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