A Multilingual Outlook: Can Awareness-Raising about Multilingualism Affect Therapists’ Practice? A Mixed-Method Evaluation
Therapists are often unprepared to deal with their clients’ use of other languages. This study focuses on therapists’ experiences of having undertaken awareness-raising training about multilingualism. Did the training impact their practice? If so, in what areas? Adopting a mixed-method approach, quantitative data were initially collected via an online questionnaire with 88 therapy trainees and qualified therapists who underwent training in multilingualism, combined with interview data from 7 volunteers. Having identified the issues on which the training had had most and least impact in survey responses, the interviews were guided by our emergent interest into the impact of the training with potential relational complexities and unique, personal experiences in mind. A narrative-thematic analysis uncovered interrelated themes: changes, or impact of the training, with regard to Identity and Therapeutic Theory. Therapists referred to considerable transformative learning on both a personal and professional level, for instance in terms of how multilingual clients might bring different and sometimes conflicting ways of organizing events and experiences into meaningful wholes through their narratives during the session. Language switching seemed less significant in the survey, but emerged as a central theme in the interviews, especially with regard to the possibility of addressing, challenging and sometimes combining different emotional memories, cultural and existential concerns. Working across these areas triggered some therapists to consider the need for expanding their theory.
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