Are you wondering whether bilingual counseling might benefit your or a friend or loved one?
20% of Americans speak more than one language. Sometimes, this comes about because a person left their home country or grew up in a home in which people didn’t speak English. This has posed a unique opportunity for counselors. Often, the people who sit on their couches express themselves easier in another language.
This means a greater demand for therapists who speak more than one language. Some mental health professionals have risen to the challenge and now offer bilingual therapy.
But what should you expect from bilingual counseling? We’ll go into the details below.
Keep reading to learn more!
The Counselor Will Speak More Than One Language
In bilingual therapy, the counselor has a unique skill: they speak more than one language. In the United States, these languages commonly consist of English and any other ones they either studied or grew up speaking.
The language they use with you in your session will be the one you both feel most comfortable communicating in. If you speak Russian better than English, they might speak to you mostly in Russian. Or, they might switch between both languages if that suits the needs of the therapy and the client.
But why should you use the language that you both have the most comfort while speaking? First, multi-lingual people often feel their native language touches their hearts. As such, they also prefer to use their native language when expressing what they feel or think.
An exception to this might occur when someone cannot find the right word in their own language. Yet, their second language has a closer expression. In these cases, it becomes helpful for a bilingual person to seek out bilingual counseling when handling mental health issues.
Bilingual Therapy and Increased Understanding
Being able to speak to a counselor in your native language might improve the care you receive as well.
People often learn languages as if each word can serve as a direct translation for another. For the most part, this method works and builds up the person’s vocabulary quite well. Still, languages evolved in unique cultural and societal contexts. This has been reflected in untranslatable linguistic subtexts. Some words come with extra and deeper meanings.
If the therapist only speaks the client’s second language, the client may feel forced to do so. As such, they may use words that don’t perfectly encapsulate everything they mean to say. That means the therapist might not come to a thorough understanding of the situation or the client’s needs.
Bilingual therapy avoids this. The therapist may understand the client better when they speak the same language. As such, the therapist has an improved capability to apply the proper treatment.
Bilingual therapy also serves another purpose: creating community between individuals. This happens most often in group therapy sessions.
In it, therapy patients have the ability to connect with others in their native language. This provides needed support and a sense of community. In some cases, the client might meet people going through similar circumstances. They can draw strength from these communities.
Better Cultural Understanding
Often, therapists bring their own cultural values and perspectives into therapy. This occurs whether they want it or not.
Some American universities have started to encourage cultural diversity in their counseling programs. This somewhat remedies the problem. Still, bilingual people have a higher likelihood of being multicultural than monolingual people. Bilingual therapists might have a more thorough understanding of the client’s cultural perspectives.
Better cultural understanding leads to better counseling. An understanding of family norms in the culture helps the counselor provide better advice. The counselor might also become more aware of their own cultural biases.
Why Bilingual Therapy Has Become Necessary
Bilingualism has many effects on the brain. Bilingual people often access different emotions when they speak various languages. They may even express different personality traits.
A person who spoke Spanish as a child might find it easier to access childhood emotions in Spanish. Yet, they might find it easier to speak in English about the later parts of their life if they spoke English with their peers. This happens because people organize memories according to language.
Also, bilingual therapy recognizes the fact that people living in America speak a variety of languages. It contributes to the overall drive for wider and more diverse language acceptance.
Bilingual therapists fill a significant need. Most of the American population speaks English, making it harder for others. This becomes especially true when it comes to finding services in other languages.
How to Find a Bilingual Therapist
So, how do you about finding a bilingual therapist for yourself or your loved one?
First, consider whether they would benefit from individual therapy or group therapy. Individual therapy allows them to work more one-on-one with the counselor, receiving more tailored care. Group therapy provides a greater support system.
Second, look for counseling practices and ask which languages the counselors speak. This practice provides excellent counseling services, so start here!
Finally, make sure your therapist specializes in treating your condition. Common treatments include anxiety and depression counseling, substance abuse therapy, marriage and family counseling, and LGBTQIA+ counseling.
Ready to Make an Appointment?
Are you ready to start on your bilingual therapy journey?
Having a bilingual therapist treat a bilingual client often makes a huge difference in the treatment. As such, bilingual clients should seek out bilingual therapists whenever possible.
Are you ready to schedule an appointment? Contact this practice today to get started or ask any pertinent questions!