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Therapy: native and second language

Therapy: native and second language


Choosing to consult is an important step, and consulting in a foreign language, regardless of the language level of the protagonists, can limit the impact of the work, and can also give the illusion of being "protected" from one's deep emotions. Access to therapy in the client's native language therefore offers a greater possibility of expression and the most likely opportunity to address archaic conflicts.


What happens when a client hesitates to find "the right word"? How are the representation of the object and the word related to it linked and articulated on a conscious/pre-conscious and unconscious level in a bilingual context?

The acquisition of language is a structuring and containing stage, a sort of compromise with the unconscious. The mother tongue represents a support of identification in the social link.


According to Melanie Klein (Memories in feelings, 1957) "This first language connects, enlarges and separates; it is the instrument of translation of bodily signals, emotions and memories of affects". The mother tongue is absorbed by the baby who will appropriate it. Being infiltrated by the primary phantasms, it can also be the place of sensations sources of anguish, confusion or excitation. The organization of language has indeed a strong affective charge.

"Being expatriated can lead to an abandonment of one's mother tongue".

Being an expatriate can lead to an abandonment of one's mother tongue, one's language of origin and learning. Whatever external events disrupt internal identifications, therapeutic support takes into account the subject's mother tongue for a better coherence. The mother tongue and the secondary language convey different identifications and different relationships that seal the modes of functioning between the family and extra-family circle. The secondary language can be used as a defence mechanism and to consolidate the "Ego".

What meaning and importance should be given to the use of one or more languages during a therapeutic session?


Let us remember that each encounter is singular, each story is singular, there will be as many meanings and great importance as there are stories.

Rudy Goubet Bodart reminds us: "some words can no longer be said in the subject's mother tongue, others are unpronounceable in the language learned, insults, reactions to pain are always said in the mother tongue, some people repress one language in order to learn another...".

For this phenomenon of abandoning the language of origin and learning the language of adoption can also take place in the mode of incorporation, especially when the circumstances are experienced as traumatic. What does the ego represent in the identification? Can we access our true identity?


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