I’m OK – You’re OK: An Update on TA in Schools

by Giles Barrow

TA: Education; Schools

I’m OK – You’re OK is arguably the most enduring touchstone of Transactional Analysis (TA).

Founded by Eric Berne in the 1960s, popularised during the 1970s, many readers may recall a distant reference to TA in their professional training or a personal awareness course. Some readers might have come across references to TA more recently, and most readers may be surprised to discover that children and young people around the country are discovering about TA in classrooms. This article provides an account of how TA is experiencing a renaissance in the UK and that the central arena for this resurgence is in education.

For those readers unfamiliar with TA, it is a humanistic psychological framework that, like many such perspectives, offers ways of understanding;

  • how people grow up
  • how people communicate
  • how people see the world

The distinctive features of TA are the core beliefs underpinning the theoretical concepts. To summarise these are:

  • that people are essentially OK, hence the ‘I’m OK – You’re OK’ catch-phrase
  • that everyone can think; make sense of information, consider options and make choices
  • that anyone can change, learn and grow

For the most part TA has been practised in the context of psychotherapy and counselling. Most practitioners in the UK work in a clinical/talking therapy context. However, there have always been practitioners utilising TA in organisational and educational contexts. Over the past five years there has been a noticeable increase in the rate and range of education professionals using TA concepts in their work.

Over the past couple of years I have been involved in sharing TA ideas with hundreds of educators around the country. As a qualified Transactional Analyst in the field of education I am often invited to contribute to professional development both in terms of formal training events, as well as on-going mentoring and team teaching arrangements. Importantly this work has been in both mainstream and specialist contexts. Some examples of TA being used in special schools and units include the following:

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Other articles on TA in education:

     Introducing a Meta-Metaphor for Developmental TA

Introducing a Meta-Metaphor for Developmental TA

by Giles Barrow

TA: Education; Schools; Staff development

This article presents, for the first time, some thoughts and ideas about the nature of developmental TA. I think that they are intriguing and I welcome other’s views about them.


I have been a member of a training group for the past couple of years. The group comprises practitioners working in the field of education and specifically behaviour support work. A recurring theme in our discussions has been to positively re-frame core TA concepts. In other words, as part of our work we routinely set about using TA ideas to account for
individual/organisational potential, promote growth and, importantly, to make TA widely accessible.

An integral dimension of our approach has been to consider how best TA ideas can be applied in non-problem-focussed ways. In other words, to seek out means of ‘mainstreaming’ TA as an approach for schools to use in developing policy and practice.  This maybe quite different from other, more familiar applications of TA. For example, common practice has been to use TA concepts in interacting with children and families identified as vulnerable. Whilst the work of the group includes this type of application, making TA a tool accessible to all remains the priority. In practice, this has led to a range of activities involving directly teaching TA to whole class groups, training staff teams in schools and nurseries and running general parent workshops based on TA.

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Other articles on TA in education:

     I’m OK-You’re OK: An Update on TA in Schools

Yeastings: Postmodern TA

by James R. Allen

TA: Postmodern TA; Postmodernism; Philosophy

In the right atmosphere, dough quietly begins to rise. Eventually, it becomes recognizable as bread. As a young child in my grandmother’s kitchen, I found this process magical. As a young adolescent, I discovered the even more magical delights of fermentation.

Something similar is happening in the world of transactional analysis. There are a number of quiet but amazing pockets of transformation. In this article, I wish to highlight three:

     Multiplicity and Unity

     Science and Hermeneutics

     Reflexivity and Detached Reflexion

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A Typology of Psychopathology and Treatment of Children and Adolescents

by James R. Allen and Barbara Ann Allen

TA: Children & adolescents; Treatment planning

     The purpose of this article is to present an overall transactional analysis model of psychopathology in children and adolescents and a framework for rapid treatment planning. A number of authors have presented a variety of transactional analysis treatment methods, but these techniques have not really been synthesized into a larger, encompassing framework. It is the aim of this article to do so.


     At age 3, Marie did not differentiate between people. She called no one by name and went to everyone indiscriminately. When thwarted, she went into rages that lasted for hours. During these periods she destroyed homes and injured herself and adults, hitting, kicking, punching, pulling hair, and urinating on people.

     Her three-year life history was tragic. After removal from her schizophrenic mother’s home because of neglect and abuse, she had been ejected from nine different foster homes, leaving a series of foster mothers partially bald. In some of these homes she had been sexually abused.

