Therapeutic Mother Tongue and its Implications on the Work of Polyglot Psychotherapists

  • Enav Or-Gordon Charles University

Abstract


Psychodynamic psychotherapy occurs in the lingual field. At its core, the “talking cure” uses the power of words to transform the psyche. Questions arise when the psychologist using language as a central means for therapy is a foreign-language speaker. Research and personal contributions of polyglot therapists in recent years show, that practicing psychotherapy in foreign languages effects the therapist’s work on many levels; technical aspects, the therapist’s self-perception and role, the therapeutic relationship, therapist’s experience and understanding of language as an element in therapy, and more. The present study interviewed nine polyglot therapists in different stages of their career using diverse and different languages in their practice. Analysis of the data in the context of Winnicott’s construct of potential space (Winnicott, 1971) and current linguistics theories regarding language embodiment (Pavlenko, 2005) brought about the suggestion of the concept of Therapeutic Mother Tongue, that refers to the language of training. Therapists’ experience of Therapeutic Mother Tongue and other languages are explored.

References

Agha, A. (1994). Honorification. The Annual Review of Anthropology, 23, 277-302.
Amati Mehler, J., Argentieri, S., & Canestri, J. (1993). The Babel of the unconscious.
International Universities Press Inc.
Anzieu, D. (1985). The skin ego. Yale University Press.
Biever, J. L., Castano, M. T., de la Fuentes, C., González, C., Servín-Lopez, S., Sparowls, C., & Tripp, C. G. (2002). The role of language in training psychologists to work with Hispanic clients. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 33, 330–336.
Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77-101.
Buxbaum, E. (1949). The role of second language in the formation of ego and superego. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18, 279-289.
Castano, M. T., Biever, J. L., Gonzáles, C. G., & Anderson, K. B. (2007). Challenges of providing mental health services in Spanish. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38, 667-673.
Clauss, C. S. (1998). Language: The unspoken variable in psychotherapy practice. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 35, 188-196.
Costa, B. (2010). Mother tongue or non-native language? Learning from conversations with bilingual/multilingual therapists about working with clients who do not share their native language. Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, 3, 15-24.
Costa B, Dewaele J-M. (2012). Psychotherapy across languages: beliefs, attitudes and practices of monolingual and multilingual therapists with their multilingual patients. Language and Psychoanalysis, 1, 18-40.
Dewaele, J-M. (2004) The emotional force of swearwords and taboo words in the
speech of multilinguals. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 25, 204-222.
Dewaele, J-M. (2015). From obscure echo to language of the heart: Multilinguals’ language choices for (emotional) inner speech. Journal of Pragmatics, 87, 1-17.
Dewaele, J-M. (2016). Why do so many bi- and multilinguals feel different when switching languages? International Journal of Multilingualism, 13, 92-105.
De Leersnyder, J., Mesquita, B., & Kim, H. S. (2011). Where do my emotions belong? A study of immigrants’ emotional acculturation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 451-463.
Dyche, L., & Zayas, L. H. (1995). The value of curiosity and naiveté for the cross-cultural psychotherapist. Family Process, 34, 389-399.
Ferenczi, S. (1994). On obscene words. In E. Jones (Ed. and Trans.), First contributions to psycho-analysis (pp. 132-153). Routledge. (Oringal work published 1911)
Ferenczi, S. (1985). Hayoman haklini [The clinical diary]. Am Oved. (Oringal work published 1932)
Forrester, J. (1980). Language and the origins of psychoanalysis. Columbia University Press.
Freud, S. (1953). Recommendations to physicians practicing psycho-analysis. In J.
Strachey (Ed. and Trans.) The Standard edition of the complete psychological works
of Sigmund Freud (Volume XII, pp. 109-120). Hogarth Press. (Oringal work published 1912)
Green, A. (2011). Illusions and disillusions of psychoanalytic work. Karnac Books.
Greenson, R. R. (1950). The mother tongue and the mother. International Journal of
Psychoanalysis, 31,18-23.
