Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Psychotherapist and patient, Bilingualism-Psychological aspects, Multilingual communication-Psychological aspects, Countertransference (Psychology), Cultural competence, Cross-cultural counseling, Psycholinguistics, Bilingual, Multilingual, Language, Switching, Linguistic competence, Language-related self experience


Bilingualism and multilingualism have not been afforded adequate exploration in clinical social work practice. This exploratory study examined the experiences of bilingual/multilingual therapists working with bilingual/multilingual clients. Utilizing interviews with twelve bilingual/multilingual therapists who were linguistically diverse, this study looked at the process of language switching in therapy, the effects of shared versus different languages on countertransference experiences, the interview subjects' conceptualizations of linguistic identity and how these identities have come to influence professional development, as well as the role that language plays in academic and training settings for mental health practitioners. The findings of the research showed the natural occurrence of language switching in multilingual therapy. A wide range of countertransference experiences, including feelings of intimacy and closeness as well as distance, were discussed in the context of diverse languages. The vast majority of the participants reflected on their language-related self experiences. They explored how these self experiences have impacted the way that they have approached language issues in therapy and how they have integrated language dynamics into their therapeutic interventions. The majority of the participants found that their academic and professional training excluded discussions of linguistic competency. The results of this study have several implications for multicultural and multilingual clinical social work practice. The study explores the complexities of the concrete and the symbolic aspects of language. It underscores the importance of including language related dynamics into therapeutic work. Recommendations are offered for language-related curricula as well as discussions about language dynamics in supervisory relationships.




iii, 101 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2011. Includes bibliographical references (p. 89-95)