Transactional analysis is social psychology and therapeutic approach to improve communication and relations. The approach outlines our personal development and sense of self, how we relate and communicate with others, and offers suggestions and interventions that will change and grow. Transactional analysis is underpinned by the philosophy that:

  • People can change
  • We all have a right to be in the world and be accepted.

One of the Transactional analysis’s central concepts is the idea of three ego states to help explain the development of the self/Ego and its core makeup and how we relate to others subsequently.

  • Parent ego state. This is a set of feelings, thinking, and behaviours that we have copied from and adapted to whilst in a relationship with parents during early emotional development.
  • Adult ego state. This state is about direct responses to the here and now.
  • Child ego state. The set of behaviours, thoughts, and feelings replayed from our childhood when faced with stressful and challenging experiences.

The idea of this style of coaching is to increase the capacity of the Adult ego state to tolerate and decontaminate the prejudices of the Parent state and deconfusion the distortions of the Child Ego State. This enables the client to reach their own autonomy and true core self, influenced by parental, social, and cultural pressures. Transactional Analysis has great theoretical depth and is very interactive and collaborative in its approach. When I look at my personal therapy and journey, Erskine’s Six Stages of Treatment (1973) resonate with my process the best, as they are like a grieving process. We can see a comparison below of stages between Karen Minikin’s (2008) (see Diagram 1) and Erskine’s.

Erskine’s Plan minikins’s plan
1. Defensive 1. Build a relationship
2. Anger 2. Strengthening the Adult
3. Hurt 3. Decontamination
4. Self as a problem 4. Deconfusion
5. Taking Responsibility 5. Emotional Fluency
6. Parents are Forgiven 6.Integrattion and termination
Diagram1: Karen minikin’s treatment plan


The concept of a Script is a central part of Transactional analysis theory, whereby the Script represents a well-defined pattern of behaviours and actions we take and develop unconsciously to survive as a child. These beliefs and relational patterns continue to play out in adulthood unconsciously, where we recreate and reinforce the dynamics developed between us as a child and our parents. Based on a script decision, for example, “not being good enough “, we will never take risks, express ourselves, be self-assertive and normally end up co-dependent on others seeking their approval and acceptance. As a result, we may struggle with true intimacy and close relationships and have real difficulties honouring our feelings, beliefs, and values as our parents or peers have continually invalidated them.

As we decided in the first place, with the help of coaching, we can increase awareness and develop an Ego strong enough to assert the power to change it as we move beyond the old relational patterns defeating the old parental injunctions.

Permissions and injunctions

Messages passed from the Child of the parent, and received in the Child of the child, are called injunctions if they are negative and restrictive (e.g. Don’t exist, Don’t Be You), and permissions if they give the child positive choices (e.g. It’s OK to Exist, It’s OK to Be You).” 

Goulding and Goulding (1976) identified 12 main injunctions. These are:

  1. “Don’t be or Don’t exist.”
  2. “Don’t be you (the sex you are).”
  3. “Don’t be a child.”
  4. “Don’t grow up.”
  5. “Don’t make it.”
  6. “Don’t” (do anything)
  7. “Don’t be important.”
  8. “Don’t belong.”
  9. “Don’t be close.”
  10. “Don’t be well.”
  11. “Don’t think.”
  12. “Don’t feel.”

Counter injunctions /Drivers

(Berne, 1972), Said Counter injunctions can reinforce and contradict the injunctions with a driver (Kahler, 1974) containing messages influencing thinking, feeling, and behaviour. Five common drivers are used as a defence mechanism and have the most effective role and desired outcome when responding to the demands of our counter-injunctions. This can operate as a primary driver or a combination of drivers, most likely to show itself when stressed or anxious and facing the experience of parental injunctions when trying something that counters the parental restriction.

Five drivers

  1. “Be Perfect”
  2. “Be Strong”
  3. “Try Hard”
  4. “Please Other (people)”
  5. “Hurry Up”
Values Results in messages Drivers
Achievement, autonomy, Success being right Don’t make a mistake; take risks, be true, be childish, and express yourself. Be Perfect
Consideration, kindness, service, co-dependency Don’t be assertive, important,
different, say no
Please Others
Courage, strength, reliability Don’t show your feelings; give in
or up, ask for help
Be Strong
Persistence, patience, determination Don’t be satisfied; relax, give up,
Speed, efficiency, responsiveness Don’t take too long; relax, waste


Woollams and Brown* (1978) define games as:

“A series of duplex transactions which leads to a switch and a well-defined, predictable payoff which justifies a not-OK, or discounted, position”.

A duplex transaction is where we say one thing, which usually means something else. Only about 8% of our communication is through words; the rest is through tone, body language, and facial expressions. Whenever we say one thing (the social message) and mean another (the psychological massage), the psychological message gets heard and has the biggest impact, especially amongst long-running relational patterns with people close to us, like our spouse. The use duplex transactions are used in dishonest and closed relationships as a method to avoid true intimacy and risk of being hurt will or rejected .what usually transpires is a relational game, after one has been hooked into a very familiar way of interacting, to deliver us some positive strokes (units of recognition ) until the “switch” clicks in.

The switch is when one of the participants changes the role and gives up trying, where we may feel confused, scared, or angry, triggering negative feelings and values known as a “payoff”. This is a confirmation that whatever negative (untrue) thoughts we have held onto about life and ourselves are true. The payoff for the player is proof that no one can help them even though they remain passive. Feelings of sadness or anger may accompany this; the feelings that the player learned were acceptable to parents as a child. The other player in this game may feel helpless and frustrated that they have been unable to help the game’s starter. These feelings are likely to be very familiar and reinforce a belief that they are not a very good friend, problem solver or fixer. It takes two to play a game. We can stop Playing games when we first identify what games we are playing. What are the patterns and similar outcomes with repeated feelings being felt? A good TA coach will speed up this process dramatically because we play games out of awareness, and they can spot the games and make them conscious where have a choice if they want to keep on playing or you choose to do things differently, avoiding the negative payoff along the way and faces intimacy and risk.

Berne, E. (1972) What Do You Say After You Say Hello. New York.  Grove Press.
Erskine, R.G. (1973 ).Six stages of treatment. TAJ 3(3) ,17-18
Goulding, R. and Goulding, M. (1976) ‘Injunctions, Decisions and Redecisions’, Transactional Analysis Journal, vol. 6, 1: pp. 41-48
Kahler, T. PhD and Hedges Capers, Div. M., LHD., (1974) “The Mini script”, Transactional Analysis Journal, vol. 4 1:  pp. 26-42.
Minikin, K. (2008). Treatment planning.ITA News, No37.
Woollams, S and Brown, M (1978). Transactional Analysis. Huron Valley Institute Press.