Dealing with Depression through TA Therapy (Transactional Analysis)

The article below is a version of the video interview I gave above.


I’m a psychotherapist working around Formby near Liverpool in the UK and I also cover Southport, Ormskirk, Skelmersdale, Wigan too.

What is your experience of working with people coping with depression?

Clients with depression have often lost themselves in their efforts to please and meet other people’s needs over and above their own needs in order to feel loved and accepted. In TA (Transactional Analysis), the personality is made up of three parts or ego-states, the Parent, Adult and Child. The Parent ego-state is split into Critical Parent and Nurturing Parent and the Child ego-state is split into Adapted Child and Free Child.)

Depressed clients were often taught as children to be perfect and achieve very high standards to be loved and accepted by their parents. In later life, their Parent ego-states have developed dysfunctionally with too much self-criticism and not enough nurturing or self-love.

Depressed clients often learned as children to take care of others whilst neglecting themselves so that in later life, their Child ego-states have become disproportionately over-adapted to constantly please others losing their Free Child’s ability to be spontaneous, playful, and joyful about living life.

Depressed clients often feel anger both towards themselves and other people without fully understanding the reasons why, they suffer from low self-esteem and are often characteristically passive in their relationships and decision-making.

These symptoms often stem from being taught as children to minimise their own needs, always putting others’ needs first, and being taught to be overly-dependent on others for love and reassurance. The anger depressed clients feel is often due to their Adult ego-states lacking the confidence and ability to make independent decisions about their own lives, so they are often actually frightened to come for therapy.

Could you explain how Transactional Analysis therapy can help with depression?

It is the therapist’s job to provide a healthy Nurturing Parent to compensate for the client’s dominant Critical Parent ego-state. During the course of the growing caring, accepting, safe, empathic and confidential therapeutic relationship between the therapist and the depressed client, the unmet childhood need of the client to be loved and accepted unconditionally without needing to take care of the therapist will allow for the client’s Free Child to be playful and learn that life is worth living.

It is crucially important for the therapist to allow the client to openly admit to any suicidal thoughts and to make a no-suicide contract and safety plan with the client to keep them safe.

Gradually, as the depressed client’s unmet Child ego-state needs for love and acceptance are met by a nurturing therapist, their characteristic defences of resistance to change, lack of trust and passivity in relationships will begin to dwindle.

It is then possible to explore the reasons for their depression which in TA therapy will include identifying the early childhood injunctions or messages received from parents such as, ‘Don’t Be, Don’t Be Close, Don’t Trust, Don’t Be You, Don’t Feel, and Don’t Make It’. These unconscious childhood messages received from parents will have written the depressed client’s Life Story or Script defining whether they live their lives as winners or losers – as happy or depressed people.

Awareness that depressed clients were given a depressed Life Script to follow by their parents or carers in childhood, allows them to activate their under-developed Adult ego-states to make new decisions about the lives they want to live now, and to decide to love and take care of themselves without feeling like they are being selfish.

Erich Fromm, the German social psychologist said in 1967, “If an individual is able to love productively, he loves himself too; if he can love only others, he cannot love at all.”

What advice would you give to someone who is dealing with depression?

  1.  Seek support. Whether it’s through talking with friends and family, joining a support group, or seeking the help of a qualified therapist, it’s important to have a support system in place to help you manage your symptoms. Psychotherapy for depression primarily allows depressed clients to know in their heads and feel in their hearts that life is worth living, and to know that depression never comes ‘out of the blue’ but that there are always reasons for every depression that can be found in therapy.
  2. Listen to yourself to find out what you really want from your relationships.
  3. Take care of your physical health. This means getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep. These lifestyle changes can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.

 Are there other techniques you use in therapy to help individuals deal with depression?

Another technique is to use mindfulness to help clients develop greater self-awareness and acceptance of their emotions. We might use techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises to help clients become more present in the moment and develop a greater sense of peace and calm.

How long does treatment for depression typically last, and when should someone consider seeking professional help?

The length of treatment for depression can vary depending on the client and the severity of their symptoms. However, research has shown that TA therapy can be effective in reducing symptoms of depression.

It’s important to seek professional help if someone is experiencing symptoms of depression that are interfering with their daily life. This might include symptoms such as persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, changes in sleep or appetite, or thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

 Are there any particular challenges that you’ve encountered in helping clients deal with depression?

One challenge is that depression can be a very individual experience, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s important to tailor the therapy to the client’s specific needs and circumstances.

Another challenge is that depression can be a very complex issue, and there may be underlying factors such as trauma or medical conditions that need to be addressed in order to effectively treat the depression.

Do you have any final thoughts or advice for those who may be dealing with depression?

Depression is a common and treatable condition. It’s important to seek support and treatment if you are experiencing symptoms of depression, and to remember that you are not alone. With the right support and tools, it’s possible to manage and overcome depression and live a fulfilling life.