Psychotherapy & Language

Language & Culture

Psychotherapy and Language

What do psychotherapy and language learning have in common? How are they different? Do we need one of these two processes or both simultaneously?

In the past ten years, many language learners have told me that our conversational language lessons often make them feel like they are in psychotherapy. I can understand why some of them think this way. Through this process, we talk about life events, values, and feelings, allowing us to express basic human understanding, supportiveness and empathy.

Yet, more than a stress/trauma-free learning environment is needed for some people. Some people should work with a qualified psychotherapist. This text has helped me share some of my concerns and should also help you understand what psychotherapy and language learning have in common, how they are different, and whether you need one of these two processes in your life or both simultaneously.


What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a form of treatment that focuses on helping individuals improve their mental and emotional well-being. It involves talking with a therapist in a supportive and confidential setting. Psychotherapy aims to explore issues such as emotional difficulties, behavioural patterns, relationship problems, and psychological disorders. Through this process, individuals gain insight, develop coping skills, and work towards positive changes in their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.


What is Language Learning?

Language learning refers to acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to understand, communicate, and use a particular language. It develops proficiency in different language aspects, such as vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and comprehension, which means speaking, reading, listening and writing. In the end, there are many different motives for psychotherapy and language learning.

Once, I heard one of my professors saying that Noam Chomsky has claimed that psycholinguistics is nothing but psychology. We can neither consider psychology without linguistics nor linguistics without psychology; thus, psychology, psychotherapy and language learning may coexist to some extent through the same process. They both eventually mean working on yourself.


What do they share?

If you want to know whether psychotherapy and language learning share some common elements, we will say ‘yes’. Yes, they do share some specific details. Here we are!

  • Learning Process
  • Guidance and Support
  • Personal Growth
  • Cultural Understanding
  • Communication and Expression

Frankly speaking, language learning often involves exposure to different cultures and societies, while psychotherapy can apply, even though it doesn’t have to, this knowledge as well.


Communication and Expression

Both psychotherapy and language learning involve the development of communication and expression skills. Psychotherapy focuses on expressing and understanding emotions, thoughts, and experiences. At the same time, language learning is the ability to communicate effectively in another language.

This is an important point! Your language teacher will help you express your thoughts, feelings and emotions. We will help you put together grammar patterns so that the point of your verbal message is in accordance with what you think and feel.

Why language learning is not the same as psychotherapy? Because we are not qualified to help you shape your thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviour. We might ask you specific questions in case your verbal message needs clarification. We need to understand what exactly you want to say. We might help you get to know yourself. However, we won’t teach you how to control or improve certain emotions, feelings and patterns of behaviour. This is what you do yourself or with your therapist.

Our job is not to evaluate your opinion. We may agree or disagree on a bunch of topics, although my job is not to assess your mental state given that, as a teacher, I see you as a whole. Indeed, it’s up to me if I want to understand you; it deals with what kind of person your teacher is. My job, for instance, is not to tell you whether you should say what you feel to someone in particular. I can warn you about possible consequences, although this is for you and your therapist to think of and decide what to do.

My job is to understand what you want to say and help you shape your spoken language. So, we will shape semantically and aesthetically the message you want to share with the world.

You are going to speak up and not be shy. This process involves both input and output language skills. So to be into a new language, you must develop grammar, listening, writing and reading language skills at the same time. And you must be ready to stand up and speak up, which is also an essential aspect of personal development.

Talking about understanding and speaking up?! This is an emotional aspect of language learning, but not psychotherapy! It might involve specific exercises such as breathing and speaking slowly. You likely want to use correct language patterns and need to think well about what you will say. Because here, the main point is the language people can hear from you, not the content of your inner being. The content is yours! It is authentic and unpredictable, and you are not obliged to share it with your teacher. Here we are to learn how to give you a tool that you can use to put your inner message in the correct words and let it go outside.


A few more words

Hope this story makes sense, and now you can see if you need a psychotherapist or a language teacher. You may need both of them. On the other hand, you may need only a teacher. If you are into Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, English or Italian, do not hesitate to contact me.

NOTICE: This text is not peer-reviewed. It aims to inspire and motivate language learners of Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian to think about possible cultural patterns when learning this/these language(s).