The Role of Language in Therapy: The Therapist’s Bilingualism in the Countertransference Experiences
The prerequisite of psychodynamic psychotherapy is verbal interaction. Language is used as a tool, amongst others, for constructing an individual’s world; and the meaning of our experiences is provided and structured by language—conceptualising ideas, building relationships, and expressing our feelings and emotions. Bilingualism is included in the history of early psychoanalytic practice; however, it has not been adequately explored in clinical practice. The ways in which the therapist’s bilingualism can influence countertransference experiences is explored in this hermeneutic literature review.
Three main themes were identified from the research that suggest that bilingual therapists may experience a dual sense of self, feel inadequate, and feel connected regarding the linguistic experience. The importance of the role of language-related supervision for bilingual therapists is discussed and it is argued that the bilingual therapist can view bilingualism as a gift—not as a barrier—that empowers bilingual psychotherapists when working with their clients.