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Transactional Analysis (TA) in coaching

Holistic Coaching has been influenced by numerous psychological concepts. One of them is Transactional Analysis (TA).

TA was first developed by Canadian-born US psychiatrist, Eric Berne, in the 1960s. In a nutshell, TA deals with developing one’s personality and his or her functioning as far as relations with other people are concerned. The emphasis in TA is put on three main emotional and Behavioural models (the so called ego States) i.e. Adult, Parent and Child.

The analysis can by carried out on four levels:

  1. Structural analysis – analysis of personality, provides greater understanding of what happens inside one’s mind
  2. Transactional analysis – analysis of Behaviour and communication between people, allowing to understand the interpersonal relations
  3. Games analysis – analysis of hidden transactions which lead to payoffs i.e. psychological, social or existential
  4. Script analysis – analysis of a certain life plan or life script i.e. specific patterns realised during one’s life by which he or she navigates

TA can be used in coaching mainly in order to build up coach-client relationship.

Coach-client relationship should be based on Adult to Adult model (except provocative approach). Introducing other ego-states, especially by the coach, may lead to certain obstacles e.g. controversies, conflicts or competition. Once this happens, the Coach should bring relationship with The client back to Adult to Adult model, as only this state guarantees proper use of entire potential of holistic coaching and makes it possible to initiate profound and lasting changes.

Another coaching area, in which TA can be applied, is working on client’s relationship with someone from their family or work Environment (should such an intervention be necessary). Conflicts and misunderstandings often occur as a result of unconscious use of inadequate ego-state while communicating with a given person. Another vast area which can be covered with the help of TA is games analysis. Determining the rules of a game makes it possible for a Coachee to realise his or her current life position, the pattern according to which he or she behaves, and, above all, find ways to overcome the limiting situation.

Another TA area used in coaching are psychological life positions i.e. general feeling about life, systems of attitudes resulting from profound beliefs about oneself and other people. We can distinguish four types of life positions:

“I am OK, you are OK.” – realistic attitude allowing for constructive Problem solving, effective reaching of one’s Goals and building relationship. It is usually connected with positive expectations towards other people, respect and independence.

“I am OK, you are not OK.” – attitude of lack of respect to the needs and emotions of other people, which leads mainly to noticing other people’s vices and criticism.

“I am not OK, you are OK.” – life position typical for people displaying lack or low self-esteem, underestimation of one’s own potential, withdrawal and shyness.

“I am not OK, you are not OK.” – life position connected with passivity and resignation. It is connected with no activity whatsoever and often total withdrawal. Hardly ever seen in coaching.

See also: Drama Triangle



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