The experience of being a non-native English speaker working as a practitioner in London

  • Thais P. Clemente Roscia

Student thesis: PsychD


Counselling is a process which provides understanding and support to clients, aiming at the improvement of their psychological well-being. It involves both verbal and non-verbal communication, but it is essentially based on therapist and client talking to each other. Cross-cultural issues, migration and communication across different languages are part of societies in big cities like London and although cultural issues have been largely explored in the literature, very little attention has been paid to language differences and how the impact on the therapeutic process. The focus of this exploratory study was to look closely at the experience of conducting therapy in a language that is not your first language through an in-depth analysis of the experience of being a non-native English speaking practitioner in London. In order to better understand the language impact on counselling, 10 practitioners (Counselling Psychologists or qualified counsellors) were interviewed, a qualitative method of analysis (Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis) was used to investigate how these non-native English speakers understand and make sense of their life experience as clinical practitioners. Participants were drawn from nine different nationalities who spoke a total of thirteen languages, excluding English. The analysis of the interviews supports current research in the field. The first master theme that emerged from participants’ experiences, ‘more than words’ captures the experience that aspects of language beyond words are important in the therapeutic scenario. The second, ‘the relationship’, comprises the importance of the therapeutic alliance. The third, ‘cultural link’, represents the difficult-to-separate union between language and culture. The last one, ‘special resource’ includes the main benefits of being non-native English speaker therapists working in London. With these four master themes, this study concludes that the relationship between client and practitioner goes beyond language and in fact, it can be used as a tool to overcome these language-related challenges.
Date of Award14 May 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorJohn Rae (Supervisor) & Janek Dubowski (Supervisor)

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