About the Berne

Our philosophy and strategy of training

Picture of students at The Berne

The structure of the training programme at “The Berne” is distinctly different from that at the typical university or college, and different also from the training structures of most other psychotherapy training institutes. On this page you will find an explanation of what we do, and why we do it, in our training programmes.

Rationale for our approach to training in psychotherapy

We see psychotherapy as entailing the creation of a structured setting in which one person – the client – pursues outcomes in the areas of personal change, growth or insight, with the help and facilitation of another person, the therapist. The central objective of psychotherapy training, therefore, is to facilitate the trainee therapist to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and experience that will allow her/him to invite personal change in others ethically, competently and elegantly.

For the psychotherapist, the moment-by-moment practice of psychotherapy is a multi-faceted skill. It entails reference to philosophy, theory and practice; the use of both scientific knowledge and intuitive knowledge; the ability to experience in the moment of the therapeutic encounter and at the same time to observe this experience. The effective therapist will be curative through his/her relationship with the client, and at the same time will be fluent in the use of directed therapeutic techniques and treatment planning.

Training in psychotherapy therefore has the same multi-faceted nature. It will consider the factors that make a relationship therapeutic; how to use one’s self and self-reflection in service of this relationship; and the learning and practising of the specific skills involved in inviting personal change. It will involve the education of the trainee therapist in self-awareness and self-reflection as well as training in a specific philosophical and theoretical approach.

The core approach in psychotherapy training at The Berne Institute is Transactional Analysis (TA). Our MSc and Diploma trainings in the practice of psychotherapy will therefore include:

  • understanding of the philosophical principles underpinning TA, and the ethical and professional considerations necessary in the application of this philosophy to practice.
  • learning TA theory and developing the ability to research, debate, critique, compare, and contrast the theories of different schools and approaches within TA.
  • the application of TA theory to ethical, effective clinical practice in order to support practice with soundly-based theoretical rationale.
  • developing the ability to describe clinical practice in theoretical terms.
  • the development of a spirit of curiosity, enquiry and creativeness, and the capacity to critique and update TA theory in the light of experiences in practice.
  • emphasis on self-reflection and self-awareness and an increasing sensitivity to one’s own processes, the processes of the client, and the processes between oneself and the client.
  • developing skills and techniques for evaluating therapeutic outcomes.
  • learning how to articulate and demonstrate all the above through written projects, participation in group discussions and group interactions, supervised clinical practice and tutor-peer interactions.

Our assessment and accreditation procedures are based on criteria for competence to practise. Equal weight is given to:

  1. the capacity to deal fluently with theory, philosophy and ethical/professional principles;
  2. the learning and demonstration, both in training and supervision, of the skills which are derived from the relevant philosophical and theoretical base; and
  3. the capacity to use the experience of personal psychotherapy and the training process in order to understand the dynamics of a psychotherapeutic relationship.


Educational philosophy of The Berne Institute

The aim of The Berne Institute is to promote excellence in the fields of psychotherapy, counselling, training, supervision, and related research. Our core model is Transactional Analysis (TA); neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and other humanistic approaches also contribute to our work.

The Institute’s primary activity is in the education of individuals who wish to qualify as psychotherapists or counsellors. The educative process of practitioners is seen as life-long and crucial to both individual and professional development. Our training programme aims to develop clinically competent practitioners who will continually strive to maintain excellence in practice.

Just as it is the right of the client/patient to be treated as a person of worth, by a professional and ethical psychotherapist or counsellor, so too does the student have the right to such respect. Trainees are offered by all members of staff the opportunity of experiencing just such a respectful relationship, as an essential element of the educative process.

The Berne Institute also aims to be sensitive to the needs of students, and promotes a policy of non-discrimination in relation to race, religion, sexuality and disability (see our Statement of Equal Opportunities).

At The Berne Institute we recognise that people come into TA psychotherapy training with widely differing experience of clinical practice, theoretical knowledge and formal academic learning, and that they differ widely also in their current personal resources and skills. The course therefore honours the uniqueness of each individual’s learning and experience and their different learning styles, pace and areas of competence.

Strategy for teaching and learning

In the service of this educational philosophy, we have developed a strategy for teaching and learning that is founded on four distinctive and interlinked principles. They are:

  • use of an organic model of personal learning;
  • multi-level structure of training groups;
  • “rolling entry” system for admissions;
  • four-year topic rotation.

