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Vol 23, No 3, Article 7, PDF

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Using Transactional Analysis to Treat Perinatal Mental Illness:  by Emma Haynes


Perinatal mental illness is common, it affects the mother and child and is the leading cause of maternal mortality. It also has a monetary cost of about £6.6bn per annum in the UK. Gaps in knowledge remain, with disagreement between health professionals on its pathogenesis, causes, accurate diagnosis and treatment. Until recently, research was directed towards the postnatal period and depression only. However, research shows there is more to this illness, thus a more accurate description might be perinatal distress. Psychological treatment, in particular psychotherapy, is the treatment of choice for women, possibly due to the lack of risks associated, as opposed to risks of medication in pregnancy and during breast-feeding. Transactional Analysis (TA) psychotherapy provides a tangible means of treating women with this condition. This article focuses on four initial areas in which TA treatment has been found useful: (i) distress; (ii) perfectionism; (iii) grief; (iv) stigma and shame. All four address common difficulties and create barriers to treatment in the perinatal period. This highlights how TA can offer a plausible and practical treatment that may help to target the specificity of this distressing illness. There is a brief clinical vignette before the discussion and conclusion. 

Key Words: Perinatal, mental illness, treatment, TA, psychotherapy, relational. 

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