Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Native language, Self-perception, Bilingualism-Psychological aspects, Cross-cultural counseling, Mixed methods research, Mother tongue, Primary language, Secondary language, Sense of self, Emotional expression, Therapy relationship, Role of language, English second language, Limited English proficiency


Language fundamentally shapes an individual's identity and worldview. It is a principal component in the development of self, identity, and how relate with others. Individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) who immigrate to the U.S and learn English as adults must learn a new language. This process allows the individual to adapt to and survive in their new environment while they simultaneously experience a sense of loss of the original self and mother tongue. When these individuals seek treatment, they may not have a choice in the language used, and internally, may move between languages. Theory suggests that this can reflect an adaptive process of adjustment or maladaptive process of avoidance. The current exploratory study focuses on the experiences of LEP individuals in order to understand one's emotional expression and sense of self, as both affect the therapy process and relationship. The use of English for LEP individuals appeared to be related to reduced emotional expression and sense of self, as participants would have preferred to use their native language regardless of topic. Findings also suggested that use of English for LEP individuals was associated with reduced satisfaction with the clinician and reduced trust. It appears that feeling understood by the clinician and feeling like that the clinician had an ability to connect to the client's true self were important factors.




iii, 64 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 46-49)

Limited Access until August 2020