Pioneers of 'Co-creative TA' celebrated

24 Jul, 2020
Pioneers of Co-creative TA celebrated

AUT Professor of Psychotherapy, Keith Tudor, has received the 2020 Eric Berne Memorial Award in Transactional Analysis (TA).

The prestigious international award recognises original and significant published works that constitute major advances in the field of TA.

Established in 1971, the award is dedicated to Eric Berne, the Canadian-born psychiatrist who, in the 1950s, created the theory of TA as a way of explaining human behaviour. Where Freudian psychotherapists focused on talk therapy as a way of gaining insight to their patient’s personality and Motivations, Berne thought that better insight could be gained by analysing a patient’s social interactions.

Tudor and Graeme Summers are joint recipients of the award for their co-authored work on Co-creative Transactional Analysis, first published in 2000. The pair will be honoured at the International Transactional Analysis Association (ITAA) virtual awards ceremony on July 24-25.

“We were delighted to receive this prestigious award for our original work on Co-creative Transactional Analysis. We were both honoured and humbled by the recognition,” says Tudor.

Together they pioneered a dynamic co-creative approach to TA.

TA aims to help the patient achieve autonomy, by developing awareness and the ability to assess a situation for what it is. When you are in your Adult ego state, the decisions you make are based on the ‘here-and-now’ reality of what you are facing – rather than replaying a set of feelings, attitudes and behaviours from past experiences or copied from past authority figures.

Co-creative TA emphasises the present-centred therapeutic relationship (focusing on the patient’s present life and Adult ego state), and the co-creative nature of transactions, ego states, scripts and games. It draws on field theory and constructivism, and underlines the shared field, or common communicative home, which both the patient and therapist construct.

It is a user friendly approach for anyone interested in understanding and improving their personal and working relationships.

Tudor and Summers have written numerous articles and a book, Co-creative Transactional Analysis: Papers, Responses, Dialogues and Developments, which includes contributions from TA practitioners.

The original work has been cited in more than 100 articles covering all four fields of TA (counselling, educational, organisational, and psychotherapy).

“We would like to acknowledge and thank our colleagues all over the world, who have been part of our journey and encouraged us to keep developing this perspective on TA which seems to resonate across all fields and cultures,” says Tudor.

Q+A with Professor Keith Tudor

What are some co-creative TA techniques to help us improve professional relationships and support co-workers during times of stress and uncertainty?

It’s interesting that you mention uncertainty as I am currently writing a paper on the subject, considering the psychology, philosophy, and politics of uncertainty, and arguing that we need to think about tolerating and managing uncertainty as an aspect of resilience and as a new competence for uncertain times.

As to the substantive question, it’s a big one, and one that probably warrants another article. Nevertheless, I would say that the three principles of co-creative TA are pertinent to improving professional relationships as follows:

  1. The principle of “we”ness (based on we psychology) encourages people to think about the other and, for instance, about the team more than themselves as an individual. Nō reira, ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini (thus, my success is not mine alone, but it is the strength of many).
  2. The principle of shared responsibility encourages everyone involved in any situation to identify and “own” their responsibility for their part in it, whether as a protagonist or a witness. This reminds me of the famous quote from Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman and philosopher, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.
  3. Finally, the principle of present-centred development acknowledges the fact that we can change things and develop in the present, here-and-now, rather than having to take a long time to think about it or necessarily having to do a lot of long-term therapeutic work about the past in order to “resolve” some aspect of our personality. In other words, we can simply be – or aspire to be – the best we can here-and-now.

How can psychotherapy support AUT staff?

I think psychotherapy has an enormous role to play in supporting AUT staff, and, indeed, a number of the student counsellors here at AUT trained in psychotherapy. I’m also aware that staff who take up the opportunity of the Employee Assistance Programme at AUT can choose to see a psychotherapist.

Psychotherapy views the person as a whole, as distinct from as a series of working or dysfunctional parts. Psychotherapy encourages people to be reflective about themselves; their thoughts, feelings and behaviour, as well as their history, and patterns of acting and reacting. In this way, it can help staff who have struggled with lockdown; those who may be thinking differently and wanting to make changes with regard to their work–life balance; those who might have been affected by experiences and reports of people’s bad, impulsive or inappropriate behaviour; as well as those who act out and behave badly – if, of course, they’re willing to stop and to seek help.

Psychotherapy also considers the environment, the workplace and the natural world, so I think that psychotherapy could help with some of the behaviours, dynamics and tensions we are experiencing at the moment, and could be part of helping us all to have a heightened awareness of others as well as ourselves, and to engage with and embody our values.

What is the long-term impact of COVID-19 on mental health in the workplace?

The short answer is that we don’t know. However, if we think about mental health as requiring both individual resilience and supportive environments, then I think the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace – and, not least, our workplace – will depend partly on how supportive the environment can be, which, in turn, will be impacted by the economics of recovery, and partly on how people cope with stress, change, and uncertainty.

For some people, the stress associated with COVID-19 and responses to it can develop into dis-stress and even dis-ease – for others challenges and change bring opportunities. Either way, I think we have an opportunity to promote positive mental health and well-being in the workplace.

How have you been coping with the return to campus?

Personally, I’ve been coping pretty well. It’s good to be back on campus and meeting colleagues kanohi ki te kanohi (face-to-face). I’m excited about a new role I have this year, establishing a network and ultimately a centre for research in the psychological therapies (encompassing counselling and counselling psychology as well as psychotherapy). I’ve moved into a new office on the South Campus, and am very much looking forward to making connections with the local community and to establishing research that makes a difference to the mental health of our diverse communities, both here in Tamaki Makaurau and nationally. While I know that it didn’t suit everybody, I do think that working from home opened up some possibilities including greater flexibility, efficiency, and sustainability.

Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui. Thank you.