Therapy in Languages Other Than English

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Psychotherapy is talk therapy and relies on words to be helpful. Therapy is also a western concept so it can feel quite uncomfortable to talk about personal problems outside the family. In the US, when your native language is not English, the helpfulness of therapy may be limited because language is a problem. Culture can also make things hard.

It helps to have a therapist who can speak your language and understand the cultural roots and background that are important to you.

When you think about getting help for a personal problem, you are trusting a stranger to help you. As you look for a therapist, you want to think about their education, training, and experience. In some cases, language and culture can be even more important and having those in common with your therapist might feel critical for you.

Sometimes however you don’t have a choice. The majority of therapists in the US rely on English, making this process hard. Language, however, is important, especially in therapy, because talking, listening, and understanding are necessary to get help. We hope that you don’t have to give up using your own language to get that help.

Can you do therapy in a different language and does it make a difference?

Yes, therapy can be done in a different language. In general therapy can be carried out in a different language between the therapist and client, with the exceptions of some clinical terms that the therapist may refer to in English or need to translate descriptively if there is no comparable vocabulary word for it in the other language.

Therapy approach and methods remain the same although the language is different. However working in a language that is not English automatically does bring up the importance of cultural differences. The use and components of language reflect differences in thinking as much as differences do in culture. Use of phrasing and metaphors are examples of how you might feel it is easier to communicate and be understood in your native language rather than in English.

My culture is important to me, and I want my therapist to understand it. Am I wrong to hope for that?

Hoping that your therapist understands your culture is entirely understandable. Coming to therapy means that not only do you want help, but that you want to feel and be understood. If you are aware that in your life, culture plays a big role in your relationships, family, and experiences, then it would be all the more important that your therapist understand how this is for you.

Occasionally you will find a therapist who shares the same cultural background as you and similar background immigration experiences as you had. More likely though, the therapist will not have had exactly the same background or even the same ethnicity, but this does not mean that they cannot understand or be helpful to you. Therapists are trained to be culturally sensitive no matter what, whether they share the same cultural background or not. Talk with your prospective therapist to let him or her know of your concerns.

Our centers offer multilingual therapy services to individuals, couples, and families.

Currently, in Fremont, therapy services are offered in English, Farsi, Mandarin, and Vietnamese. In Santa Cruz, Farsi and English therapy services are available.

Our intake coordinator will try to accommodate your language needs and cultural concerns during the initial registration process after you fill out the online forms and provide your information. You can also request a free 15-minute consultation to speak with your therapist of choice in your native language to explore the potential therapy relationship.

In general, our therapy forms are in English so some English reading skills are required for therapy. At this time, some forms are available in French only.

Contact us directly by telephone with your specific questions. We’ll be happy to help.