Many people often wonder if, while living in the UK as ex-pats, they should have therapy in their mother tongue or just English. Let’s look at the 5 reasons why it is beneficial to find a therapist who speaks your language(s).
It is no wonder that psychotherapy has been called the ‘talking cure’ (Breuer and Freud, 2007). Right from the beginning of therapy, Psychoanalysis (the grandmother of current therapeutic approaches) recognised that language has meaning and makes meaning and it is the way we as humans convey and make sense of our experience.
So what are the benefits of doing therapy in your mother tongue?
- Speaking in your mother tongue (it is no coincidence it is called that) has the power to access your earliest memories, whilst your second tongue is more intellectualized and distant early memories. This is because those memories are ‘stored’ in your brain in the language you and your loved ones around spoke when you were little. Sometimes we need a ‘trigger’ word to access those.
- We can access a different ‘part’ of ourselves. Some people even report feeling they have very different personalities when they speak in another language! When we speak in our mother tongue in therapy, we can feel the distinct quality of the content we bring – it may feel rawer, more authentic, and more ‘you’.
- It makes us feel more fully understood. When I can speak in my mother tongue to my therapist, I feel deeply understood: I don’t have to translate what I want to say and I don’t have to wonder if the word I used is the correct one for what I mean to say.
- It can make you feel more empowered. If in your day-to-day life you speak a language that is not your own, you may feel like you are at a disadvantage from the native speakers around you, or you may even feel like your language and cultural heritage are irrelevant. Being able to do therapy in your mother tongue might help you find empowerment in your language and your personal culture.
- Bilingual brains work differently and it might show in therapy. It has been shown that the bilingual brain is very different from the monolingual brain, and this might show in the therapy room. It is important that you find a therapist that knows what it means to juggle to different languages, worlds, cultures in one brain – and that has done her (or his) own work to integrate and balance the two.
This is why I offer therapy in Italian as a native Italian in the UK. I believe it is important to have a space where the role of language can be explored and where you can feel at ease and understood in your mother tongue.
Want to find out more? Got questions? Get in touch here.