They are collectively known as the 3 P`s in transactional analysis to set the stage for a practical therapeutic framework. If the therapeutic relationship and working alliance are potent, the space will also protect against intrapsychic punishment. The therapist can give the patient permission to change a behaviour or attitude while feeling safe and effective, which seems impossible or unattainable. A therapist will need to enact the following :

  • They must hook the patient`s “Young Professor ” by supplying more data, by providing specifications and confirmation.
  • They must be stronger than the patient`s original internalised Parent
  • They are permitting the patient`s Child to disobey his Parent’s instructions. An act of empowerment and nurturing which is at the core of parenting.


Permission timing is essential and should only be given when both parties feel protection is possible. This transaction typically occurs when the patient has arrived at an impasse beyond which they cannot or will not move. The therapist must be conscious of the patient’s limited life experience, cognitive and emotional development level, and the Child`s existential Position. Permission requires the Adult to work against or with any resistance in the internal dyad.

“A license to give up behaviour which the Adult wants to give up , or a release from negative behaviour”

Berne (1972)


Protection is a significant part of the mother`s nurturing role and function; in response, the child develops a “Growing Adult”. The child can then explore and experience the world around them with the safety and certainty of being right or OK. The child will not be abandoned, rejected or punished for their transgressions and demands. In therapy, when a patient has taken permission to disobey the parental injunction, they may find themself in a state of panic, an existential vacuum that needs protecting and containment. The Patient’s Child must believe the therapist is potent enough to protect them from Parental wrath. The therapist should make it safe for the patient to make the changes needed, both intrapsychically ( regarding critical Parent and Script backlash ) and interpersonally from members of the family/group.


“Potency is expressed in permission by the emphasis with which permission is given, and is exemplified in protection by the willingness of the therapist to temporarily carry the burden of the patient’s panic when in an existential vacuum (Steiner,1968)”.

The therapist is committed to curing patients with valid consideration and a willingness to confront the patient at the impasse. The therapist demonstrates a certain level of knowledge and expertise and a commitment to a continuous learning process, self-awareness and self-care. The therapist can possess authenticity, credibility, trust and responsiveness, fully invested in their client’s welfare and experience. The therapist’s empathic resonance and compassion is the stimulus for the patient to engage further to understand their experience and internal frames of reference. By exhibiting the skill of potency in interventions, the therapist can aid the client to become potent themself, which they aspire to change for themself. Suppose the working alliance can shift from therapist-centred to relationship-centred with the concepts of permission, protection and potency. In that case, the patient can implement major behavioural changes to live a healthier existence.

Berne, E. (1972) What do you say after you say hello? The psychology of human destiny. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin

Tudor, K.(2016) Permission, Protection and Potency: The three P`s reconsidered, TAJ 46(1), p50-62

Steiner ,C.(1968) Script and counterscript .Transactional analysis Bulletin, 5(18). 133 -135