Bilingual Clinical Psychologists' Experiences of Conceptualising Emotional Distress: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
Aim: The study aims to explore, in-depth, South Asian bilingual clinical psychologists personal and clinical experiences of conceptualising emotional distress in first and second language. It is hoped that a clearer understanding of these experiences will help emphasise the role of language in the experience of emotional distress, which may be beneficial for working with clients that make sense of emotional distress in multiple languages. An understanding of these processes may also encourage further exploration and critique of the ways in which western psychological models are used to make sense of emotional distress, given many, if not all have been constructed using English language. Method: A qualitative approach was used for this study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six South Asian, bilingual clinical psychologists working in NHS services. The resulting data was analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Results: The analysis highlighted four main themes emerging from participant accounts of conceptualising emotional distress in multiple languages. These were: “Worlds apart in culture and language”, “Oscillating self in language”, Ubiquity of English language and values” and “Challenging and managing difference”. Implications: Whilst much has been written about race and cultural issues in the context of clinical psychology, relatively little attention has been given to the experience and impact of multiple languages on the conceptualisation and experience of emotional distress. A major implication is first language conceptualizations are rarely considered in the development of psychological models of emotional distress, nor are they explicitly considered in the way clinical psychologists are trained and in the majority of current clinical practice guidelines. Participant accounts are dicussed in the wider historical context of psychology, anthropology and sociolinguistics informing further discussions on bilingualism and current psychological practice and theorising.