our words make worlds

Engaging with Multilingualism in Psychotherapy

Engaging multilingualism

Organised by Dr Louise Rolland, 'Engaging with Multilingualism in Psychotherapy', a workshop for mental health practitioners and applied linguistics researchers took place at Birkbeck College, University of London, on 8 January 2020.


  • Jean-Marc Dewaele (Birkbeck, University of London): Multilingualism, intercultural communication and emotion
  • Louise Rolland & Sally Cook (Birkbeck, University of London): Client perspectives: the role of multilingualism in the therapeutic journey
  • Chrysa Chlomisiou (University of Leicester): Bilingual therapists’ experiences of language switching in therapy
  • Leigh Gardner (University of Salford): Counselling in English as an additional language
  • Beverley Costa (Birkbeck, University of London & Pasalo): Case examples of psychotherapy across languages
  • Panel: future directions for research and practice


The workshop was attended by 22 people – including at least 15 mental health practitioners and four applied linguists – in addition to the five speakers. Feedback was extremely positive, with the workshop rated 9.2 /10 on average in terms of “how useful the session was for [their] work”. Specifically, learning points which attendees planned to use in their future practice, research, or teaching included:

  • “the aspects of self in multilingual subjects”
  • “to continue applying the open conversations about language”
  • “a better client’s perspective”
  • “a better understanding of the need to raise awareness about the specificity of cross-language therapy”
  • “talk about the talking”
  • “resources related to multilinguistic counselors’ perspective”
  • “I will be using all of this information and read more in order to highlight importance of the issue to my students and therapist colleagues”
  • “being aware of power balance in sessions; giving clients a choice re language”
  • “the importance and the irrelevance of language”
  • “a lot of stimulation for further research”
  • “creative ways to communicate”
  • “very useful insights on current approaches to psychotherapy and the role of language”
  • “heart and head; importance of being rooted”

Several attendees also volunteered topics which they would like to see at future events:

  • “mentioning the aspects of bias and assumptions (conscious and unconscious)”
  • “working from a multilingual model in supervision (clinical supervision)
  • “the view of monolingual therapists and monolingual ideologies”
  • “more about pure identity issues of migrants (not just) language even those are critical [unclear]”
  • “more training material”
  • “clients’ reflection on their therapeutic experience”
  • “AI interference with the therapy cause”, “more cases shown and discussed”
  • “more cross-cultural, ethnographic settings”

Asked whether they thought their organisation would benefit from further training in this area, with a view to discussing the possibility of arranging this subject to future funding, eight people agreed and provided contact details, of whom six were from therapeutic services and training organisations.