Grosjean, F. (2013). Bilingual and monolingual language modes. In C. A. Chapell (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of applied linguistics. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Grosjean, F. (2015). The Complementarity Principle and its impact on processing, acquisition, and dominance. In C. Silva-Corvalán & J. Treffers-Daller (Ed.), Language dominance in bilinguals: Issues of measurement and operationalization (pp. 66-84). Cambridge University Press.
Gulina, M., & Dobrolioubova, V. (2018). One language and two mother tongues in the consulting room: Dilemmas of the bilingual psychotherapist. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 34, 3-24.
Hammer, K. (2016). Bilingual bonds: Acculturation, attachment, and being yourself in a new language. International Journal of Language and Culture, 3, 253-279.
Hollway, W. & Jefferson, T. (2000). Doing qualitative research differently: free association, narrative and the interview method. Sage.
Jones, E. (1922). Essays in applied psycho-analysis. International Psychoanalytic Press.
Jimanez, J. P. (2004). Between the confusion of tongues and the gift of tongues or working as a psychoanalyst in a foreign language. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 85, 1365-1377.
Kramsch, C., & Gerhards, S. (2012). Im Gespräch: An Interview with Claire Kramsch on the “Multilingual Subject”. Die Unterrichtspraxis/Teaching German, 45, 74-82.
Krapf, E. E. (1955). The choice of language in polyglot psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 24, 343-357.
Kühne, K., & Gianelli, C. (2019). Is embodied cognition bilingual? Current evidence and perspectives of the embodied cognition approach to bilingual language processing. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1-8.
Lagache, D. (1956). Sur le polyglottisme dans l’analyse [About polyglotism in analysis]. La Psychanalyse, 1, 167-178.
Maxie, A. C., Arnold, D. H., & Stephenson, M. (2006). Do therapists address ethnic and racial differences in cross-cultural psychotherapy? Psychotherapy: Therapy, Research, Practice, Training, 43, 85-98.
Midgley, N. (2006). Psychoanalysis and qualitative psychology: complementary or contradictory paradigms? Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 213-231.
Panicacci, A., & Dewaele J-M. (2017). ”A voice from elsewhere”: Migration, personality and multiple selves in multiple languages. International Journal of Multilingualism, 14, 419-436.
Patton, M.Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. Sage.
Pavlenko, A. (2002a). Bilingualism and emotions. Multilingua, 21, 45-78.
Pavlenko, A. (2002b). Emotions and the body in Russian and English. Pragmatics & Cognition, 10, 207-241.
Pavlenko, A. (2005). Emotions and multilingualism. Cambridge University Press.
Pavlenko, A. (2012). Affective processing in bilingual speakers: Disembodied cognition? International Journal of Psychology, 47, 405-428.
Pedder, J. (1986). Reflections on the theory and practice of supervision. Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 2, 1-12.
Schrauf, R., & Durazo-Arvizu, R. (2006). Bilingual autobiographical memory and emotion: Theory and methods. In A. Pavlenko (Ed.), Bilingual minds: Emotional experience, expression and representation (pp. 284-311). Multilingual Matters Ltd.
Stahl Freedman, R. (2017). Cross-cultural treatment issues in psychoanalysis. Language and Psychoanalysis, 6, 66-98.
Stern, D. N. (1998). The interpersonal world of the infant: A view from psychoanalysis and developmental psychology. Routledge.
Szekacs-Weisz, J. (2005). How to be a bi-lingual psychoanalyst. In J. Szekacs-Weisz & I. Ward (Ed.), Lost childhood and the language of exile (pp.21-28). Imago East West.
Verdinelli, S., & Biever, J. L. (2009). Spanish-English bilingual psychotherapists: Personal and professional language development and use. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Psychology, 15, 230-242.
Walsh, S. D. (2014). The bilingual therapist and transference to language: Language use in therapy and its relationship to object relational context. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 42, 56-71.
Whorf, B. L. (1956). Language, thought and reality. In B. Carroll (Ed.), Selected writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf (pp. 315-344). MIT Press.
Winnicott, D. W. (1953). Transitional objects and transitional phenomena - A study of the first not-me possessions. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 34, 89-97.
Winnicott, D. W. (1960). The theory of the parent-infant relationship. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 41, 585-595.
Winnicott, D. W. (1971). Playing and reality. Basic Books.
Published
17-Jan-2021
How to Cite
Or-Gordon, E. (2021). Therapeutic Mother Tongue and its Implications on the Work of Polyglot Psychotherapists. Language and Psychoanalysis, 10(1), 1-26. https://doi.org/10.7565/landp.v10i1.5324