Key Concepts of Transactional Analysis

A Summary of Transactional Analysis Key Ideas from ITAA

Transactional Analysis theory was created by Eric Berne MD.  It is a theory of positive psychology.  Here are some key concepts from TA:

I’m OK – You’re OK

“I’m OK – You’re OK” expresses an important purpose of transactional analysis: to recognize the value and worth of every person. Transactional analysts regard people as basically “OK” and capable of change, growth, and healthy interactions.


Berne observed that people need strokes, the units of interpersonal recognition, to survive and thrive. Understanding how people give and receive positive strokes, and changing unhealthy stroke are powerful aspects of work in transactional analysis.

Ego States

Eric Berne made complex interpersonal transactions understandable when he recognized that the human personality is made up of three “ego states”. Each ego state is an entire system of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors from which we interact with one another. The Parent, Adult and Child ego states and the interaction between them form the foundation of transactional analysis theory.


Transactions refer to the communication exchanges between people. Transactional analysts are trained to recognize which ego states people are transacting from and to follow the transactional sequences so they can intervene and improve the quality and effectiveness of communication.

Games People Play

Berne defined certain socially dysfunctional behavioral patterns as “games.” These repetitive transactions are principally intended to obtain strokes, but instead reinforce negative feelings and self-concepts, and mask the direct expression of thoughts and emotions. Berne tagged these games with recognizable names as “Why Don’t You, Yes But,” “Now I’ve Got You, You SOB,” and “I’m Only Trying to Help You.”

Life Script

Eric Berne proposed that dysfunctional behavior is the result of self-limiting decisions made in childhood in the interest of survival. Such decisions result in the “life script,” the pre-conscious life plan that governs the way life is lived out. Changing the life script is the aim of transactional analysis psychotherapy.


Transactional analysis practice is based upon mutual contracting for change. Transactional analysts view people as capable of deciding what they want for their lives. Accordingly, transactional analysis does its work on a contractual basis between the client and the therapist, educator, or consultant.  Adapted from