Dr. Eric Berne

Ajan Raghunathan

Dr.Eric Berne was born on May 10, 1910 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada as the first born eldest son of Dr. David Hiller Bernstein a general practitioner and Sarah Gorden Bernstein a professional writer and editor. Berne's only sibling was his sister Grace, who was 5 years younger to him. The actual name of Berne was Eric Leonard Bernstein.

When Eric was a child, his father Dr. Bernstein died of tuberculosis at the age of 38. This was a great shock to the family and Mrs.Bernstein had to suffer a lot to bring up Eric and his sister.

Following the footsteps of his father, Berne received an MD and a Master of Surgery from McGill University Medical School in 1935. He worked at the Psychiatric Clinic of the Yale University School of Medicine for two years.

By around 1938-39, Berne became an American citizen and shortened his name to Eric Berne.

In 1940, he started private practice in Norwald, Connecticut, where he met and married Elinor (his first wife). He had two children in her, and his married life with her which lasted for 6 years only came to an end by their divorce.

In 1941 he joined the New York Psychoanalytic Institute and was psychoanalyzed by Paul Federn. He started his career as Clinical Assistant in Psychiatry at Mt. Zian Hospital, New York City. Later, he served the US Army as Army Psychiatrist during World War II. He was discharged from the army in 1946 and resumed his psychoanalytic training at San Francisco Psycho analytic Institute where Eric Erikson analyzed him.

In 1947, he met a young divorcee, Dorothy de Mass Way, and married her in 1949. She brought her three children to the marriage and eventually he had two sons in her. But around 1964 he divorced Dorothy.

Although he was trained in the Psychoanalytic Institute, he was not given the title of Psychoanalyst saying that he was not ready for it and may need 3 to 4 years personal analysis and training to re-apply for the title.

Dejected by this, he set and to develop a new approach to psychotherapy by himself by around 1956. At this time he wrote two Seminal papers – "Intuition V: The Ego Image" and "Ego States in Psychotherapy". It was in this second article he introduced the P-A-C Scheme and the Three Circle method of representing it. He labeled the new theory as Structural Analysis.

A Third article – "Transactional Analysis: A New and Effective Method of Group Therapy" was presented by invitation at the 1957 Western Region Meeting of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, Los Angels. It was in this paper he added the important new features – Games and Scripts – to his new system of psychotherapy.

In 1962, he published The Transactional Analysis Bulletin. Two years later, the International Transactional analysis Association (ITAA) was founded.

He married Torre Peterson in 1967. But was divorced once again by early 1970. By June same year he suffered his first heart attach. Again in June 26th he suffered another heart attack and was hospitalized. But three weeks later he suffered a massive heart attack which claimed his life on July 15, 1970. He was buried at the El Carmelo cemetery in Pacific Grove, California.