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Louise Rolland

Contact Details


26 Russell Square,
Department of Applied Linguistics and Communication 

Project Title and Abstract

  • Project Title:
  • To code-switch or not to code-switch? Language practices in psychotherapy: a mixed methods study of multilingual clients’ experiences.
  • Abstract:
  • The linguistic diversity of the UK population has implications for health services, including mental health. Psychotherapists working with multilingual clients have explored the implications of language biographies for therapy (Burck, 2004) and recommended bringing the client’s multilingualism into the therapeutic frame (Costa, 2014), however this remains an under-researched topic. In particular, the client perspective has been given little attention (Dewaele & Costa, 2013).

    Rolland, Dewaele and Costa (2017) surveyed 109 multilingual adults with counselling or psychotherapy experience through a web questionnaire in 2016. Participants reported various linguistic situations: some were satisfied with a monolingual therapy in a foreign language, others felt inhibited about code-switching while still others described code-switching. Code-switching was most frequently attributed to difficulties in translation, accessing emotions and memories, or quoting someone.

    Five follow-on interviews were conducted several months later to explore why some highly bilingual clients chose to code-switch in therapy and others chose not to. Four were conducted in English (participants’ second language), while one was bilingual (French-English). For all but one participant, the interview language(s) matched the language(s) of the participant’s latest therapy.

    The interviews covered aspects such as the role of language in relation to clients’ emotional expression and identity in therapy, and its implications for the development of empathy within the therapeutic relationship. In addition two interviewees, who were trainee therapists, shared their views on bilingualism in training and their future practice. Following transcription by the researcher, these data will be subject to a thematic analysis.

    This interdisciplinary study provides evidence of the potential for transformative insights to arise from the discussion of language practices in therapy. Indeed one interviewee reported changing her approach to language in therapy after completing the research survey and described how this enabled her to explore difficult material with her therapist.

    Clients’ reflections on how language choices affect their experience of therapy are relevant to both mental health professionals and multilingual individuals. The former currently lack training on multilingualism and, as mentioned above, the latter can benefit from increased awareness of how their language history might affect communication in therapy. The research findings will also be relevant to other settings where multilinguals are under stress (e.g. healthcare and legal settings) and have wider implications for understanding multilinguals’ relationships with their languages in various contexts (e.g. migration and acculturation).


    Burck, C. (2004) Living in several languages: implications for therapy, Journal of Family Therapy, 26, 314–339. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6427.2004.00287.x

    Costa, B. (2014) You can call me Betty, Therapy Healthcare Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal, Oct, 20-25.

    Dewaele, J.-M. & Costa, B. (2013) Multilingual Clients’ Experience of Psychotherapy, Language and Psychoanalysis, 2 (2), 31-50.

    Rolland. L., Dewaele, J.-M., & Costa, B. (2017). Multilingualism and psychotherapy: exploring multilingual clients' experiences of language practices in psychotherapy. International Journal of Multilingualism, 14 (1), 69–85. doi: 10.1080/14790718.2017.1259009


Research Interests

  • My research interests are currently centred on multilingualism, both individual (across the lifespan) and societal. Beyond my PhD study, I am particularly interested in educational and public engagement aspects of research such as involving people in exploring their local linguistic landscapes.

Publications and Media

  • Journal article
  • Rolland. L., Dewaele, J.-M., & Costa, B. (2017). Multilingualism and psychotherapy: exploring multilingual clients' experiences of language practices in psychotherapy. International Journal of Multilingualism, 14(1), 69-85. Doi: 10.1080/14790718.2017.1259009
  • Book review
  • Rolland. L., Dewaele, J.-M., & Costa, B. (to appear). Emotion and Discourse in L2 Narrative Research. International Journal of Applied Linguistics. Doi:10.1111/ijal.12178
  • Blogs
  • Communication, Medicine and Ethics (COMET) conference (04/08/16)
  • Donostia Young Researchers International Symposium on Multilingualism (16/03/16):
  • The social psychology of communication and living with dementia: Dr Tony Young’s research (09/03/15):
  • UK Linguistics Olympiad (19/02/15):