Institute for Integrative Psychotherapy

Integrative Psychotherapy Books

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by Helena Hargaden,
ITA News

Theories and Methods of an Integrative Transactional Analysis

A Volume of Selected Articles by Richard G. Erskine
 TA Press, 1997, 256 pages, $25.00

This review was originally published in ITA News, Number 54, Summer 1999, pp. 34.

In this volume of 28 articles we see the seeding, flowering and ultimate blossoming of Erskine's creative integration of theoretical systems and concepts into an Integrative Transactional Analysis.  This book spans twenty-five years of his work during which his focus never wanes, his words do not tire; one senses the energy of a bright and creative mind at work. It is essential reading for those transactional analysts who want to bring together affective, cognitive, behavioural, and physiological systems and work within the realms of depth psychotherapy whilst honing up their understanding of transactional analysis theory.

During my reading of this volume I was most struck by the clarity and incisiveness which Richard Erskine brings to a body of literature which has captivated even as it has perplexed students of transactional analysis since its inception, (under the genius of Berne) in the 1950s. It is one of  Erskine's achievements that he enables the clinician to make sense of some of the inconsistencies inherent within TA theory.  Divided into four sections, each section has a theme and the articles are arranged in reverse order of publication. In particular Section II is recommended as required reading for all transactional analysts who want to refresh or develop their understanding of ego state theory.   For the reluctant reader of theory there is a very lively piece  which is the taped version of a round table discussion held at the ITAA's 25th Annual Summer Conference in Chicago, Illinois, July 29th - August 2nd, 1987. In this piece the participants have a lively and entertaining discussion about ego state theory which captures the mood of an emergent creative process.  "Ego State Analysis A Comparative View"  brings much needed clarification to the different ego state models.  In  "Ego Structure, Intrapsychic Function, and Defence Mechanisms: A commentary on Eric Berne's Original Theoretical Concepts" Erskine makes a strong case for recognising that Berne's real genius lies in his elaboration and elucidation of the intrapsychic model of ego states and how they translate into transactions with each other. This creative combining of the intrapsychic with the interpersonal afforded a dramatic change in the practice of psychotherapy which Erskine argues anticipated the later developments in self psychology and developmental psychology. I am inclined to be persuaded by Erksine's logic since some TA writers over the past decade have integrated object relations and developmental psychologies into TA with apparent ease. I am left feeling sad, too, that the theory was so vulnerable to the over simplification which has dogged transactional analysts ever since. Reading the historical evolution of ego state theory one is left in do doubt that Berne's original influences were psychoanalytic and that his psychoanalyst Paul Federn was influential in Berne's development of ego state theory  in which  the archeopsyche is revealed in all its complexity.    Ego states are clearly linked with  intrapsychic development which sets the scene neatly for the development of a methodology.

Part I leads naturally into this...and in some sense this book benefits from being read backwards.  Since I have a tendency to do this anyway, I felt that I was reading the book the right way round for once (an unusual experience for me!)  These articles require that transactional analysts take stock,  sit back and  change their methodology. The processes of inquiry, attunement and involvement are outlined and delineated but it is in his article on "Shame and Self-righteousness." that Erskine most convinces us of the need to tread lightly, for indeed we can easily tread on dreams!  This article moved me to tears on evoking the state of shame and humiliation, the fear of abandonment and the ongoing need for a connection with whoever shamed us; it leaves the reader in no doubt that gross confrontation of rackets and scripts (without paying attention to the under-lying experiences) potentially exposes the client to a retraumatising, shameful experience. Erskine quotes Goldberg who views shame as 'the crucible of human freedom with the constructive potential". This quote intrigues. How does one do this within the therapeutic relationship? This question highlights a deficiency within the methodology proposed, for I was left with a conviction that empathic attunement alone is insufficient when working with the complexity of shame based systems.

Sections III & IV contain many old favourites that will be familiar to readers such as "The Racket System: A `Model for Racket Analysis", "Rubberbanding"; "Six Stages of Treatment" and much more.  I remember reading the "ABC's of Effective psychotherapy" in the second year of my training and beginning to understand the meaning of integration, not only as a means of bringing together different theories, but also as a process of integrating the personality. These articles have stood the test of time and are still widely read and used in the practice of transactional analysis.  I was intrigued to happen upon a two page article entitled, "Secondary Stamp Collecting," Richard G. Erskine and Harry D. Corsover. It conveys again that wonderful simplicity of TA that can be so thought provoking.  Anyone who runs a group, trains, or supervises should read this – it’s a gem!

In summary, Erskine goes into the bowels of the theory, extricating, elaborating, lengthening; he demands of the theory that it become a relational contactful psychotherapy and he demands of us, the reader, that we think and conceptualise relationally.

My disappointments lie in the absence of articles which address race, culture and sexuality.  For instance what is the meaning of empathic attunement inter-culturally? How do we understand empathic inquiry between Black and White? Between men and women? Between heterosexual and gay clients?  I was left feeling the deficiency within the methodology on these counts. The articles, which address the social context, appear dated and irrelevant which is perhaps a comment upon the huge social changes over the past quarter of a century. In his introduction to the volume Richard Erskine openly encourages readers to respond creatively to the development of theory.  Maybe it is with regard to the social and cultural realities of our individual and collective lives that our collaborative contributions are still  needed.


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