How The Core Concepts Were Assembled

by Claude Steiner

The examination of the core concepts and competencies of transactional analysis began during Gloria Noriega’s presidency and, as promised in his candidacy statement, the process was continued by George Kohlrieser when he honored me with his appointment as Chair the Presidential Task Force to Define Core Transactional Analysis Concepts.

At the ITAA conference in  April 99 in Hawaii, the Task Force was changed from a Presidential Task Force to a Task Force of the Development Committee under the Chairmanship of Curtis Steele. This clarified the goal of the project, namely to produce a document which can eventually be published and become part of the ITAA’s  collection of products on sale to the public.

When I was assigned this project it was not clear what the difference between core concepts (a recently developed notion) had in common with the venerable notion of canon which was advanced by Eric Berne in Structure and Dynamics of Organizations and Groups.

It quickly became clear, however, that it was not our task to define the canon, which in is being worked out by the Training and Certification Council of the ITAA, but to gather, in a crisp, brief, yet sophisticated statement, an understanding about what transactional analysis is, as it exists in the hearts and minds of the ITAA membership, today.

This implied that the core concepts would not include all of Berne’s ideas, nor necessarily all the ideas that have been added to the body of knowledge that is TA today. It was to be, in a way, a common denominator of ideas, those ideas with which the majority of  ITAA members are comfortable; in short a consensus about transactional analysis with which, most in our organization can agree.

The purpose as we saw it was to collect in one place a list of concepts and a narrative that weaves them together in a manner which would make TA understandable to professionals, students and lay people who are unfamiliar with TA and have an interest in acquiring a clear conception of what it, in fact, currently is.

The process was approached in five steps:

1.       Assembling the task force. This was actually the most painstaking portion of the process. I hand -picked a group of knowledgeable, e-mail capable member/veterans from five continents and  approached them to join the Task Force. A number of members I approached declined for a number of reasons, disagreement with the process being one of them. Eventually I received agreement from a group of  seven listed on the cover plus Claudie Ramond from France who was not able to maintain Internet contact and eventually dropped off.

2.       Collecting candidates for core concepts. Staring with an open meeting in Hawaii we collected nine different lists of core concepts from each member, and through the Internet.

3.       Ranking and choosing core concepts. Every concept mentioned was listed and the task force members plus several outsiders were asked to rank the concepts on a scale of 1-5 as to their appropriateness as core concepts. This yielded a list of 41 concepts which received clear approval with only a few ambiguities to be resolved, namely that some concepts that had received the EB award did not rank high enough to qualify as core concepts. In an ensuing discussion the Task Force came to a provisional agreement as to what concepts to include in the narrative.

4.       Writing the Narrative. With the core concepts in hand I proceeded to weave the narrative that you read in the following pages. I did this in three parts, each part being sent back to Task Force members and posted to an interested discussion group on the internet. Every query, objection and suggestion was read and considered and the large majority incorporated to some extent into the final product. Further feedback was requested at the SF99 conference.

5.     Completion of the narrative and translation.

After final comments were collected and introduced into the document the result was translated by native speaking transactional analysts into French, German, Spanish and Portuguese. (Italian pending)

Finally the completed document and translation were presented to the ITAA Board of Trustees at the Halifax 2000 conference in August 2001 and permission was obtained to post the document under Related Websites in the ITAA web page.

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