The USATAA social justice committee springs from a suggestion by Catherine O’Brien, General Coordinator, that interested council members form a social justice committee. The social justice circle of interest advances open discussion of social and cultural issues, promotes socio-education, diversity, and egalitarianism through the frame of transactional analysis, seeks to recognize the contributions of our colleagues engaged in social justice applications of transactional analysis (TA), and records developing social justice theory and practices among our community members.
Dr. Eric Berne did not advocate for political parties, nor does the social justice circle. Social justice is defined as the fair treatment and genuine respect for people at the social level. We have elected to define social justice broadly, as promoting I’m OK – You’re OK attitudes, safety, and respect among people.
Readers and long term members will recall that social action traditions among transactional analysts began in 1961 with the San Francisco Social Psychiatry Seminars’ sponsorship of George, a six-year-old boy from Crete, whose father was killed in the late 1950’s by an abandoned WWII mine (TAB, 1962).[i] Worldwide, transactional analysts continue this tradition, working within diverse communities to provide access to TA tools and philosophical principles, including respect for all human dignity, problem-solving capacities, and worth. These foundational, humanitarian principles gesture toward equality among races, classes, genders, sexual orientation, and different abilities. Prejudice was Berne’s standard nomenclature for psychopathology that arises from contamination of the Adult ego states by the Parent ego states; this terminology conveys Berne’s commitment to social equity. Along with these humanitarian principles, Berne designated TA a social psychiatry and obliged members to be proficient at analyses of groups and organizational systems, as well as the interactions and personality of individuals. These principles and requirements, his anti-authoritarian use of contractual methodology, and theoretical focus on physis and free child energy signal transactional analysis social justice applications for humanity and encapsulate our professional ethics of fairness and fidelity.
Founding social justice committee members, Janice Dowson, Bob Hempel, and Cheryl Leong, are pleased to welcome new members to this discursive circle of interest. We invite you to welcome Inger Acking and Reiko True to this committee! Reiko and Inger each have a lengthy history of social activism as redecision therapists in our (TA) community. These women exemplify the Gouldings’ core principles of self-determination, personal responsibility, and direct action. Their presence will augment our social justice tradition as well as our mission to maintain the integrity of TA philosophical principles as they apply to social justice concerns in our practice and theory, by encouraging egalitarian values, facilitating awareness of institutionalized injustices, and enabling understanding and respect in their personal and professional lives.
The following brief introductions illuminate the breadth and diversity each committee member contributes to our social justice collaboration.
Reiko True – I have mainly focused on the inequity of support services for the racial minorities, women, and disabled persons. Through advocacy, I have pioneered the development of culturally and linguistically responsive services to racial minorities, women, DV victims, and mentally ill.
Inger Acking –Through practicing redecision therapy with diverse populations I have worked to erode the systems of oppression and decrease all repressive isms. Bob and Mary’s teaching that “the power is in the patient” has remained a strong aspect of social justice that has empowered people by recognizing their power–and as a side effect, people have become more socially active.
Rev. Robert L. Hempel- For me, the scope of social justice is broadly founded on the principle that all persons are created equal around the world. My social justice concerns have extended to caring deeply for the environment, rights to safe working conditions and fair wages, racial and gender equality. In my early TA training, Denton Roberts and the Haimowitz’s reinforced this dual focus on a level playground and our ability to create social change; their influence underpinned my social justice work as a minister of the United Church of Christ and has served as a thrust in my role as USATAA Facebook moderator and committee participation.
Cheryl Leong – I am a CA licensed psychotherapist and leadership coach. My social justice work has included a 20-year journey offering LGBTQ education/consultation for mental health professionals in Singapore and San Francisco. Being part of the 90s “zen hacker” movement, I believe that a truly “free internet” can level the playing field worldwide. Currently, I am advocating for quality and free online TA education for all.
Janice Dowson – In my clinical and teaching practice in Canada, I have concentrated my social activism on developing individual autonomy and collective resistance against the effects of class and gender bias. My graduate work emphasized the intersection of race, class, and gender through critiques of social injustices against women and Indigenous peoples. Presently, I promote increased awareness of what Kendall calls “white privilege” in my social justice work, while as a clinician and teacher I have advocated for widespread accessibility to training and mental health services.
Our diverse committee works for social justice awareness through raising questions and conversation, inviting and participating in “integrated” Adult (Berne, 1961, p.195) to Adult discussions of social issues as they relate to transactional analysis practice and theory. We expect that all blog responses will remain consistent with this spirit of thoughtful, inquiring integrated Adult to convey mutual respect for differences in beliefs and experience.
Berne, Eric. (1961). Transactional analysis in psychotherapy. New York: Grove.
