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Bilingualism in Therapy

Monday, April 9th, 2007 @ 11:08 pm
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Posted in  Literature

In my literature search, i discovered a very interesting article about the effect of using a second language in therapy. It really made me think of the processes i have gone through and many issues I am still having around my identity, as a result of having developed my bilingualism by studying and working (and living, thinking, feeling…even dreaming!) in english as a second language. Here is the reference and abstract:

Bowker, P & Richards, B. (2004) Speaking the same language? A qualitative study of therapists’ experiences of working in English with proficient bilingual clients. Psychodynamic Practice. Vol. 10, No. 4, p.459-478


Voluntary or involuntary migration and international work patterns have made it necessary for many people to adopt a new country and with it, a new language. Some of these latter-acquisition proficient bilinguals may seek therapy in this country. A small scale qualitative study was conducted, informed by a constructionist epistemology, in order to explore the meanings that participants gave to their experience of working in English with a client or patient who used English, proficiently, as a second language. Interviews were conducted with 10 therapists who had been contacted through counselling and psychotherapy organizations, and professional networks. Results indicated that participants experienced varying degrees of separation and distance from their bilingual clients. They found it necessary to pay extra attention to their clients’ communications on all levels in order to make a good connection. An awareness of the underlying psychodynamic implications of bilingualism is helpful for the assessment of bilingual clients, in supervision and training, and in the ongoing work.


Language, Bilingualism, Defence, Separation, Connection
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