A few years ago I was asked, if I would do psychotherapy sessions in English, too. After a short moment of hesitation I decided to give it a try. My first client was a student from India. She suffered from panic attacks, which kept her from continuing her studies. This disorder can be effectively treated by cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). We agreed to start with the usual preliminary sessions. In these sessions I outlined the treatment approach and interviewed her on her biography and current life situation. While we were talking I began to take notes as I usually do during sessions. I started taking my notes in English at first. Surprisingly, I wasn’t quite able to write down a proper sentence, while I was having a conversation in English at the same time! I was thinking of grammar and word order and sometimes didn’t find the right words to write down what I wanted to keep in the records.
After a while I gave up this approach and started taking my notes in German. This turned out to be much easier! Was I discovering a new psychological phenomenon here? It seemed to be a lesser task load for the brain to take notes in one’s mother tongue, while having a conversation in a foreign language. Anyway, the Indian student continued to see me and she successfully recovered from her panic disorder. Since then I have been treating patients from many different countries, including the UK, the US, China, Russia, India, Australia, Israel and Ukraine, in English. I enjoy this work and I am finding it very interesting to meet all these people from different backgrounds and cultures. If you are looking for a psychotherapeutic treatment in English, too, you are welcome to contact me by email or phone.
Appartently my clients helped me to improve my ability to process English conversations: After having regular appointments with English speaking patients and thus practicing on a regular basis, I tried to take notes in English again. This time it worked surprisingly well and indeed it helped me to focus and concentrate, not having to switch mentally between languages anymore. My single case study of myself revealed, that after several years of training, I am now well able to speak and write in English at the same time. As a parallel process, I did observe, that sometimes, even in my everyday German life, I am thinking in English. And more remarkably even, I remember that I dreamt in English! At this point I want to thank all my English speaking clients, whether they were native speakers or not, for giving me this opportunity to practice my English and thus to become a better therapist for them.