TA in Practice: Kirsty Melmed

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Jul 302019

Recently. I was brought in by a large corporate brand, to facilitate team coaching sessions with a team of men of various ages, different cultural backgrounds and challenging economic circumstances. This was a new experience for me as up until now I have primarily worked with individuals and 80% of my clients are women. The objective of these sessions was to improve communication between the team and their manager.

I approached these coaching sessions as follows – each person had a chance to check in and then we decided as a group what we would like to focus our discussion on during that session. Depending on the topic, I would share a model that I felt was relevant and we would discuss the team’s experience within the framework of the model. This is how I often work with my one on one clients and the models I most commonly work with are Life Positions, Karpman’s Drama Triangle and Functional Ego States.

During our first session, as we were discussing the team’s ideas of what authentic communication looks like, one of them said to the group, “It’s like that Parent, Adult, Child thing. The way you say something will effect the way someone hears what you are saying.”

I couldn’t believe it! As it turns out, they had already been introduced to Ego States in a previous workshop with another trainer over a year ago. More than that, they had actually remembered it.

We went on to discuss what happens when two people have an interaction. I drew it on the whiteboard like this:

The team came to the conclusion that we each bring something unique to the present moment. The bit in the middle is the experience we have of being together. So if one person brings something different to the present moment it will change the quality of the overall experience. And, the more you get to know and understand someone, the more your shared experience expands.

They got really excited about this, as did I, as this spoke directly to our objective of improving their relationship with their manager. They ended that first session believing that they have a role to play in creating the quality of their relationships/communication.

During the remainder of our sessions, we explored Karpman’s Drama Triangle, Life Positions and Strokes. With each piece of TA theory, their self-awareness grew. They shared examples of how this was impacting their personal lives in a positive way. They showed a willingness to grow their sense of autonomy in a work environment too.

And, we kept coming back to the diagram above. It was incredible to me that this very simple diagram had such an enormous impact on them. I am not sure where this model came from, whether I saw it somewhere or imagined it myself. I used the same image in a post I created a year ago, when I wanted to illustrate what a co-creative style of workshop facilitation looks like.

I am so excited to continue working with this group of men as our contract has been extended. I love how my own frame of reference has expanded during our time together. I have so enjoyed sharing TA with them and seeing the enthusiasm they have shown for learning more.

It illustrates for me how truly universal TA is. I am so grateful to be able to share it with others as I work towards my CTA. I hope I continue to find new creative ways to share the concepts and invite others to feel as excited as I feel about using TA to become more autonomous.

To share your own experience of TA in Practice in our next newsletter, please email us on info@sataa.org.za


Introduction of new SATAA Treasurer – Kirsty Melmed

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Apr 262019

My name is Kirsty Melmed and I am a life coach who specialises in personal development, spiritual growth and relationship transformation. My mission is to empower you to live life authentically.

I first met with TA when I was 16 years old. A psychologist from New Zealand came to my high school to run a workshop called “Get Real”. It was my first encounter with the concept of personal development so it seems fitting that it included a core TA model – Karpman’s Drama Triangle.

I was immediately drawn in to the simplicity of the model and how perfectly it summed up the dynamics of my most important relationships at the time. That workshop set me on the path to becoming a coach. I completed a BA specialising in Psychological Counselling and decided I was not quite ready to join the ‘Adult’ world just yet. So I set off on a one way ticket to Europe where I spent the next five years exploring, learning and having a whole lot of fun.

During my time working for a youth tour operator, I was responsible for training and managing over 60 team members directly. My favourite part of this was the one on one sit downs I had with each person. Instead of focusing on performance management I followed my instincts and instead focussed on what they wanted to achieve and how they wanted to grow.

When I moved back to Cape Town at the end of 2014 I reflected on my time in Europe and decided that those one on one sessions were my favourite part of a pretty spectacular job. I did some research and discovered life coaching. I had no idea that what I had been doing with those young adults was exactly that. How exciting to realise my passion and purpose!

