Transactional analysis, commonly known as TA to its adherents, is a psychoanalytic theory of psychology developed by psychiatrist Eric Berne during the late 1950s.

Revising Freud's concept of the human psyche as composed of the Superego, the Ego and the Id, Berne postulated instead three "ego states", the Parent, Adult and Child states, which were largely shaped through childhood experiences. Unhealthy childhood experiences thus could easily lead to dysfunctional ego state content, which would bring discomfort to an individual and/or others, in a variety of forms commonly characterized as mental illnesses by the mental health community.

He then considered how individuals interact with one another, and how the learned contents of their individual ego states affected each set of transactions. Unproductive or counterproductive transactions were considered to be the manifest signs of ego state problems, and the analysis of these transactions, according to the person's individual developmental history, would enable the person to correct his approach to others and feeling about himself, and thus achieve social (mental) "health". Included in this model was the notion that virtually everyone has something problematic about their ego states and, therefore, negative transactions were not just the problem of only one of the interactants, but more likely both/all.

He therefrom developed a typology of common counterproductive social interactions, identifying these as "games". The first such game theorized was Why don't you/Yes, but in which one player (White) would pose a problem as if seeking help, and the other player(s) (Black) would offer solutions. White would point out a flaw in every Black player's solution (the "Yes, but" response), until they all gave up in frustration. The secondary gain for White was that he could claim to have justified his problem as insoluble and thus avoid the hard work of internal change; and for Black, to either feel the frustrated martyr ("I was only trying to help") or a superior being, disrespected ("the patient was uncooperative").

Berne then presented his theories in the form of two popular books on transactional analysis, ostensibly so that the layman could become aware of social imperfections in himself and others and solve them without professional intervention. As a result, TA came to be quickly disdained in many mainstream mental health circles as an early manifestation of "pop psychology" which flourished during the late 1960s, to the point of its being immortalized in a light rock song, "The Games People Play". Simultaneously, it was dismissed by the conventional psychoanalytic community because of its radical departures from Freudian theory. However, by the 1970s, because of its non-technical and non-threatening jargon and model of the human psyche (it particularly divorced itself from the theories of Sigmund Freud by eschewing the idea of a "seething cauldron of primitive subconscious impulses", i.e. the Id), many of its terms and concepts were adopted by eclectic therapists as part of their individual approaches to psychotherapy. It also served well as a therapy model for groups of patients, or marital/family counselees, where interpersonal (rather that intrapsychic disturbances) were the focus of treatment.

The more dedicated TA purists banded together in 1964 with Berne to form a research and professional accrediting body, the International Transactional Analysis Association, or ITAA. The organization is still active as of 2005.

TA outline:

TA is a theory of personality and a systematic psychotherapy for personal growth and personal change.

As a theory of personality, TA describes how people are structured psychologically. It uses what is perhaps its best known model, the ego-state (Parent-Adult-Child) model to do this. This same model helps understand how people function and express themselves in their behaviour.
As a theory of communication it extends to a method of analysing systems and organisations.
it offers a theory for child development.
It introduces the idea of a "Life (or Childhood) Script", that is, a story one perceives about ones own life, to answer questions such as "What matters", "How do I get along in life" and "What kind of person am I". This story, TA says, is often stuck to no matter the consequences, to "prove" one is right, even at the cost of pain, compulsion, self-defeating behaviour and other dysfunction. Thus TA offers a theory of a broad range of psychopathology.
In practical application, it can be used in the diagnosis and treatment of many types of psychological disorders, and provides a method of therapy for individuals, couples, families and groups.
Outside the therapeutic field, it has been used in education, to help teachers remain in clear communication at an appropriate level, in counselling and consultancy, in management and communications training, and by other bodies.