Functional Fluency and Transactional Analysis (TA)

Functional Fluency as a concept is derived from transactional analysis (TA) theory and practice in various ways:

  • It shares TA philosophy and principles.
  • It uses the same open and contractual methodology.
  • It both illuminates and draws from various TA concepts, e.g. ego states, contaminations, drama triangle roles, discounting and Karpman’s five options.

What is transactional analysis?

TA is a theory of personality and social psychology within the humanistic tradition. Eric Berne, the founder of TA in the 1950s, re-examined the basic assumptions held by psychiatry at the time and, from his pioneering work as a radical scientist, developed the theory and practice of TA as a method of psychotherapy. In the ensuing decades, TA has been developed in a variety of ways in many fields.

TA offers a framework for understanding personality, human development, communication and personal life patterns. It provides ways to describe and explain both internal experience and interpersonal behaviour in an innovative and accessible manner. This provides a means of understanding and making sense of what is going on inside and between people. TA concepts have proved meaningful across diverse cultures and are practised by qualified transactional analysts in psychotherapy, education, counselling and organisational consultancy throughout the world.

More about Functional Fluency & TA connections

TA is an integrative approach to human psychology, combining aspects of psychodynamic, humanistic and behaviourist approaches and addressing cognitive, affective and behavioural aspects of human experience.

TA concepts belong in four areas of analysis.

1. Ego state analysis

The use of the ego state model to understand various aspects of personality. This is done both structurally and functionally.

2. Transactional analysis ‘proper’

The use of the ego state model to understand interpersonal communication, by analysing the various types of transaction carried out moment by moment.

3. Script Analysis

The analysis of the way people have, as children, mapped out their lives to a pattern without being aware of it. This concept of ‘life script’ is used for recognising the nature of personal problems, and for finding ways to solve them.

4. Game and racket analysis

The analysis of the repetitive patterns of behaviour, conducted outside of awareness, in which all parties finish up feeling bad.

Functional Fluency and its link with ego states

Although the Functional Fluency model is clearly derived from transactional analysis ego state theory, it is actually a model of human functioning, not a model of ego states, from which it stands independently. Functional Fluency is about modes of behaviour, while ego states are about aspects of personality. Because of the conceptual links, the Functional Fluency diagram can be mapped directly onto a structural diagram of ego states that shows Parent and Child contaminations. Details about the theoretical link and the rationale for this development of TA theory can be found in Susannah Temple’s article in the Transactional Analysis Journal Vol. 34 No. 3, “Update on the Functional Fluency Model in Education”. Click to see this article.

The striking conceptual consistency of the Functional Fluency model with ego state theory depends on the use of the integrating Adult model of ego states. The TIFF© research process gave evidence for saying that the five positive modes of the functional fluency model integrate into a coherent way of responding appropriately to the here and now, while the four negative modes manifest the various aspects of behaviour sourced from contaminated areas of the Integrating Adult. All the modes, therefore, belong structurally in the Integrating Adult ego state. Click for the Combination Diagram handout that illustrates this.

Functional Fluency modes and contaminations

The two negative Being in Charge Modes relate to behaviour ‘taught’ by powerful people from someone’s past. People are inclined to use this behaviour in the present, even though it may not be appropriate. The source structurally is the Parent contamination of Adult.

The Immature Mode manifests outdated behaviour that is somewhat childish (lack of social learning). The Compliant/Resistant Mode manifests defensive learned behaviour that is now inappropriate. Both these modes are based on outdated beliefs learned in the past and sourced structurally in Child contaminations. Go to the Functional Fluency Model page for more details about the modes.

TIFF provides a detailed and accurate behavioural diagnosis of ego states that can be used with the other three TA diagnoses (social, historical and phenomenological). This behavioural diagnosis can be used for Adult, Parent or Child ego states according to the contract in place. In interpersonal communication skills work it is used for Integrating Adult ego state exploration. Click for the Structural Sources Diagram handout.

It is not necessary to know anything at all about TA to make use of the Functional Fluency model or to use TIFF©. However, when it is relevant, because of the theoretical coherence, TIFF scores and profiles can be interpreted as behavioural manifestations of ego states. Feedback discussion can be geared to participants’ possible prior knowledge of TA, which would no doubt enrich their experience and expertise in applying the theory. It has also already been shown that doing TIFF© is a good way to start learning about TA concepts, so in appropriate circumstances, using TIFF© can lead into further personal development training based on a variety of TA models. TIFF Providers may use TA expertise they already have in order to understand and tune in to clients’ results. This can be very productive.


Stewart, I. & Joines, V. (1999) TA Today: A New Introduction to Transactional Analysis, Lifespace, Nottingham UK.

Tilney, T. (1998) A Dictionary of TA, Whurr, London, UK.

Hargarden, H. & Sills, C. (2003) (eds) Key Concepts in Transactional Analysis Contemporary Views: Ego States. (Especially chapter 11, “The neopsyche:the Integrating Adult ego state” by Keith Tudor.)

Temple, S. (2008) Bringing Up the Child pp 217-227 in Tudor, K. (2008) (ed) The adult is parent to the child, Russell House Publishing, Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK. (See Resources Page)

Tilney, T. (1998) A Dictionary of TA, Whurr, London, UK