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Looking for support when English is not your first language

Language has meaning and creates meaning and it is the way we as humans convey and make sense of our experience.

Here are some reasons why it may be beneficial to find a counsellor who speaks your (or one of your) language/s.

  1. Speaking the language of your childhood (it’s called mother tongue for a reason) has the power to connect you with early memories and emotions. Your memories are most likely stored in the language you experienced them in. Here’s a simple test: Write down the following equation and calculate the result: (5x4)+(9÷3) Were you thinking (or even speaking out loud) in English or your mother tongue? Most people will switch to the language they learned to calculate in because it was the language of the time when they learned to calculate in school.

  2. It may make you feel more fully understood. You don’t have to translate what you want to say and you don’t have to explain the meaning of a word over and over because the English translation doesn’t quite hit make the same point.

  3. It can make you feel more empowered. If in your day-to-day life you speak a language that is not your own, you may feel like you are at a disadvantage from the native speakers around you, or you may even feel like your language and cultural heritage move into the background. Having the opportunity to engage in counselling in your first language might help you feel more empowered in your language and your personal culture.

  4. It simply may feel important for you to find a counsellor who knows what it means to juggle different languages, worlds and cultures.

How can I find a counsellor in my language?

The BACP Therapist Directory and Counselling Directory have advanced search pages which allow you to add your desired language as part of the search for a counsellor in your area.

Why work with a counsellor in English?

Your second language may feel “safer” emotionally because it’s more intellectualised as a skill that you consciously had to learn. Communicating in your first language may feel like accessing a different ‘part’ of ourselves. The felt difference when speaking in another language can be very surprising.

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