Integrating Transactional Analysis and ART Therapy

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Transactional Analysis and Art Therapy as Part of an Integral Approach

Paulina Howfield is a psychotherapist who uses a wide number of modalities in her Art Therapy and Psychotherapy Practise, in this article the author, Nancy Davidson, wrote about one of her integrative approaches to working with clients that involves combining transactional analysis and art therapy.

combining transactional analysis and art therapyIn her Transpersonal Psychotherapy and Art Therapy practise Ms Howfield uses Transactional Analysis and Art Therapy as part of her approach with a wide range of clients including children, families, couples and groups. She has used transactional analysis and art therapy across cultures and in many countries. She has found transactional analysis and art therapy to be a valuable part of an integrative approach in many situations, especially those where communication and relationship difficulties are being experienced. She has also found transactional analysis and art therapy to be useful when incorporated as a supervisory tool with Art Therapy students.

Ms Howfield states that TA is an incredibly adaptable modality which fits easily with other modalities and which can be grasped easily by clients. She finds it a useful tool for pulling together thoughts, feelings and behaviour; helping clients to understand their own and others communication patterns; and enabling them to recognise how verbal and non-verbal signals in interactions can impact on the effectiveness of communication. TA and Art Therapy also gives clients a greater sense of awareness around patterns in their lives and their prior history.

When using Transactional Analysis and Art Therapy as part of her approach Ms Howfield will:

  1. Identify the problem

  2. Look at clients’ thoughts, feelings and behaviours

  3. Listen for and identify ego states

  4. Listen for and identify games and payoffs

  5. Listen for the OK position.

  6. Explore the energy and emotion behind the OK position

  7. Explore the payoff (pain)

  8. Seek to help clients retrain their minds

Transactional analysis and art therapyMs Howfield emphasises that it is important to always seek to understand the essence of a transaction. If therapists get “stuck”, going back to Parent, Adult and Child, identifying personas and working with the ego states always throws up more information. Because TA is used in a collaborative relationship, it is important that counsellors check out with clients as they go.

Introduction of TA concepts to clients occurs as appropriate in a given session and a whiteboard or notepad are used to diagram the ego states and interactions.

Specific Methods for Identifying EGO States When Using Transactional Analysis and ART Therapy

Ms Howfield uses many verbal and non-verbal methods to identify ego states. Some examples are as follows:

  1. Music provides non-verbal opportunities for clients to engage with specific ego states

  2. Roleplays can be used with two or more people

  3. Analysing transactions

  4. Looking at words

  5. Exploring  feelings

  6. Observing body language

  7. Art therapies such as sandplay, painting and puppets

  8. Games and picture cards that highlight dominant ego states which operate when people are in vulnerable positions.

Working with Specific Groups with Transactional Analysis and ART Therapy

When working with children, particularly those under ten years old, it is important to simplify TA concepts. Ego states can be identified but not necessarily named. Questions like “How are you feeling when?” and “How does your body feel when?”, are good for identifying ego states. Because children often lack the language skills needed for precise articulation of their ego states, art therapy, as detailed above, is very useful. Ms Howfield finds transactional analysis and art therapy particularly useful in dealing with the issues of aggressive behaviour and bullying and notes that children who are try hard and pleaser children at home are sometimes bullies at school.

Ms Howfield has found the concept of ego states useful for identifying and diffusing anger and has found this applicable across cultures. When working with Indigenous groups within Australia, she has used the drama triangle in connection with reconciliation issues, using it to explore and explain the three roles of victim, persecutor and rescuer, and how these roles become fluid and interchangeable.

When dealing with HIV/AIDS, cancers and other seriously or terminally ill clients Ms Howfield uses TA for helping clients to understand their own and other peoples reactions to their illness. TA and art therapy is also used to enable clients to identify and communicate to their families and their health professionals how they want to be treated. TA is particularly useful in the analysis of ego states and games within families and therefore helpful for exploring dynamics and understanding reactions within families to serious illness, especially in a situation where a clients are gay and their families are unaware of this.

Downside of using Transactional Analysis and Art Therapy

When using TA as part of an approach, Ms Howfield aims at client empowerment and awareness. As with all informative therapies, TA can leave room for clients to manipulate the session, turning the session into an intellectual exercise. However Ms Howfield stresses, that by always covering the three areas of thinking, feeling and behaviour and by exploring any manipulations with clients directly, this can be avoided.

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