I came across Karen Pratt’s website and straight away I felt synergy. Not only was she a coach trainer but she offered training in TA. I remembered the Drama Triangle over a decade later and felt my curiosity piqued to learn more. It felt like my journey had come full circle.

Since then I have completed a TA101 and 202 as well as numerous workshops and webinars. I am currently part of the Foundation Year training group with Karen and my fellow SATAA Exco member Andrew. I am working towards a CTA in the Educational field as I love sharing my TA knowledge with others and hope to become a TSTA one day too.

As a coach, I use TA in my sessions ALL the time. It informs the way I coach and I often share the core models with my clients if it feels like it could be helpful to the discussion. I am continuously struck by how universal TA is as a language, and that people from all walks of life can overlay the concepts to their experiences with ease.

I have run workshops both privately and in schools which are based on TA theory. It blows my mind to see how relevant TA is to teachers as they navigate the dynamics of a classroom. I would love to introduce TA into the South African school system as part of the curriculum for learners and as a tool for educators. Who knows, perhaps one day I will…

On a personal level, TA has transformed my relationships with my family and my partner Garth. Over time, as I have animatedly shared the latest bit of theory over many Sunday lunches, they have become accustomed to the terms. Much to my annoyance they have even been known on occasion to point out when they notice me moaning from a ‘not ok’ space… Which of course is really a beautiful gift which I welcome. The more I learn the more I experience my script with new insight. I feel as if TA has given me the tools I need to live my own life authentically and thus practise what I teach.

Being in my thirties and only four years into my chosen career, I feel so grateful to have discovered TA so early on. The Rebellious Child in me has often felt like I am different to the people around me. In the TA community I have found a family of people who speak the same language. It feels incredible to be seen and to see others in such a real way. I can’t wait to find out what the future holds and know that my involvement with the SATAA is the next step on the journey.

For more info please find me at www.kirstymelmedlifecoach.com or on social media with the following handle @kirstymelmedlifecoach.

“Dancing in Kochi” – Karen’s reflections on the past TA Conference in India

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Oct 082018

As we got closer to the time, the anticipation of another TA conference in India, grew. The warmth and connection in past Indian conferences stands out for me – people boldly give and receive positive strokes and it creates such a wonderful sense of belonging – a theme that is important for me. The enticing conference theme of The Dance of Culture felt important for me as a South African living within such a multi-cultural society.

This time the monsoon floods added another type of dance to my experience in Kochi – a dance within myself about making decisions that would both keep us safe and allow participation in the conference; a dance of both valuing international connections and a deep valuing in being a South African.

My husband was travelling with me for the first time in India. After almost three weeks exploring other parts of south India and meeting people that have been significant to me over the 11 years of coming to India, we arrived in Kochi five days ahead of the exams and conference so that we could explore together. After a brief concern with the airport being closed for a few hours when one of the dam’s shutters were opened, we arrived with no problem later that evening and had a wonderful five days exploring Fort Kochi and doing a trip on the beautiful backwaters.

And then the rains returned…..

So many things stand out for me now as I reflect on the experiences of those next four days. The conference organisers were flexible to consider, moment by moment, what the best decisions were – rearranging workshops, and ultimately deciding to end the conference one day earlier. What a strong and compassionate team they were! There was a balance of enabling those presenters and participants who had been able to get there, to still experience deep moments of connection and learning, as well as sensibly considering the safety of people. At the same time there was always the concern for the people who had lost everything – the generous donation of money that was collected to support relief efforts was heartening.





