When working with clients, I often think about the concepts of Potency, Permissions, Protection and Punishment that have been written about, throughout time, in the Psychotherapy and Psychoanalytical literature.
When considering the Transactional Analysis literature, it was Pat Crossman, back in 1972, that first alerted us to the ideas of Permissions, Potency and Protection within the clinical domain. The idea of Punishment, being important to consider within the therapy frame, was first written about by Eric Berne when he talked about his ideas concerning “script backlash”.
When using Permissions in Psychotherapy, it is important to consider the developmental perspective when giving these Permission Transactions. In other words once must consider the “psychological age” of the client in the therapeutic relationship.
By considering the developmental age of the client, you can then gauge the Permission Transaction which is necessary for the particular age of the client, at that time in therapy. For example, you might give the “Permission To Be” to a client that is particularly young and has fundamental issues concerning their very existence and right to live.
Other Permission Transactions, such as “You have the right to think”, and “You have the right to have feelings” may be given at a different developmental age.
When giving Permissions I always consider the possible “script backlash” which might occur if the client follows through on the Permission Transaction. i.e., If the client in their childhood was punished for expressing feelings, they may give themselves the same internal punishment when “practising” following the therapists Permission Transaction.
Protection and Potency are important qualities for any Psychotherapist to cultivate, and much has been written to this effect.
Richard Erskine, writing about his methodology with regards to Integrative Psychotherapy, talks about Attunement, Inquiry, Involvement and Presence as part of a Therapists potency.
In conclusion, it is important for any Psychotherapist, whether a Transactional Analyst or from any other modality to consider, and I believe, practice, the above concepts of Permissions, Potency and Protection.
Furthermore, it is vital for all Psychotherapists to Inquire about the possible “Script Backlash” or Perceived “Punishment” that a client may occur when “Putting a new script on the road”.
Bob Cooke T.S.T.A.