Constructing bilingualism in the Maltese therapeutic context: a Foucauldian Discourse Analysis

  • Michela Galea Bonaria

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


To date, there is a dearth of studies addressing therapeutic uses of bilingualism as applied to counselling psychology in postcolonial contexts. This study explored some of the ways in which Maltese therapeutic practitioners1 understood and worked with bilingualism. Nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with accredited therapeutic practitioners. Taking a poststructural epistemological approach, a Foucauldian informed discourse analysis was applied to the data produced. In the analysis, three key discourses were identified: professional, cultural, and deviant that produced bilingualism as a power-laden discursive site of therapeutic ideas and practices. Further examination of how these discourses resourced discursive constructions of Maltese-English bilingualism highlighted how these firstly positioned uses of English and Maltese as serving different therapeutic functions, with participants understanding counselling ideas in English while cultural experiences were best expressed in Maltese. Secondly, some of the postcolonial resonances that privilege English over Maltese were illustrated as still evident in these accounts through the construction of English as sophisticated and Maltese as crude. Finally, code-switching was variously objectified as both facilitative and frustrating in enabling therapeutic communication and maintaining the therapeutic relationship. This analysis therefore contributes to an alternative understanding of bilingualism in Maltese therapeutic practice by highlighting the social, cultural and historical processes that have shaped these discursive constructions. This may inform Maltese practitioners in developing their critical reflexivity regarding the power implications of using Maltese and English, and may also be useful to the wider therapeutic community, including counselling psychologists, working in other bilingual contexts.
Date of Award21 Feb 2017
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJean O'Callaghan (Supervisor) & Paul Dickerson (Supervisor)

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