A home under water in the floods a bit north of Kochi

Adrienne Lee’s keynote address highlighted for me the balance of autonomy and homonomy. I see Berne’s (1964) initial emphasis on autonomy as a gift to people striving to find their voice within families and systems of oppression. But autonomy alone is not enough – it can separate and divide and become all about ‘me.’ Angyl (1972) in Salters (2011) wrote about homonomy – the need for interconnectedness within and between each person’s autonomy. In South Africa we have the concept of ‘Ubuntu’ – the concept that a person is a person through other people. My own spiritual journey at present is being powerfully impacted by the writings of Dr Cynthia Bourgeault (2016) who speaks about non-duality. This is a different way of viewing the world – it takes away the subject-object way of seeing people and ideologies and moves to living from the experience of oneness that mystical expressions of many faiths, speak about. For example, in Christianity Jesus said: ‘The Father and I are one’ (John 10:30)

This sense of homonomy and non-duality was powerfully lived out during those days in Kochi. As people from outside of India were anxious about how they would return to their homes and families, the conference team and local participants went out of their way to source different travel options and make wise decisions about the planned conference events.

The experience challenged me as a white South African who comes from a privileged background. It brought back some of the colonial elements of living in a society where I have more means and privilege than others and so can make different choices. My Indian friends, with whom we would be staying for a few days back in Bangalore, initially suggested that an overnight train was a safe option. But we were only able to be on a waiting list. And my fantasy of the challenges of a twelve to fourteen hour journey on a train began to loom large. A different plan was to travel by road to Trivandrum and then book a new flight from there. I spent some time thinking deeply about the choices I made. If I took what seemed like the easier option and booked a new flight, was that betraying my friends who had chosen the more economical option? In a situation of crisis, was this coming from an I’m OK, You’re not OK attitude? What message was I sending about homonomy and interconnectedness if I chose the easier option?

As it happened, my friends also decided to do the road trip and flight from Trivandrum. and so we were able to share in that experience together.

Another poignant moment was saying goodbye to one of my SA colleagues who had chosen to leave on the Saturday, while we chose to leave on the Sunday. As we hugged goodbye we wished each other well and the message to each other was ‘Stay safe’ A few days ago we met up in South Africa and I realised the power of the South African sense of belonging as we once again hugged each other hello and I felt the tears of relief flowing. It was a powerful confirmation of my roots in South Africa, the country of my birth, despite the challenges in our country – that strong sense of belonging in this land.

I know that one of my injunctions has been ‘Don’t belong’ and my eighteen year journey with TA has in so many ways offered powerful permission to belong in a very deep way. The experience in Kochi enabled me once again to deepen this sense of belonging – with my Indian friends and international TA colleagues, and with my fellow South Africans and my homeland – what a gift!












The Namaste exercise we did at the end of the keynote from Adrienne Lee


Berne, E. (1964) Games People Play Penguin Books
Bourgeault, C (2016) The Heart of Centering Prayer – Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice Shambala. Boulder
Salters, D (2011) Transactional analysis and Spiral Dynamics The Transactional Analysis Journal, 41, 265-276

Exciting TA conference in Kochi, India – get connected!

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Aug 022018

Wonderful connections and learning moments lie ahead between the evening of Friday 17th August and Sunday 19th August as the TA community from many places converge on the beautiful city of Kochi in Kerala, India.

I am writing this from Bangalore in India, having spent 2 days with some trainees of my (usually) on-line educational TA group. Once again I am loving the vibrancy of this land – people, sights, sounds, aroma’s and such a sense of connection and connecting.

We were privileged to have a preview of one of the conference workshops from a member of the group.  Arvind Shivakumar presented a taste of his workshop – ‘Standing on the shoulders of Giants’. Using his skill of data collection and analysis, Arvind has tracked themes of articles in the TAJ over many years. We explored the theme of Empathy and it was fascinating to see how Tudor’s articles in 2011 referenced back authors of many years ago – and how those articles went right back to some of Berne’s writing in 1934. For me it shifted my perception of the rather dry and academic rigour of the need to reference things, to a fascinating emergence of the linking through the ages to tell the ever emerging story of a theme in TA.

It speaks right into the conference theme of ‘The Dance of Culture’ – how TA theory has ‘danced’ through the decades and been reinterpreted to be relevant to current cultures, challenges and emerging world views. It also inspired me to be part of this dance – and to think and write to re-imagine or newly imagine TA theory to be relevant to my lived experience in my communities. The invitation is for you to do likewise!

