Contextual Transactional Analysis : The Inseparability of Self and World book cover
1st Edition

Contextual Transactional Analysis
The Inseparability of Self and World

ISBN 9780367192884
Published July 7, 2020 by Routledge
226 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Contextual Transactional Analysis: The Inseparability of Self and World offers a novel and comprehensive reworking of key concepts in transactional analysis, offering insight into the causes of psychological distress and closing the gap between training and clinical practice. By providing a bigger picture – as much sociological as psychological – of what it means to be human, the book makes an essential contribution to current debates about how best to account for and work with the social and cultural dimensions of client experience.

James M. Sedgwick captures the ongoing importance of what happens around us and the distinctive kinds of psychological distress that arise from persistent and pervasive environmental disadvantage. Beginning with a view of people as always situated and socialised, the book highlights the many ways that the world always and everywhere constrains or enables thought and action. Ranging through ideas about the kinds of contextual conditions which might make psychological distress more likely and illuminating the complex relationship between socialisation and autonomy, the book suggests what the implications of these conclusions might be for clinical understanding and practice. Sedgwick’s insightful and compassionate work revises the theoretical framework, fills a current gap in the clinical literature and points the way to greater practitioner efficacy.

Contextual Transactional Analysis will be an insightful addition to the literature for transactional analysts in practice and in training, for professionals interested in the theory and practice of transactional analysis and anyone seeking to understand the contribution of context to psychological distress.

See the below link for an interview about the book with Mark Head:

Table of Contents



Part I: Context Introduced.

Introduction: Making a Place for the Contextual
1: Self-and-World and Horizontal Problems
2: The Good Enough World.
3: The Parent Ego-State Rediscovered

Part II: Theoretical Contexts

4: Competitor Theories and a Pragmatic Alternative
5: Language, Pragmatism and Dialogue

Part III: The Individual in Context
6: Frame of Reference
7: Games along the Horizontal Axis
8: Contextual Transactional Analysis in Practice

Part IV: Our Present and Future
: The Inseparability of Therapy and World

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James M. Sedgwick, PhD, is a certified transactional analyst and senior lecturer in counselling and psychotherapy at Newman University, Birmingham, UK. He continues to practise as a therapist for the National Health Service.


'James Sedgwick’s updating of TA, and incidentally much related psychotherapy besides, is a timely, necessary, very well-informed, well-written and welcome book. The author successfully transcends the traps of therapy-as-usual and throwing-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater. The psychotherapy field has long paid lip service to the importance of socio-political contexts but Sedgwick attempts to go further by subtle analyses and critical thinking to expose the nature of "horizontal suffering". Whether you share his political analysis or not, Sedgwick potentially offers a seriously game-changing view of therapy in a world that is much more complex and challenging than the first and second waves of theorists of therapy faced. His book deserves a wide readership in the therapy professions.' - Colin Feltham, Emeritus Professor of Critical Counselling Studies, Sheffield Hallam University, UK

'This is a timely book, which offers – nay, urgently advocates – a new perspective on transactional analysis psychotherapy, one that reverses the trend towards the focus on the individual and examines what a truly social psychiatry might look like. The author starts from the position that the development of the self, the individual, is a co-creation in and by the environment, with the child as active "learning participant". Furthermore, this is a process that continues at every moment thereafter, as the person shapes and is shaped by the society in which she finds herself, with all its gaps and deficits of possibility. Thus Sedgwick considers "self-and-world" as his client. With this starting premise as a given, he meticulously reviews the theory and methodology of TA to examine how it can best support a therapy that not only addresses what he calls "vertical problems" – those related to an ongoing script - but "horizontal problems"  those that relate to the "force of circumstance and the uncertainty of the world". 

This exploration, informed by social theory, contemporary philosophy and a range of psychological theories, involves the deconstruction and critique of all the major concepts of TA. Some of them are defined anew, some are completely revised and reformed. It is a stimulating intellectual journey. 

The book is not an "easy read" – it is challenging, thought-provoking and erudite. It is also eloquent and witty, with delightful turns of phrase and pithy metaphors. Many times I found myself smiling in appreciation of Sedgwick’s ability to capture a complex idea or summarise a convoluted concept in a few well-chosen words. 

It is touching and surprising that a man who writes with such careful, rigorous precision about his ideas, should also come across as a man of passion and compassion. His signposts to the practice of contextual TA are inspiring. I will return to this book often.' - Charlotte Sills, psychotherapist and supervisor in private practice; teaching and supervising transactional analyst; faculty at Metanoia Institute, UK; Professor of Coaching, Ashridge Business School, UK

The main thesis of this book is that certain forms of psychological distress are best addressed through fostering appropriate conditions for greater social and political awareness and identity formation. In presenting this thesis, the author makes a compelling case for a contemporary transactional analysis (TA) that accounts much more for the context of life. In doing so, Sedgwick both acknowledges those authors in TA who have previously argued about the significance of experiences and concepts such as alienation and oppression, and offers his own critical analysis of TA – one that is informed by sociology, historical materialism and class politics, as well as a close reading of some 60 years of TA theory. This is a well-researched and well-informed book that presents complex ideas in accessible and often novel ways, illustrated with clear examples from clinical therapeutic practice. I congratulate Sedgwick on this tour de force and his contribution to what could – and should – be considered to be (to paraphrase a metaphor used by the author) a "good-enough transactional analysis" for the 21st century. - Keith Tudor, Professor of Psychotherapy, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand; Editor of Psychotherapy and Politics International