I do not understand – or the art of understanding: When do language barriers matter in art therapy and how to overcome them? A qualitative research into the experiences of art therapists when working with clients of other language origin
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AbstractThis research study, placed within interpretivist/constructivist paradigm and informed by phenomenologist tradition, set out to explore art therapist experiences whilst working with clients whose first language was not shared with the art therapist themselves. It aimed to explore questions such as: if language barriers would matter within art therapeutic practice; how and if language difference would be experienced and may influence the therapeutic relationship and processes, and how art therapists would overcome such situations in which communication may have been experienced as difficult. To answer such questions, this enquiry focused upon the strategies employed by the art therapists in order to overcome such difficulties, relating to language difference. Three monolingual art therapists were interviewed utilising a semi-structured interview approach. Their accounts were analysed through Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Six master themes were identified which were: ‘Language barriers / barriers of understanding (general)’, ‘Client group (bilinguals / language learner) specific observations’, ‘Language difference = cultural difference’, ‘Impact on therapeutic relationship’, ‘Approaches to aid understanding (non art based)’ and ‘Art as language’. Based upon these results it was concluded that language difference matters within art therapeutic practice. Art therapy can be seen already as a successful approach, when working with clients whose language origin differs from that of the therapist. However, it was also highlighted that there is a general lack of understanding of wider psychological and psychodynamic implications associated with language difference and bi or multilingualism. Proposing to be cautious upon the role of the image within this unique working relationship and to recognise bilingual/language learning clients as a subordinate client group, it was argued that promoting bilingual awareness and its inherent implications within art therapeutic training and practice would allow art therapy to become a truly powerful therapeutic approach, when working with this, indeed, suborientated client group. Recommendations for further research, art therapeutic training and practice were made.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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