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raewyn knowles psychotherapist auckland

Becoming a Certified Transactional Analyst (CTA-P)

by Raewyn Knowles


How did you start the journey?

My journey to become a Transactional Analyst began in 2002 with my supervisor’s challenge to complete my counselling training and I chose Transactional Analysis for it’s emphasis on the OK-OK philosophy.

What impact did fellow trainees/colleagues make or is this 100% an individual journey?

This training was a very personal journey completed with much valuable reflections, feedback, support, necessary motivation and encouragement, and challenges. My personal therapy with my therapist was an essential in becoming who I am today as well as who I am as a psychotherapist. My peer supervision group was essential to maintain momentum, practice presenting my thinking and gain confidence in discussing the intricacies of theory and its application. I believe this process cannot be achieved in isolation.

What did you learn from the oral and/or written exam experience?

I learnt so much about me as I worked my way through each stage of the CTA examination process; what my vulnerabilities are, my strengths, capacity and capabilities. I learnt that I needed to engage with the guidelines and structure of the whole training process so that I was intimately familiar with the overview as well as the component parts.

What do you wish you'd known earlier in your writing or oral exam preparation?

Looking back I realise I gave little thought to some important factors that would’ve been valuable to consider and a realisation of what I was committing myself to in the longer term. For instance:
  • Firstly I hadn’t considered the projected cost of my overall training (as outlined in the CTA handbook e.g. TA and non-TA supervisions, trainings and therapy) to support me through this process. I discovered hidden costs that I couldn’t have known about at the commencement of the process. My lack of research and financial challenges led to me flounder at various points when I realised the extent of my income, time and energy that was required to complete my journey and to ‘complete me’.
  • Another consideration (or lack of) was about the pros and cons of a counselling versus a psychotherapy qualification. I didn’t fully comprehend the distinction nor the politics regarding the distinction between counselling and psychotherapy.
  • Given the independent learning aspect of the CTA examination process and the individuality that each learner brings to this process, I think it would’ve been difficult for my trainers and supervisors to fully prepare me; and I had to take responsibility for my own training and learning journey.

What practical perspective would you give on how you wrote and/or how you studied for the oral exam?

My supervisor’s guidance was hugely valuable and included:
  • Make the handbook your ‘friend’ and know it intimately. This was about being in relationship with the process, guidelines and expectations, including the marking sheets.
  • ‘Break it down’ – know word counts for each sections, keep track of this regularly on Excel spread sheet; keep a document covering the spread of your concepts per section to show your breadth of theory and consistency; use tables to collate information including TA concepts as they relate to diagnosis or assessment, treatment interventions, and outcomes.
  • Diagram to help conceptualise and clarity of my thinking.

Include the existential perspective of how you felt during the process of getting the CTA and then (perhaps) differently after becoming a CTA & what that means for you. 

I realised the journey to complete my CTA-P was also a journey to complete myself. In my quest to complete my written and oral exams I found myself confronted by the personal challenges inherent in the academic and psychotherapy process that involves robust self-reflection.

My personal growth motivated me to continue my journey. My experience of failing my first oral examination provided the impetus to take care of myself better and cemented for me that I was not going to give up on me personally, and as a psychotherapist; I was determined to pass my exam and complete this process.  This academic and personal journey was rich with various challenges. Along the way I gained greater insight into my personality structure, defences and the limits of my coping strategies. I experienced greater freedom to be me and in doing so developed greater resilience and inner strength.

Coelho (1993) in The Alchemist, speaks of profound discovery when we find the treasure we have been searching for (self) in the place we least expected – within. My CTA journey started with a quest to find a training and qualification; I was focused on looking outside of myself for validation of me, my skills, to how to improve myself. I was challenged to consider the concept of autonomy, which required me to connect with that which is within me – awareness, spontaneity and intimacy.  To connect required me to have faith in the process (trainers, supervisors etc), to reclaim my power and give myself permission to make mistakes, and to have the courage to succeed.  I now realise these capacities assisted me to “pursue the intricate path of a personal legend, a path chartered by the mysterious magnet of destiny but obscured by distractions” (ibid, p 172). During my CTA journey I’ve experienced structural or script change; I am living my personal journey and legend; I am discovering my treasures within; and I experience greater autonomy.

A fellow psychotherapist referred to the sense of anti-climax that is often experienced following the completion of psychotherapy training and qualifying; and I relate to this experience. I was so exhausted and relieved alongside of having timeframes to complete other applications and processes (PBANZ and NZAC), that I often need to remind myself to take a moment to savour my success and achievement.

I have achieved a greater balance now, and while I consolidate my Transactional Analysis knowledge and work, I continue to focus on other skill sets to support my professional development.



Coelho (1993). The Alchemist
Article posted 20 May 2014

Raewyn Knowles is a Certified Transactional Analyst who works in the public addictions service and has a private practice in West Auckland  arrow-10find out more