What is Transactional Analysis?

Developed by Dr. Eric Berne in the late 1950s, transactional analysis is a type of social psychology with applications in counseling, education, organizational development, and psychotherapy. Transactional analysis, commonly referred to as TA, is based on these primary concepts: 1) people have three parts (or ego-states) to their personalities, and 2) these ego-states converse with each other in transactions.

Transactional analysis therapy is a theory that promotes personal growth, development, and change. To begin this explanation, part of transactional analysis is a theory of personality, which is based on the study of the ego-states. It helps people gain a better understanding of why they behave the way they do and helps them better express themselves.

Transactional analysis is also a theory of communication, which makes it a system for in-depth analysis. Because of the versatility of transactional analysis, it can be used to diagnose and treat a wide variety of psychological disorders. Its therapy applications can be utilized in individual, group, family, or couple’s sessions.


The primary purpose of transactional analysis is to help patients realize their own self-worth. The transactional analysis strives to teach people that they do not have to be slaves to the behaviors and thought processes that they learned as children. One of the core beliefs of transactional analysis is that we all learn certain behaviors and ways of thinking as young children. These thought processes continue to shape our behaviors into adulthood, and sometimes this leads to the development of personality traits that people would like to change.

An interesting aspect of traditional transactional analysis therapy is that therapists are supposed to commit to attempting to cure their patients instead of simply being there to listen to them during sessions. Any changes that a patient would like to see within themselves should be openly addressed at the very beginning of therapy so that both patient and therapist are on the same page regarding treatment goals. This type of action serves to make patients feel more valued as individuals and instills within them a belief that their therapist has a true interest in helping them achieve their long-term goals.

Patients who are beginning transactional analysis therapy can generally expect to undergo at least several sessions with their therapist. The overall length of treatment, however, is something that the patient and therapist determine together and can vary quite a bit among patients. It is certainly not a quick-fix type of treatment, but it is one that can offer lifelong changes to individuals who devote themselves to the treatment process in an addiction treatment center. The development of higher-end treatment centers has been set in homes rather than hospitals or clinical settings that offered a much more intimate environment and a more hotel-like feeling. The philosophy is that if people are comfortable in treatment and feel like they are treated well, they are more likely to complete and even extend treatment. Studies show the longer someone stays in an addiction treatment center, the better chance they have of staying abstinent.