Eric Berne developed the notion of transactional analysis (TA ) and author of the book "The Games People Play".

Thomas A Harris then wrote the book "I'm OK - You're Ok" based on Berne's theory of TA.

Tony White expanded on this theory.

They produced the following concepts about people's life positions. As a basis for a person's way of relating to others and the world.:

"I'm OK, You're OK"
"I'm not OK, You're OK"
"I'm OK, You're not OK"
"I'm not OK, You're not OK"
"I'm not OK, But You're Worse"
"I'm not OK, You're Irrelevant"
"I'm a Bit More OK Than You Are"
"I'm OK, You're Irrelevant"
"I'm OK, You're OK, They're not OK"

How effective is this paradigm as an aide to diagnosing personality disorders?

  • $\begingroup$ Diagnosing personality types in what sense? Each model of personality has different personality types and different numbers of types. Did you have a specific model of personality types in mind outside TA itself? $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ just as an aside, put those life positions into a conversation, and relace "OK" with "the king", then you have a typical conversation between 2 of my senior students. I'll ask them if this is their motivation. $\endgroup$
    – user3554
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 20:02

2 Answers 2


Transactional Analysis (TA) was developed by Eric Berne (1910–1970) and is not a method of diagnosis. As @John said in his answer, diagnosis is made using the DSM (currently DSM-5), and targeted assessment tools such as the PCL-R.

TA is an integrative method of therapy combining psychodynamic and humanistic approaches. On the difference between TA and other theories, Eric Berne said

I think most other therapies . . . talk about thinking and feeling. Our question to the patient is not what do you think or how do you feel, but what are you going to do about it? . . . There’s a story, that I think is a little unfair, but anyway it sort of illustrates what I mean, where a patient came in one day and said to the psychiatrist “by the way, I killed my wife last night and hid her body in the closet”. And some people might say “ah ha, now we’ve got something to work with, what’s your interest in closets?” Whereas we might say “why are you killing your wife?”’

(Berne, E. (1966) Games People Play – The Theory Video (Available Online via YouTube). National Education Television.)

Page 343 of Short, F. & Thomas, P. (2015) Core Approaches in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Hove: Routledge., allows you to appreciate the application of transactional analysis in a therapeutic setting via a case study.


Personality disorders are diagnosed with the DSM manual save for a few which have targeted assessment tools (like the PCL-R).

TA is not considered a well supported technique research wise and lots of schools don't teach it except by way of a history lesson. I'm quite certain that both Berne and the authors of the DSM would agree that it doesn't actually map onto any specific personality disorders currently recognized. At best there would be a relationship between many of the addictions and related dependencies but they're certainly not seen the same way.

  • $\begingroup$ As someone who is brand new to TA and not a professional in any mental health industry I am wondering if that statement concerning TA is an opinion? Or supported with research? I want to research the validity of TA as I see practical applications of it in some areas that I have interests in. I'm not challenging the stance merely seeking as much peer-reviewed information on TA as I can get my hands on. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 13:15

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