South Africa is well represented with workshops from Diane Salters, Alex van Oostveen and myself.

India is at the forefront of technology – they have made it possible for you to experience some of the high points of the conference through joining in the Conference Webcast of selected sessions. See www.saata.org/conference2018/webcast to register and get a sense of the amazing spirit unfolding in Kerala!

India is always an exciting mix of work and play – here is a snapshot of me getting a ride back to my hotel by one of my trainees – two wheelers really bring out my Natural Child!


Karen Pratt
TSTA -education


Layo shares her memory on a workshop by Anette Dielmann and Kathy Christina Pithan from the Berlin Conference in 2017

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May 082018

Anette Dielmann and Kathy Christina Pithan observe that the effectiveness of TA is very much evident in relationships – with ourselves, our clients and systems. In their workshop in Berlin on 28th July 2017, Anette and Kathy demonstrated how they make use of the special relationship competence of animals in their practice, specifically horses and dogs. Thinking back to this workshop almost a year later, snapshots of memory form in my mind’s eye. I remember what had meaning for me on that day.

We are sitting in a circle, Kathy’s two dogs in the middle, greeting participants, accepting cuddles and pats. They go very close to some people, keep more distance from others.

A woman wants to explore her behaviour in relationships. She chooses a dog to do this with. The exercise: connect with the dog, ask her (the dog) to get onto a shiny carpet of silver foil and stay on it for a set time (a few seconds). The client connects strongly with the animal, speaking softly, there are many words, cooing, cuddling, patting. After a while, they begin to walk around together, the dog eager at first, the human very caring, looking big and somewhat hesitant. When the woman steps onto the carpet, the dog does not follow, seems unsure. The exercise looks difficult. I feel tension in the room. The facilitators ask the client how she feels. I recognise TA concepts in their questions. The client reflects with the coaches around “who is OK in this relationship and who is not”, “who is taking care of who”, “how is responsibility held”, “how does discounting self and others show up typically”.

The facilitators end the exercise when the client has recognised her own patterns, decided what she wants to work on developing for herself – in her own context. Everyone relaxes. The dog plays on the silver carpet.

The aim was not for the client to become an expert in getting a dog to do what she wants. It was to support the client in becoming more of an expert on herself.

How coaching sessions with direct feedback from animals (responding to all that is present in the moment) can help increase a client’s self-awareness, clarity and confidence can be described theoretically at length. For me, experiencing this phenomenon has had the most profound impact.

Reflections from Berlin (2) by Karen Pratt

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Feb 062018

Workshop: The Same but Different – the Paradox of Belonging
Presented by Lis and John Heath (both TSTA -P)

Lis and John – having been in a marriage for a considerable number of years, considered what it means to be in a committed relationship and keep one’s own sense of self, and at the same time create a rich shared sense of the we-ness of the relationship.

They shared some thought provoking quotes such as:
“You can only be like someone if you are already different from them” – Adam Phillips

Some key points in the workshop were:

Autonomy vs homonomy
They explored how autonomy in each partner can enable both individual growth as well as intimate belonging by each having an authentic encounter with the other, and being willing to receive and hear without interpretation. Sometimes partners find themselves competitive in terms of the Parent values each holds – can we be open to hold different values? Are we willing to be close (Child to Child energy) or do we stay protective of our individual sense of who we are and avoid closeness for fear of being “swallowed up” in the other?

My culture? Your culture? Our culture?
Each partner comes from their unique family culture and in relationship creates a new shared culture – are we open to do this, or are the cultures of our families of origin / ancestors held on to with rigidity and a refusal to think differently?
We need to be open to co-create a new shared culture which is always changing and alive.

Symbiosis and healthy togetherness
The initial point of attraction in a relationship often has symbiotic elements. We look for what we lacked when we were growing up, in a partner. We need to give up what we never did get in the past, and then we can be open and available to get what there actually is right now in the relationship.

