Languages of Psychotherapy: The Therapist’s Bilingualism in the Psychotherapeutic Process

Skulic, Tomislav
McDermott, Anne
Appel, Stephen
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Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

The ways in which the therapist’s bilingualism can influence the process and practice of psychotherapy are explored in this study. While the majority of research in the field addresses bilingual clients’ uses of dual languages to cope with difficult experiences in therapy, a proportionally small number of studies address similar dynamics relating to therapists’ bilingualism in clinical practice (de Zulueta, 1990). However, available research indicates that therapists’ bilingualism has significant implications for clinical practice and identifies a number of linguistic and cultural factors that can inhibit therapists from adequately attending to their clients and the therapeutic relationship. The literature suggests that therapists who develop their bilingual self-awareness can utilise their linguistic differences and limitations in their work. Furthermore, it is argued that bilingual therapists need to be aware of the ways in which they perceive their linguistic and cultural positioning, their work and their clients, in order to provide effective psychotherapy to them. Lastly, it is concluded from available research that the therapists bilingualism can both enhance and bring unique advantages to the practice of psychotherapy.

Classical psychoanalytic theory , Bilingual self-experience , Language-related self-experience , Language independence phenomenon , Therapeutic process , Professional identity development
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