits of using this approach as a method of communication and the relevancy beyond the classroom and into the domain of forming and retaining healthy relationships. This highlights to me that developing in this area has the potential to enhance both my personal and professional relationships, understanding and communication skills.

In terms of educational relationships, I feel confident that I provide a positive learning culture and I demonstrate inclusive learning practices that empower my students to have personal control over their learning. This correlates with TA on so many levels, for example the interactions between teacher and student reveal unique behavioural patterns and on reflection I am becoming increasingly aware that some of the transactions I have with my students are Parent - Child. Serious weaknesses with this transaction are that it may impact on the dynamics of the group and change the boundaries of my role as the teacher and even give the wrong signals to students who see themselves as the Child. My awareness that I sometimes come from the Nurturing Parent when in my teaching role has left me disappointed and less confident of my delivery because one of my roles as a counselling tutor is to promote learners autonomy and it is possible that in the nurturing Parent ego state that I do not offer this consistently.

Ideally, within the classroom I would take an "I'm OK - You're OK"' stance (Adult - Adult) to establish relationships of mutual respect both educationally and personally that would also create openness respect and promote empowerment and autonomy. It would also help to ensure that communication between the students and I was effective, productive and meaningful. It would also enable a balanced and fair association to develop and stop the 'rescuer' in me from tainting my ability to judge the needs of my students.

Newell and Jeffrey (2007:14) emphasises this point when they state:

"Teachers need to develop relationships with students that make themselves and the student feel OK. This means that they need to show an interest in the student, both as a leaner and an individual"

My role as a teacher is to provide the tools, knowledge, relationship and environment where my learners are safe and secure to navigate their way through what can be a difficult journey through counselling training. The importance of treating people as an adult in these circumstances is essential as they need to develop their ability to feel and respond from their own adult ego state.

I can see how this approach may be less significant in other areas of teaching, however in my area it is fundamental and something that I will address now more in my developing role as a counselling trainer.

In summary, I have researched in great depth an incredible theory that I had little awareness of before. I am confident that it will have a great positive impact on my teaching strategies and approach that will not only benefit my students and my place of work but also me, both personally and professionally.


Barrow, G., Bradshaw, E., Newton, T. (2001) Improving Behaviour and Raising Self-Esteem in the Classroom. London: Fulton.

Berne, E. (1964). Games people play. The psychology of human relationships. New York: Grove Press.

Harris, TA (1973). I'm OK - You're OK. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd.

Newell, S and Jeffery, D (2007). Behaviour Management in the Classroom:

Transactional Analysis Approach. London: David Fulton Publishers.

Author Unknown. (2012). Key Ideas. 

Available: http://itaaworld.org/index.php/about-ta/key-ideas-in-ta.

Last accessed 23rd November 2012.