What is Transactional Analysis Coaching?

So much of coaching is about balancing what is going on in the client’s inner world with what is happening in their outer world.

Transactional Analysis offers an approach to coaching that focuses on the impact of feelings triggered by our internal personality structure and how these lead us to act in our lives.

Transactional analysis (more commonly known as TA) was developed in the 1950s by Eric Berne. Although trained as a psychoanalyst, Berne was highly influenced by humanistic psychology, and sought to find a model of personality that was easy to understand, offered clear processes that clients could share in, and could be easily communicated to the non-therapeutic public.

Berne’s seminal work, Games People Play, and Thomas Harris’s follow up, I’m OK – You’re OK, laid clear foundations for TA that, to this day, offer invaluable insights into the client–others relationships and the coach– self relationship.

Since its emergence, TA has become firmly established as a clear, simple and highly effective way of examining and working with patterns of emotional response, communication and behaviour. It has far outgrown the therapeutic world and is now in common use to support change within coaching, training, organisations and much more.

Some of the key concepts in TA are now widely understood at a popular and intuitive, if not theoretical, level. Hence, it is common to hear of people talking of their inner child or their critical parent state. These concepts didn’t exist prior to Berne’s work and it is a sign of the “success” of TA that this terminology is not popularly used.

When applying TA to coaching in a more rigorous sense, you are likely to explore such aspects as:

  • Which ego state is being triggered in a situation and how is that affecting the client’s way of showing up cognitively, somatically, behaviourally and relationally. Ego states are subsumed within the three main states: Parent, Adult, Child, but each is more nuanced with aspects such as Structuring Parent, Critical Parent, Spontaneous Child, Resistant Child to name a few.
  • The Parent is our internalised experience of our historic parenting from our childhood, our Child is our internalised child as we individually experienced childhood and the Adult is the autonomous self who responds to the here and now, rather than being triggered by the past.
  • What Life Script, created in early life, is driving the client’s experience of life today. Alongside this, we might notice such things as Games and Rackets – all manifestations of the Life Script being played out.
  • Which Life Position is the client adopting in different scenarios: I’m OK/You’re OK; I’m/OK/You’re Not OK; I’m Not OK/You’re OK and I’m Not OK/You’re Not OK.
  • How is the client Discounting their ability to change their life and how is this Discounting a reflection of their Life Script.
  • What early childhood beliefs, Injunctions, Counter-Injunctions and Programmes are governing the client’s way of being.
  • What relationship patterns of being enacted in the client’s life in the form of Games – patterns of relating that have certain expected rules of engagement that lead to a predictable outcome.

Clearly, this is only a very short summary of some of the key themes in Transactional Analysis Coaching. It represents a powerful way to work with clients to notice, interrupt and change old patterns that have lain unexplored. Whilst TA has therapeutic roots, it is equally at home in coaching as we can work with the presenting reality as it is without the need to revisit the past in any deliberate sense.

Transactional Analysis Coaching is a key modality in our Accredited Diploma in Transformational Coaching.