Counsellor education in Britain is steadily turning into a multicultural environment. The limited relevant literature focuses on the challenges that ‘culturally different’ and international trainees may encounter. The aim of this paper is to elucidate a rarely exposed aspect of international counselling trainees’ training experience, namely, the benefits they identify in practising across languages and cultures during placement. The illustration of this positive perspective is pertinent to the profession, as it expands existing knowledge on international trainees’ experience of clinical practice and it challenges the prevailing conceptualisation of this situation as potentially problematic. It is argued that a shift towards a more holistic understanding of this population’s counselling experiences is likely to have particularly useful implications for counsellor education and the profession more broadly.
This study investigates bi- and multilingual clients’ self-reported language practices in counselling and psychotherapy. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected through an international web survey inviting adults who had experienced one-to-one therapy to describe their experiences. Analysis of responses by 109 multilingual clients revealed that clients did not always have an opportunity to discuss their multilingualism with therapists, and for some this inhibited their language switching. Others were assertive in their language choices, or benefited from working with a therapist who was either bilingual or skilled at creating an inclusive linguistic environment. Very few reported two main therapy languages, while nearly two thirds of participants reported short code-switches. These happened occasionally within sessions and were typically linked to difficulties in translation, expressing emotion, accessing memories or quotation. Over a third of respondents used a second or additional language as their main therapy language, nearly half of whom reported never switching to their first language in sessions, despite some using it daily for inner speech. The implications for therapy and further research are discussed, including the role of the therapist in inviting the client’s multiple languages into the therapeutic frame.
Affiliation : Birkbeck College, University of London
Jean-Marc Dewaele is Professor of Applied Linguistics and Multilingualism at Birkbeck, University of London. He has published widely on individual differences in psycholinguistic, sociolinguistic, pragmatic, psychological and emotional aspects of Multilingualism. He is the author of a monograph Emotions in Multiple Languages in 2010 (2nd ed in 2013). He is Vice-President of the International Association of Multilingualism and former president of the European Second Language Association. He is General Editor of the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. He won the Equality and Diversity Research Award from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013) and the Robert C. Gardner Award for Outstanding Research in Bilingualism (2016) from the International Association of Language and Social Psychology.
Dr Beverley Costa, a psychotherapist, set up Mothertongue multi-ethnic counselling service in 2000. Mothertongue also runs a dedicated Mental Health Interpreting Service. In 2009 Mothertongue won The Queen’s Award for Volunteering. Beverley is an Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London and has written a number of papers and chapters on therapy across languages. Together with Jean Marc Dewaele, their paper: Psychotherapy across Languages: beliefs, attitudes and practices of monolingual and multilingual therapists with their multilingual patients, won the 2013 BACP Equality and Diversity Research Award.
She established “Colleagues Across Borders” in 2013 which offers pro bono peer support and training, via Skype, to refugee psychosocial workers based in the Middle East. She set up the Bilingual Therapist and Mental Health Interpreter Forum in 2010. This meets twice a year in London. She produced the world premiere of the play about a cross language couple “The Session in 2015 at The Soho Theatre, London. She is currently producing an Arts Council England funded play about interpreters.