Mother Tongue and Other Tongues: Narratives in Multilingual Psychotherapy

Editor : Ali Zarbafi, Editor : Shula Wilson

Mother Tongue and Other Tongues: Narratives in Multilingual Psychotherapy

Book Details

  • Publisher : Phoenix Publishing House
  • Published : July 2021
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 160
  • Category :
    Individual Psychotherapy
  • Catalogue No : 95468
  • ISBN 13 : 9781912691852
  • ISBN 10 : 9781912691
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We are living in times where the issue of identity and difference has taken on a more defensive hue. The tide is turning towards an inward-looking nostalgia of sameness based on fear rather than on understanding. The experience of hearing another language, the way it is spoken, and being faced with the image of the other is now more complex, imbued with projections of powerlessness, fear, terrorism, and survival. The issue of identity appears to have become even more complex.

All cultures are concerned with how we speak and communicate as this represents identity, history, and home. Communication is also essential for survival, both emotionally and socially. The speaking person is an individual but also part of a culture or cultures with dense collective and individual shapes. The issue of identity, that feeling of belonging, is essential, full of possibility, and, at times, very uncomfortable, as it touches the tensions between who we are and who we are becoming. This sits next to more complex historical experiences and memories of languages and cultures being changed or lost or banished due to the colonial, imperial, and regional moves of powerful nations in search of conquest and economic gain.

This collection addresses how language affects therapists and their patients, and how it can be understood culturally and therapeutically. Drawn from talks given at the Multi-lingual Psychotherapy Centre (MLPC), the contributors not only bring a therapeutic slant but also their other roles as academics, writers, and artists. These reflections, memories, and stories give a glimpse of the multilingual journey the MLPC has been exploring for over twenty years, and leave much food for thought.

Reviews and Endorsements

In old Vienna, Sigmund Freud treated his very first patients, all of whom lived nearby, in his native German tongue. But, today, psychotherapy has become a far more globally diversified practice, both culturally and linguistically, posing many challenges and opportunities. In this wonderfully rich and readable book, Ali Zarbafi and Shula Wilson have assembled a magnificent collection of colleagues from Canada, France, Germany, Iran, Israel, Japan, the United States of America, and Zimbabwe, to examine the nature of multilingual psychotherapy from the perspective of both the patient and the clinician. I devoured this book in one sitting and I recommend it very highly indeed. Professor Brett Kahr, Senior Fellow, Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology, London, and Visiting Professor of Psychoanalysis and Mental Health, Regent’s University London.

‘Speaking a language is an emotional experience,’ states Ali Zarbafi at the beginning of this book. Speaking multiple languages is increasingly the norm across the world. So why has the multilingual experience been left in the shadows of psychotherapy practice for so long? Mother Tongue and Other Tongues, edited by Ali Zarbafi and Shula Wilson, boldly and truthfully examines the profoundly important, although neglected, experience of the multilingual client in psychotherapy theory and practice. The book is a collection of chapters (developed from the Burgh House lectures) written by practising multilingual psychotherapists. These chapters make the compelling case that we experience the world differently according to the languages we speak or hear throughout our lives. Each beautifully written chapter starts with the author’s autobiographical narrative, interwoven with case vignettes and examples from theory, novels, poetry, and music. The themes of identity, home, displacement and exile, dreams, mother tongues and father tongues, loss, attachment, transgenerational gifting or withholding of languages, intimacy, emotional engagement and distance and the processing of trauma – are all considered through the multilingual frame. Each chapter is a story in its own right. The book is written in English which is the mother tongue of only a few of the contributors. Perhaps for that reason the writing is so compelling – each word chosen with care and respect for the inherent power of language. Each page is saturated with the truth of the experiences shared and reflected upon by the authors. Mother Tongue and Other Tongues takes the reader deep into the multilingual experience. It shows us that if we ignore the multilingual emotional experiences of our clients, we do not really see them. This book makes a powerful case for the multilingual experience to be incorporated into contemporary psychotherapy thinking and practice. Dr Beverley Costa, DPsych, UKCP-approved supervisor, MBACP, Senior Practitioner Fellow, Birkbeck, University of London , Director, the Pásalo Project.

This is an exciting and topical book, written with great elegance, that demands to be read. Ali Zarbafi and Shula Wilson have edited a series of moving and thoughtful chapters, written by authors, all psychotherapists, exploring what it is like to speak and work in a second language that is not their mother tongue. The authors’ personal experiences of exile, dislocation, and then adaptation into a new culture will be an invaluable resource for those working with or living alongside people from other cultures and how to communicate with them. Jan Wiener, Training Analyst and Supervisor, Society of Analytical Psychology, London.

About the Editor(s)

Dr Ali Zarbafi is an Anglo-Iranian Jungian analyst and supervisor and member of the Society of Analytical Psychology with thirty years’ clinical experience. He is a founder member of the Multi-lingual Psychotherapy Centre. Ali works in the NHS and private practice. He has written and given talks on trauma, the refugee experience, and social dreaming, and has an academic background in international relations and Middle Eastern studies. He is co-author (with John Clare) of Social Dreaming in the 21st Century: The World We Are Losing.

More titles by Ali Zarbafi

Shula Wilson has been a practising psychotherapist and supervisor since 1991. She is the founder of SKYLARK (1995–2012) an organisation that offered counselling and psychotherapy for people affected by disability. She is a founder member of the Institute for Psychotherapy and Disability, and a consultant psychotherapist at St Thomas’ Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital, where she is also a lecturer and supervisor. She is a committee member of Multi-lingual Psychotherapy Centre. Shula is the author of Disability, Counselling and Psychotherapy – Challenges and Opportunities and has written chapters and articles on disability and psychotherapy for various publications.

More titles by Shula Wilson

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