They described symbiosis as “ belonging TO somebody”, and a healthy intimate relationship as “ belonging WITH somebody” – a paradoxical sense of separateness and togetherness.

They shared a new ego state diagram that captures this:
The intersecting parts of the 2 Parent ego states represent the new, always emerging shared co-created culture, the intersecting parts of the 2 Child ego states represent the shared history of intimate and authentic experiences, and the relationship is always grounded by the Adult to Adult co-creative relationship – dynamic and present centered but unique and separate.




This separateness and togetherness is a dynamic process – it’s not dependant on what’s gone before and a continuing striving to reinforce old patterns – it’s being present in the here and now in the integrating Adult. Intimacy carries a high risk – it is unpredictable. Each partner needs to be secure enough in themselves to be able to endure the unpredictability of intimacy. This doesn’t mean we want to have a flawless, perfect, game-free relationship. They remind us that games can be viewed as gateway towards intimate relating if we are prepared to stay with the dynamic honestly and openly and learn from it.

Questions for reflection

We had time to consider some provocative questions, sharing with another person in the workshop. I invite you to consider them holding in mind one of your intimate relationships:

  1. What aspect of myself am I wanting the other person to see? / What in me is longing to be known?
  2. What aspect of the other do I think that they long for me to know / see?
  3. What would I be prepared to give up in order to improve this relationship?
  4. What might I like the other to give up?

Final thoughts

Although John and Lis were speaking from their own personal experience of their marriage, I think the principles have a wider application to our many relationships – with colleagues, friends and acquintances.

Living in the dynamic multicultural milieu of South Africa – what principles might be useful to consider as we relate to people the same as, or different from us? How do we remain authentically powerful within ourselves and at the same time authentically in relationship with the other?

Karen shares her impression from the TA Conference in Berlin, July 2017

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Oct 102017

I was delighted to be able to attend this conference during the last week of July. Since 2005, I have travelled most years to many and various wonderful destinations for TA conferences. The anticipation and excitement of re-connecting with colleagues from all over the world, is wonderful! This time a Swiss TA educator, Evelyne Papaux, and I decided to share a small apartment in the city. It is a great way to get a feel for the city – having to commute to the conference venue each day. We also had free time to explore the city.

Berlin is a fascinating city – a mixture of wonderful old architecture and very modern buildings, as so much of Berlin was bombed during the war. One of the most moving experiences outside of the conference proper, was a 2 hour guided walk along the Berlin Wall – as it happens it was an early evening with the rain pouring down! Even though we were really cold and wet by the end, it seemed fitting weather for the topic. Being informed of the inhumanity as well as courage and resilience shown by humans was both sad and inspiring. Hearing old recordings of both officials and ordinary people speaking, seeing the memorial to the 137 people who died trying to cross the wall, seeing images of people jumping out of windows being caught (or sometimes not) was a deep experience for me.

A delightful experience was seeing the Berlin Bears all over the city – and especially the United Buddy Bears project – bears decorated from artists all over the world “holding hands” in solidarity.

The Conference was a buzz of people (about 960 of us) from all over the world. The excitement of seeing people that I hadn’t seen for a year or two – plus meeting new people. We were spread over 2 parts of the Technical University with so many workshops running each session that it sometimes became difficult to choose – I wished I could have mastered the art of bi-locating! A special moment at the Celebration event at the end of the conference was the awarding of the European Association of TA (EATA) gold medal to Trudi Newton – one of the foundational educational Transactional Analysts in the educational field of application of TA.

