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Byford, A. (2015). Lost and Gained in Translation: The Impact of Bilingual Clients' Choice of Language in Psychotherapy. Brit. J. Psychother., 31(3):333-347.

(2015). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 31(3):333-347

Clinical Practice

Lost and Gained in Translation: The Impact of Bilingual Clients' Choice of Language in Psychotherapy

Annette Byford

Bilingual clients in psychotherapy with bilingual therapists have choices as to which language to use. Psychoanalytic case studies suggest that the use of the second language, learned post childhood, reduces access to deeper emotional material and is mainly viewed as a defensive manoeuvre leading to intellectualizing detachment. Linguistic and neurological studies support the view that the use of the second language can lead to a reduced degree of emotionality in the recall of memories. However, this paper suggests that there is a different and enabling dimension to such clients’ language choices. Their own and their therapist's bilingualism and biculturalism open a transferential field where language choices are mapped onto deeper inter- and intra-psychic conflicts and can thus allow access to them rather than defensively hide them. Case material from work with bilingual clients is explored to illustrate this.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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