Multilingual Clients’ Experience of Psychotherapy

  • Jean-Marc Dewaele Birkbeck College, University of London
  • Beverley Costa Mothertongue


The present study focuses on the experiences of 182 multilingual clients who had been exposed to various therapeutic approaches in various countries. An on-line questionnaire was used to collect quantitative and qualitative data. The analysis of feedback from clients with multilingual therapists showed that clients use or initiate significantly more code-switching (CS) than their therapists, and that it typically occurs when the emotional tone is raised. Gender was unrelated to CS frequency. CS is used strategically when discussing episodes of trauma and shame, creating proximity or distance. CS allows clients to express themselves more fully to the therapist, adding depth and nuance to the therapy. The therapist’s multilingualism promotes empathy and clients’ own multilingualism constitutes an important aspect of their sense of self. Multilingual clients benefit from a therapeutic environment where multilingualism is appreciated, and where they can use CS. 


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How to Cite
Dewaele, J.-M., & Costa, B. (2013). Multilingual Clients’ Experience of Psychotherapy. Language and Psychoanalysis, 2(2), 31-50.
Original Articles