Section 4: Connection
Multilingualism and monolingualism can bring to mind ways that we miss each other – our disconnect. But the process of therapy is about establishing and maximising our connections as we work relationally in our practice. Developing our awareness of working with multilingual clients, regardless of our lingual status as therapists, can help us to maximise connection and work with disconnect. This is especially important when working with a third person in the work, such as interpreters or in couple therapy.
Listen to the course materials, and / or download the transcript below:
This section may be used as supplementary material to Section 9 of the Multilingualism, Mental Health and Psychological Therapy course. Please see that material here.
- How well did the couple therapist hold a neutral position in the therapy? At what points may either partner have felt excluded and how did the therapist address this?
- What explicit discussion about language could happen in the contracting for couple work that could address the issue of a language not being shared by all parties? Can good contracting ever fully mitigate against language switching within couple work?
- Could a client bringing their multilingualism into the work actually help the therapeutic process? In what ways?
Good Practice Points
- Neutrality is important in couple work and can be challenged when the therapist and one client are both multilingual. This shared multilingual identity has the potential to exclude the monolingual partner. Couple therapists should be mindful of this and discuss the language of the work at the initial contract.
- Language switching could be used by a client as a way to communicate privately with the therapist but there are many other reasons why a client may switch language and the therapist should not presume. The reasons for the switch should be explored within the therapy.
- When therapists are open about their monolingual or multilingual status it enables clients to make informed choices about who they see. In agency settings wherever possible clients should be able see a therapist who works in the language of their choice but in couple work each person may have a different preference. This can mean that there is potential compromise for one client from the outset. Discussing the language of the work in the initial assessment can help mitigate later problems.