 Catherine’s excellent organizational model expresses her vision that has expanded to include the following circles of interest: Psychotherapy & Counselling; Education; Self-Help & Personal Development; Social Justice; Organizational Training & Leadership Resources.
 These terms are excerpted from the listed criteria for the ITAA Bob and Mary Goulding Social Justice award.
 Berne’s (1961) structural term, “integrated Adult” combines qualities of personal responsiveness, objective reasoning, reality-testing, feelings of ethical responsibility toward humanity and a worldwide ethos of courage, loyalty, and sincerity (p. 195). Berne’s nomenclature for these second order structural elements, Ethos and Pathos borrows from Aristotle’s classical transactional modes to convey their enduring social and humanitarian qualities.
Practitioners of Transactional Analysis were interviewed on their use of and appreciation for TA during the 2013 USATAA conference. USATAA proudly re-posts this wonderful video that features highlights from several of those interviews.
Our tradition of dynamic social justice expands with USATAA’s Social Justice Committee inauguration. Social action traditions among transactional analysts began in 1961 with the San Francisco Social Psychiatry Seminars sponsorship of George, a six year old boy from Crete, whose father was killed by an abandoned WWII mine. This Social Justice blog will serve the dual purposes to recognize and build upon the social activism of our colleagues engaged in social justice work and record developing social justice theory and practices.
This inaugural Social Justice Committee blog remembers and celebrates two courageous social activists and transactional analysis colleagues, Josephine Bowen Lewis and Denton L. Roberts, Jr, who passed away in the last few years, and passed the social justice torch along. We want to honor their accomplishments and leadership with their pictures and the reflections of those fortunate enough to know these loved USATAA members. We remember Jo and Denton for their years of expertise, devotion, and love to our organization.
Jo Lewis was an inspirational therapist and international speaker and change agent. She co-founded the Center for Cooperative Change, held an Associate Trainer appointment at the Southeast Institute for Group and Family Therapy, and served as General Coordinator for USATAA in 1998. She loved her role as teacher and facilitator at many TA conferences.
When Jo passed suddenly in 2014, many were stunned at her unexpected passing. We could not quite believe it was true. We want to acknowledge and thank Jo for her friendship and her lifelong, significant contribution to this world and to transactional analysis.
Denton Roberts, who passed away on December 12, 2011, was a founding member of USATAA, and has been called a “force of nature.” He served as General Coordinator for USATAA in the early 1990’s, and on ITAA’s Board of Trustees, facilitating a scholarship and education fund, which he hoped would aid future transactional analysts to grow USATAA. He was USATAA’s third general coordinator; flipping words as he did ideas, Denton often joked that he was the “Coordinator General.”
Denton’s friend and colleague, Bob Hill, eulogized Denton and praised his history of social activism, calling him “a raconteur with few peers, and a caregiver par excellence, a shepherd to church members, and a citizen of the world.” Hill notedDenton’s “unflagging commitments to do what he could in a world racked by pain and rocked by unrest,” adding that ‘from the hot days of Selma, to the poverty-scarred streets of South Central Los Angeles, to a nation inebriated on the wine of war, to the hallowed space of Ground Zero in New York City, Denton provided leadership and love, presence and prayer, counsel and creativity…..he kept his eyes on the prize of equality, loveable-ness, empowerment, and the precious value of every human being.” This eulogy emphasized Denton’s capacity to convey “calm to the distressed, peace to the tormented, challenge to the wandering, insight for the confused, grace for the troubled, humor for the overstressed, hope for the brutalized, and love for the abandoned,…while he “kept a firm hand on the plow that turned over fresh furrows for the individual… with clear-minded insights, an unfettered intuition that bordered on genius, and a deeply compassionate heart…. as he helped to strengthen and transform life-saving, life-giving institutions.
More memorial tributes to Jo and Denton from friends and colleagues are excerpted below. Please add your own to the comments below.
“It is with great joy and honor that I celebrate Denton and Jo’s social activism in ITAA, USATAA and in each of their professional and personal lives. In the introduction to his book, Able & Equal; a Gentle Path to Peace, Denton writes, “When people function from the basis that they and all people are capable, powerful, loveable, valuable and equal there exists what I identify as Human Esteem which provides the bedrock upon which peace is built.” In my experience, Denton Roberts operated from this premise in his relationships with all, both at the personal and institutional levels. His work at All Peoples Church in Los Angeles was indicative of his dedication to social justice.
Jo and I worked together with Valerie Batts and other consultants at VISIONS Inc. to foster multiculturalism and confront racism, sexism, heterosexism and all other forms of oppression at all levels. With her husband Mark Wise, Dr. Bowens Lewis developed and operated The Center for Cooperative Studies in Atlanta, which touched many lives and organizations in support of justice.