Layo and I will be sharing some of the learning from the workshops we attended, in the next few newsletters. We hope you will be excited to read something about each workshop over the next few newsletters:

1) The Same but Different – the paradox of belonging – How do we hope the paradox of being in a committed relationship, keeping our own sense of self but also creating a rich shared sense of the we-ness (Presented by Lis and John Heath)
2) Boundaries as Chances: Effective and intense relationship work – TA and animal assisted interventions. (Presented by Anette Dielmann and Kathy Christina Pithan)
3) Learning imagoes and their usefulness in different types of learning (Presented by Trudi Newton & Giles Barrow)
4) Meetings – Boundaries – Learning – Teams; a workshop looking at ways to structure and run team meetings, in order to increase effectiveness and innovation. (Presented by Mandy Lacy)
5) Liminality – how we hold and work with this in change (Presented by Giles Barrow & Trudi Newton)
6) VUCA – Effects on Leadership and Organisations; An inspiring workshop about leading and making decisions in a world, that is Volatile, Uncretain, Complex, and Ambiguous. (Presented by Günther Mohr and Natalia Berrio Andrade)
7) Some key ideas from the panel discussion on the 4 fields of TA
8) Functional Fluency and Leadership (Presented by Anette Dielmann and Jutta Kreyenberg)
9) The difference between explicit and implicit knowledge (Keynote by Dr Abel)

Layo shares her impression from the TA Conference in Berlin, July 2017

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Oct 102017

Berlin, July 27th – 29th 2017 was my very first experience of a TA conference. Walking towards the Technical University of Berlin on that first conference morning, I remember academic encounters (which had nothing to do with TA) at that same place from many years before. Quantitative research comes to mind… statistics… My mind’s eye adds images of management scholars in suits and ties presenting findings with power point and text. Feelings of excitement as well as boredom are part of these memories. I call myself back to the present and look around me. People are gathering in the foyer. I see smiles, hugs, clothing from conservative business casual to colourfully eccentric. I see diversity. In the middle of it all I see the conference banner: BOUNDARIES – A PLACE… TO MEET… TO DEVELOP… TO DEFINE IDENTITY.

All these people are here to consciously meet in this city that was divided by a wall going through it in the past. I get goosebumps. I have never seen so many TA people in my life and I’m glad that I am one of them. As if to support this thought, someone waves at me. In recognition and with joy, I wave back. I am meeting Susannah Temple (the originator of Functional Fluency) and Jane Hicks (company secretary of the Fluent Self CIC) face to face for the first time after many emails and skype conversations. This is so easy, so natural!

That is what I end up enjoying most about the three conference days in Berlin: spending time with really nice, open, authentic people; chatting over coffee and dinner with people I’ve met and worked with before; making new connections with new people in interactive workshops in overfull seminar rooms and during break times walking up and down long flights of stairs, because the lifts are way too full already. We are all human. We are all working on developing ourselves. I’ve never experienced such a vibe of acceptance and togetherness at any academic conference and I love it. At the same time, I understand why some people I studied with box TA people as airy-fairy and not-serious. If we are busy experiencing and developing all the time, we don’t get around to checking, documenting and communicating to the world how TA concepts and methods actually impact on the well-being and effectiveness of human beings in their private and professional lives.

The keynote speaker on the second day – Dr. Mark Widdowson (who was awarded the ITAA Research Award at the conference) – clearly named this when he stated that TA research is in its infancy and called loudly for people to please contribute to its growth. This really got me thinking about boundaries between experiential development and scientifically tested and accepted knowledge… and I’m not done thinking yet.

Spreading the word about TA…

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Jul 232016

One of our goals this year is to make TA more available through media in South Africa, and our new Exec Committee member Layo Seriki has made a great start by publishing an article about communication in the wellness magazine. Read her article here:

Continue reading »

Transactional Analysis transforms community care workers in RSA

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May 132014

South Africa’s HIV/AIDS pandemic is considered to be the largest in the world, with more than 5 million South Africans living with the disease. (Du Plessis, Bean, Schoeman, & Botha, 2011)

In the early 2000s, the unprecedented rise of this disease was placing a heavy burden on South Africa’s already limited health resources, and as a result, Home and Community Based Care (HBC) services became an important aspect of the country’s health care. Now called Community Care Workers (CCWs), these dedicated people (mostly women but with a growing number of men beginning to do the work as well) work selflessly with very little support or remuneration.

Read the article: Transactional Analysis transforms community care workers in South Africa