This study investigates the instance and impact of a language barrier on therapeutic process, where the therapist and client do not share a common language, and analyses necessary adaptations to practice to overcome these barriers. It does so through the study of a Vietnamese-speaking child in a short-term therapeutic intervention with an English-speaking play therapist.
The uses of verbal and nonverbal communication are observed as indicators of the impact of the language barrier and of the success of the therapeutic relationship. The therapeutic relationship, in turn, provides an indication the language barrier’s effect on the therapeutic process.
The study uses a mixed methodology with grounded theory driving the inquiry; drawing on elements of single case study design and qualitative data collection through Goodman’s (1997) Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and session observation forms designed by the researcher.
The results of this study show evident barriers to the therapeutic process and progress of the child; yet find positive change in SDQ total difficulties scores and in reports from the carer’s close to the child during the intervention. Adaptations to practice were trialed by the researcher and found to aid the therapeutic process across the language barrier. The study provides a springboard for further research into the specific categories of barrier and adaptation.