The TA training courses now delivered at The Berne Institute have their origins in a training programme that has run successfully since 1984. During the entire history of this training, the above four principles have been the basis for a training structure that is well-proven in terms of both acceptance by students and success in professional examinations. In the following paragraphs, each of the four principles will be described.

Organic learning model:

As the basis for our teaching strategy, we employ an organic model of personal learning (cf. Stoltenberg and Delworth 1987; Loevinger 1977). That is: each trainee is encouraged to develop his/her own knowledge and skills at whatever rate, in whatever content areas, and in whatever individual ways are most effective for him/her. By the use of this organic learning model, each trainee is invited to make her/his own unique integration and contribution with maximum flexibility.

Each trainee is expected to take major responsibility for his/her own learning. As an important element of this responsibility, the trainee is expected to seek out and regularly attend training and supervision with other accredited TA trainers operating outside “The Berne”, as well as from training and supervision sources outside TA where this is appropriate to the trainee’s needs.

Multi-level group structure:

Our psychotherapy training groups, throughout the four years of taught modules of the MSc course, are multi-level in structure. That is: each group includes students at various different levels of experience. The multi-level group will thus include some students who are in (chronologically) their first year of the psychotherapy training, together with other students who are (chronologically) in their second, third and fourth years. (The fifth year – the Dissertation Year – is taught in a separate group, as is the pre-requisite Foundation Year).

We favour the multi-level group structure because, in our experience, it is an excellent way of facilitating students to proceed through the training at their own pace and in their own style, meeting their individual learning needs in the way best suited to them – in other words, of implementing the organic model of personal learning. The multi-level group allows the newer students to learn from the modelling of the more advanced; in turn, the more advanced students have the opportunity to be aware of their own progress as they move upwards in experience, while they can aid their own learning by mentoring the newer students.

“Rolling entry” admissions system:

The system of entry to the psychotherapy training course is a corollary of this multi-level group structure. At the beginning of each academic year, the cohort of new students incoming from the previous year’s Foundation Year are divided up between three multi-level psychotherapy training groups. In each group, these new students will thus form the chronological “Year 1” members of the multi-level group. We term this a rolling entry system.

Four-year topic rotation:

It will be clear that, in a course using a multi-level group structure, it would not make sense to set out the subject-matter in the traditional chronological sequence, where the “simpler” topics come in the earlier years and the “more complex” topics follow in later years. Indeed, it is our view that in the context of psychotherapy training, all the relevant topics in a training programme can be studied at progressive levels of academic complexity and practical application.

Therefore, the topics covered on The Berne Institute’s course are arranged in a flexible four-year rotation. The four years in the rotation are labelled Years A, B, C and D. This alphabetical labelling serves to distinguish the four years in the topic rotation (Years A, B, C, D) from the chronological years which each student completes on the course (Years 1, 2, 3, 4).

We cover a comprehensive set of topics designed to provide trainees with a sound and sufficient basis for their psychotherapy qualification. A sub-set of topics, particularly central to TA theory and application, is covered more than once in each cycle, either with a different emphasis or format, or integrated into other topics. This gives extra opportunity for revision and reinforcement.

We prefer to speak of a “set of topics” rather than a “syllabus”. This is in recognition of the scope and complexity of psychotherapeutic study, which means that no training programme could ever remotely claim to cover “all there is to know” about the field. It is also congruent with the stance of our professional association (EATA), who state in their Training and Examination Handbook that:

“There is no standardised curriculum for TA training. Trainers are free to organise the contents, form, style and order of training within the framework of the guidelines set out in this Handbook and with special regard to the core competencies … of the relevant field of specialisation.” (EATA Training Handbook, Section 2, Page 3)


European Association for Transactional Analysis (EATA) (2008) Training and Examination Handbook (5th edn). Geneva: EATA. (Note: the full text of the EATA Handbook can be found at www.eatanews.org/training-manuals-and-supplements/).

Loevinger, J. (1977) “Ego Maturity and Human Development”, Pupil Personnel Services Journal, 19, 129-36.

Stoltenberg, C. and U. Delworth (1987) Supervising Counselors and Therapists. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.