Both Jo and Denton were active in ITAA boards and committees, always with a focus on social justice and equity. As General Coordinators of the USATAA, each of them operated from the cooperative non- hierarchical structure of the organization. Denton went with me to the lawyer in San Antonio who wrote up the incorporation papers for the USATAA in 1982. There were many mentors in the ITAA for Jo and Denton in support of their activism including, but not limited to Muriel James, Mary Goulding and Graham Barnes. Intuitive awareness and passion for peace and justice through equality remain.” ~ Felipe Garcia
“We could count on Denton when facing challenges. He volunteered his energy and time to work for ITAA after the Executive Directorship ended, to keep the organization going through the transition.” ~ Gloria Noriega
“Jo Lewis had a clear moral voice. Jo was one of the people who would stand up at Board of Trustees meetings or in large conference gatherings to point out that what we were doing, or the direction being embarked upon, was wrong.”~ Richard Erskine
“Denton Roberts expanded cultural script theory with his article for the Transactional Analysis Journal, “Cultural Scripts” (Vol. 13, No. 4, October 1983 pp. 253). Building on Berne’s diagnostic metaphor, Denton argued that “a huge splinter” in society’s toe was based on oppressive superiority. He offered a “gentle” treatment plan in typical Denton fashion.” – Bob Hempel
“I have admired Jo’s fearless, yet gentle persistence as she delineated subtle forms of gender discrimination or raised thoughtful challenges to privileged perspectives at conferences for over 25 years. As moderator for the USATAA Master’s 101 at the 2007 San Francisco conference, she saw to it that we presenters honored our timelines and contracts with her usual grace.” ~ Janice Dowson
“Jo Lewis was one of my role models as a TA therapist. She supervised my first TA 101, giving feedback in a loving and confrontative manner. When it came to values issues in tough council and committee decisions, Jo helped us ground into what really mattered. She was a wonderful Child to Child playmate, whether we were out buying her a coat at a chilly San Francisco summer conference, or ordering luscious strawberries romanoff from room service after a tough day giving TA exams; Jo showed how to live life well.
Before meeting him in person, I read Denton’s landmark cultural scripts article in the TA Journai, which informed my early work on changing cultural and gender scripting. I imagined him to be formal or professorial and was surprised at his humble, casual demeanor when we met. When we both served on the ITAA Board of Trustees, people listened to Denton’s voice of reason, which was usually introduced with droll humor. He told plenty of jokes and stories, and must have been a good companion on his trail rides in the Sierras with TA people, such as Vince Gilpin.” ~ Lucy Freedman
 The full name of this precursor to ITAA was San Francisco Social Psychiatry Seminars for the Study of Transactional Analysis and Social Dynamics
***Blog posts on The NET represent the viewpoint of the author and have not been verified or endorsed by USATAA.***
Hot American summers seem to bring out some of the worst in our society. Anger erupts, violence happens, reactions escalate, and the reverberations in the news have hardly subsided before it happens again. The construct of race (which is not an actual biological thing) and the embedded history of white supremacy in America, inform our cultural scripting in ways that are both conscious and unconscious. Recent publicity about implicit bias is at least bringing some of that to the fore.
Those who want to be idealists may dream of a society that is not burdened with the products of white supremacy; i.e.,white privilege, income inequality, marginalization of people by color, nationality, gender, and economic status, etc. I hope that people reading this blog aspire to that ideal and recognize where and how we need to face up to current reality.
Some people respond to the Black Lives Matter movement as it if it is part of the problem. It certainly highlights their discomfort with the historical truth.
I received this quotation from a friend:
“Perfect analogy for how critics of ‘Black Lives Matter’ get it wrong. Like suggesting anyone promoting ‘Breast Cancer Awareness’ thinks other cancers are not worthy of attention.”
The idea that supporting Black Lives Matter means that you hate police or wish them ill is way off the mark. Anger that is not managed on either side is just a descent into spirals of craziness, bringing out exactly the opposite of what is needed.
OK-OK communication within communities can prevent many of these problems, though breaking up cultural scripts isn’t done overnight. But after centuries, people?
I saw a report that today would have been the 75th birthday of Emmett Till. If you don’t know who he was, look it up. Just as the videos of today tell their stories, the pictures of Emmett Till after he was tortured and killed galvanized the country. We need to be galvanized now, to be honest about the uneven distribution of power in our communities.
I say, idealists, people who promote I’m OK – You’re OK thinking, please honor those who rightly stand up for people whose lives have been treated as if they matter less.
For an informative very short video on this subject, check this out: