The Creativity Gathering: Multilingualism and Creativity in Pluralistic Practice (May 29, 2021)
Tatiana Stoyko, pluralistically-minded integrative counsellor, MBACP, www.counsellingnest.com
Hello and welcome to the Creativity Gathering!
I am writing this with an incredible sense of belonging to the community of people passionate about creative approaches to therapy. The group draws together therapists from different theoretical orientations and promotes openness and curiosity to each other’s experiences and perspectives. It was born out of pluralistic ideas and values and consequently goes far beyond the creative techniques to address the unique collaboration of therapist and client in the creative process.
The group gathers online once a month to connect, explore, get inspired, and inspire others. Each meeting has its theme and focus of creative work with clients, such as storytelling, creative writing, drama, visual arts, and photography.
Our last gathering was dedicated to multilingualism. This is of particular interest to me as a multilingual therapist with many multilingual clients. I can feel a significant difference in my therapeutic self when sharing my mother tongue with my clients and when working in a different language. The difference feels even stronger when I am in therapy myself: it is almost like having two different ‘linguistic selves’: one grown in my home country and carrying cultural traditions and family history; and a second one, formed to adapt to immigration and assimilation processes after moving countries. I am more open and creative in my self-expression and exploration in a second language but also tend to use it as a defence and detachment mechanism when struggle to cope with difficult emotions. Therefore, I see the great importance of attending and actively engaging with multilingualism in therapy.
I came buzzing with thoughts about the relation between multilingualism and creativity and how it manifests in therapy. I was eager to see if other therapists experience the same drive as me to ‘fill in’ the linguistic void and provide clients with additional ways of emotional expression–and if there are wider therapeutic possibilities to co-create and enrich meaningful therapeutic context.
I believe pluralistic practice has a lot to offer to address multilingualism in the counselling room, particularly via metacommunications (including bringing a client’s attention to linguistic preferences through the therapeutic process), activation of client’s language as an important cultural resource, and co-designing of shared meanings.
The gathering helped me to see a bigger perspective of sociolinguistic conditioning, starting from the language used in a family to a bigger social group, and also the importance of attending to contextual language switching (for instance, past and present experiences, professional and intimate life). It also brought up a wide range of techniques used by therapists to address multilingualism in the therapeutic process: from encouraging clients to speak in their mother tongue or use body language when they struggle to find English equivalents; to expressing emotions; to exploring and co-creating meaning together through images, symbols, and metaphors. A similar co-creation work is happening when English concepts are absent or different in the client’s native language (e.g., in some Eastern European countries there is no concept for ‘counselling’, and ‘depression’ is understood differently). But is there anything beyond the verbal and symbolic making of shared meaning? Perhaps we all start to focus on our body awareness, intuition, and felt sense when we find it difficult to articulate our inner experiences through a particular language. And, as pluralistic therapy suggests, it is important to consider multiple ways of relating and always use available techniques in collaboration with client to fit their needs and preferences.
The gathering ended, beautifully, with a profound quote from the Dalai Lama: ‘I think of whoever I meet as being the same as me. We don’t need to be introduced. If they have two eyes, one nose and a mouth, I think of other people as being human like me.’ It left me with something beyond the language: the simplicity and divinity of human connection and belonging. The way to perfect alignment.
If you are curious about creative therapy or already working creatively, please come and join us: we are open for therapists of any modality and experience. Just drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a link to the next Zoom gathering. To learn more about the group and to see our next meeting theme visit our website https://creativitygathering.wixsite.com/website.