     In the first year of inpatient and daytreatment therapy, she went through a number of stages. She began to distinguish one person from the others and then to call him by name. A little later, she started to carry around his photograph. This seemed to give her some comfort when he was not present. When she had a temper tantrum, however, she would threaten to tear it up. Gradually, she began actively to try to please him and two others, including her foster mother at the time. She asked us to send notes home to the latter when she behaved well for even part of a day. Then, she began to talk of absent people as nurturant and began to be helpful to other children. Three months later, she tried to get her foster mother to “get rid of this bad little girl” by raging almost constantly for two days, but the foster mother held firm. With each new stage, the intensity and frequency of her aggressive, destructive behaviors lessened.

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I Don’t Need Therapy, But … Where Do I Turn for Answers? (free e-Book)

by Laurie Weiss

This free 59-page E-booklet addresses anger, grief, depression, responsibility, and personal change.

     “Even conscious, aware, growing people are often puzzled about what to do to solve specific problems in their lives. Although you may realize that you have influence over what happens to you and have been examining your life for some time, when a problem arises you want an answer, a solution, and you want it quickly. Here are answers to questions often asked by people who are growing. They are practical guidelines for getting unstuck and moving on with your life.”

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This e-booklet is a great summary of TA ideas and how you can apply them toward your own personal transformation.  It also has great information for practitioners!  To learn more about TA and to join USATAA, click the link below.

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Transactional Analysis and Social Roles

by Dr. Bernd Schmid, TSTA

TA: Personality, Social roles


     In this article the most important TA concepts will be described in such a way that they do not automatically convey the ideas and attitudes of professional psychotherapists or even mere psychological descriptions of reality. Most of the methods of thinking or action familiar from classical TA have been retained, but are formulated in such a way that they can be specified in various areas of Society by varying professionals according to their respective roles and contexts.

The concept of role used here does not coincide with its common meaning in sociology and social psychology (e.g. Popitz, 1967). Roles are partially a question of social Standards in the sense of social patterns of expectation, but nevertheless role experience, role behavior and role relationships of people are seen as the individual’s task of creating. Understanding how to deal with roles in our Society is considered essential for Professional encounters and professionalisation.

l will first describe the concepts from the perspective of the individual. Then l will follow the concepts from the perspective of relationships.

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You may also like:

     Handling those Difficult People

     Building Community through Cooperation

Bibliography of Writings in English

1. Schmid, B., (1984). Theory, Language and Intuition. In: TA – The State of the Art – a European Contribution, Erika Stern (ed.). Foris-Publications, Dordrecht/Holland – Cinnaminson/USA, p.61-65.

2. Schmid, B. and Jager, K., (1984). ‘Breaking through the Dilemma-Circle”. In: TA – The State of the Art a European Contribution, Erika Stern (ed.)Foris-Publications, Dordrecht/Holland – Cinnaminson/ USA, p. 107-118.

3. Schmid, B., (1988). Theory and Identity in the TA -Community. Newsletter European Association for Transactional Analysis (Ed.), Newsletter No.33, p.5, No.34, p.5-7, No.36, p.7-8, No.37, p.8-10

4. Schmid, B. (1988) The Toblerone Model of Competence for transactional analysis, EATA newsletter. (German 1990 ZTA 7/1)

5. Schmid, B., (1989). Acceptance Speech: Een concept om met theorie en identiteit in de T.A. – gemeenschap om te gaan. In: Strook, Tydschrift voor Transactionele Analyse 2, p.49-58. Englische version as paper for the speech on EATA assembly.

6. Schmid, B., (1991). Intuition of the Possible and Transactional Creations of Reality. In: Transactional Analysis Journal 3, p. 144-154.

7. Schmid, B. (1994) Transactional Analysis and Social Roles. The Maastricht Papers, Selection from the 20th EATA Conference. 10.-14. July 1994. Maastricht, the Netherlands, S. 30-44.

