Step

Asking the group members to describe what it felt like to be present while the individual was speaking another language.

In a recent growth-oriented, eight-hour marathon session with a population of mental health practitioners, one woman was struggling with two simultaneous issues: Feeling like an outsider in California, she was unable to communicate effectively her deeper feelings to her clients and her colleagues; being here with her husband and two children she was also quite homesick for her friends and extended family in Russia. She began to weep, but words were coming slowly and with difficulty.

I asked her (actually in Russian, but that is not mandatory) to repeat what she had said, only this time in Russian. Her countenance slowly became much more open and childlike. As she began talking about her pains of loneliness and fears that she would never make it in this country, she was able to also access a deep pool around issues of rejection and abandonment from her childhood. Although only one other group member understood what she was saying as she spoke in Russian, many of the other group members also had tears flowing.

During the debrief, she explained how she had been separated from her family for almost two years when she was a little girl and how she felt very alone during her medical training in the former Soviet Union. When she was done, the group topic shifted as several other members talked about their feelings as a minority and of loneliness.

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