8. Schmid, B. (1996) The Reality-Constructive Perspective Transactional Analysis In Organizations First Volume Of Selected Articles 1974-1994 Drs. Sari van Poelje / Dr. Thomas Steinert (Editors).San Franncisco, USA: ITAA International Transactional Analysis Association, 1996.Publiziert über: Kulturpolitische Gesellschaft e. V. Hagen

9. Schmid, B. (2005) On the Way to a Culture of Responsibility in Organizations accepted TAJ special on Organizations (German 1997, 2004 , 2005)

10. Schmid, B. (2005) Inspiring background images and the use of the “theatre metaphor” in professional coaching. Paper (included in participants package on CD Ed. Julie Hay) Conference 30.11./1.12.2005 European Mentoring and Coaching council) (German 2001 + 2004)

Acceptance Speech – Notations Accepting the First EATA-Award 1988 in Blackpool

Notations accepting the first EATA-Award 1988 in Blackpool

Dear Colleagues!

I thank the EATA bodies very much for the honor to get the first EATA Award 1988. I share this honor with Klaus Jäger, an organizational member of EATA, who helped me to write down my ideas about dilemma dynamics and approaches to treat them. I also welcome the invitation to this EATA conference and the 1.000 Sfrs, which go along with the prize. The money will be spent to GREENPEACE to support this organization in its most important contribution to the survival of us all. I hope that you and me will find ways to cultivate the garden, which our children and we want to live in and to enjoy.

I am grateful that I have the opportunity today to talk to you about some of my ideas concerning the development of TA.

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Working Styles, Chapter 6 of Working it Out at Work

Could this be you?

Chris gets through a lot of work, by doing everything very quickly. Chris moves fast, thinks fast, talks fast, and seems to do everything so much more quickly than most people.

However, every so often Chris makes a mistake through rushing so much – and then it takes twice as long to put it right – especially as Chris seems intent on finding a shortcut instead of taking time to work it through again.

Chris also has a bad habit of arriving late at meetings, and of needing to leave early to get to the next meeting! And during the meeting Chris is quite likely to be openly impatient and interrupt a lot, so that people feel pressured and hurried.

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Dishonesty and Neurosis

[Note: this article begins with several Patient/Therapist dialog examples; the author discusses their implications in a section at the end of the article.]

Pt: (Looking down and back up) I don’t know what’s the matter with me…
Ther: (Thinks “I’m supposed to ask what’s the matter with him, but he’s pretty passive, so I’ll wait”)
Pt: (After a long pause) I guess I’m sorta… I don’t know…. depressed. I guess.
Ther: But you’re not sure?
Pt: Yeah, I’m…. I guess… I’m depressed all right.
Ther: Did you know that when you came in, or did you just figure that out?
Pt: I guess I knew it when I came in… sorta, anyway.
Ther: But you said you didn’t know. I’m puzzled.
Pt: Well, I guess I kinda knew, but… (long pause) My wife and I had this big argument last night, and…
Ther: (interrupting) Is this about your depression?
Pt: Yeah! See..
Ther: (interrupting) We can come back to that in a few minutes. I’m feeling unfinished about what we started with.
Pt: (looks puzzled) What….?
Ther: When you said you didn’t know what was the matter with you, but then later you said you did know. I said I was puzzled by that.
Pt: I don’t know what you mean (half-smile, looks down, then back up).
Ther: (Thinks “Now I have to make a choice, to stay with the earlier confusion or this second instance, because he certainly does know what I mean. The pattern is he professes to be confused when he really for some reason doesn’t want to connect directly. I’ll stay with the current instance because it’s the same issue but maybe a little clearer…”) (smiling) Why do you say you don’t know what I mean when in fact you do? Seems to be almost habitual.
Pt: It gives me time to think, I guess. Yeah, I guess that’s it.
Ther: (Thinks “He never says things straight out, but always with the ‘I guess’ or ‘soda’… I wonder if that’s part of the same mechanism”) Does it seem to you that you’re under time pressure to answer me? (before client can reply, therapist continues:) Take all the time you want (grins).
Pt: (looks uncomfortable) Yeah, I guess I…
Ther: (interrupts, says with emphasis:) No, take all the time you want.
Pt: What? Oh. I’m.. I guess I I don’t know why I do that.
Ther: I don’t agree with you. You do that so consistently, in such an organized way, that I’m convinced there is a specific purpose behind your behavior, even if it’s not easy to put into words.
Pt: I guess I’ve always done that.
Ther: (Thinks “At least he acknowledges what he’s doing. A step in the right direction ) (Half-way through a session.
Pt is a nurse who is chronically suicidal and sometimes depressed)

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