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Entering into Different Worlds: Ethnographic Participatory Supervision for Bilingual Clinicians

Shi-Jiuan Wu, Ph.D., &Arlene Katz Ed.D.

Discourse lives, as it were, on the boundary between its own context and another, alien con-
text. (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 284)
In order to write of my childhood I have to translate. It is as if I am writing about someone
else. As a boy, I lived in French; now I live in English. The words dont fit, because languages
are not equivalent to one another... Its not that the boy couldnt understand these phrases. It
is that in order to do so, he would have to translate, and that would mean engaging an elec-
trical circuit in his brain, bypassing his heart. (Sant, 1997, p. 99)
I suppose I am never completely present in any given moment, since different aspects of
myself are contained in different rooms of language, and a complicated apparatus of air-
locks prevents the doors from being flung open all at once. (Sant, 1997, p. 111)

An Invitation vited to speak about their cultural experiences

This article is written to introduce a way of su- and how such experiences inform them as a
pervision for bilingual clinicians who are prac- person and therapist in a moment to moment
ticing therapy in their local language and neces- kind of practice. How bilingual practitioners
sarily are having to navigate between their local travel between their native language and English
language and English. For one of us (SJW), a is rarely addressed in supervision. Consequently,
Chinese clinician practicing therapy in an Eng- their voice is not fully present; only the voice
lish dominant discourse environment, fitting-in that fits into the mainstream can be present.
with the developed theories, journal articles, In supervision with AK, SJW experienced many
presentations of well-organized workshops and moments of being invited to speak in her own,
conferences had always been the priority in her indigenous, native voice. It created in her not
professional development. However, she was only a sense of access to her own language and
aware that something about herself as a person culture, but a new sense of resourcefulness. To-
was still missing. She did not at first realize what gether, we felt that in the local world we were
it was. But as she began to work with her super- building together, we could draw on both the
visor (AK), she was able to articulate these con- Chinese and the Western worlds (Katz & Shot-
cerns in ways which made sense to her. From ter, 1996; Shotter & Katz, 1996). Each of us
SJWs perspective, the overall concern of bilin- could be, and were struck by events which
gual trainees is that if they are supervised solely raised possibilities for navigating between the
through the dominant supervision discourse world of Western professional language and
(such as various supervision theory models) culture, and SJWs own Chinese language and
without receiving much curiosity about what culture.
might be the unknown, they are not often in-
Ethnographic Participatory Supervision Siegel, & Rappo, 1997). It encouraged her to
To give it a name, we can call this different kind articulate what she was doing from within her
of supervision, Ethnographic Participatory Su- doing of it in such a way that she could grasp
pervision. Although it resonates with and builds how to carry it across from one situation into
on some of the ideas of collaborative language another.
system (Anderson & Goolishian, 1988) and re- For SJW, crucial in doing this, were certain
flecting process (Andersen, 1991) approaches, it ways of speaking, certain words of AK which
elaborates on them in perhaps unexpected ways. drew her attention to issues which otherwise
We share with them an emphasis on relational would have passed by unnoticed. AK, so to
meaning as co-constructed through reciprocal speak, entered into SJWs world to remind her
conversations and constant co-reflection on a of the something she had felt early to be
moment to moment, ongoing basis. Central to missing from her psychotherapeutic experi-
our stance, however, is the crucial role we attach ences: what is at stake for each of us in our
to events which we feel signal the making of lived experience, for clients, supervisees, and
significant differences in the clients world. We supervisors alike. Psychotherapy became no
focus on events, on poetic moments, which longer only a cognitive process for SJW. She
arouse in us the most curiosity and wondering. began to sense from the inside, so to speak,
A poetic stance of this kind invites and ad- why her Chinese experiences mattered.
dresses multiple potential possibilities instead of Multi-Cultural Episodes
a single kind of truth (Katz & Shotter. 1996;
Shotter & Katz, 1996). For SJW, the turn to a more multi-cultural
stance began with the following questions and
Joint Creative Engagement in Ethnographic response:
Participatory Supervision AK: Would you like to bring your Chinese case
In order to understand SJWs local and practice notes to our next meeting? So we can talk about
experiences of working with Chinese clients, we your clients experiences in her own words?
tracked the process of supervision in our local SJW: I have never thought about that I can do
worlds. SJW kept a journal, recording in it this with my Chinese client in English-speaking
events which illustrated the differences between supervision. What a wonderful idea! Yes! I defi-
her Chinese and Western sensitive practices in nitely want to give it a try after so many years of
the following manner: losing my usage of my mother language in su-
1. Conversations with clients were docu- pervision.
mented and reflected on before her ethno-
graphically sensitive supervision with AMK. Later co-reflections
2. These reflecting notes were brought to su- SJW: I was totally shocked when my supervi-
pervision and co-reflected with AMK. sor asked me to bring my Chinese case notes to
supervision. I could not believe what I heard
3. Then we documented this conversation. but felt so welcomed in bringing in the clients
4. And then we began the process againSJW own language and my native language. My heart
talked with clients, documented, reflected was pounding fast and I felt more openings
and brought the writings again back to su- would come. I could not wait. Its just a wonder-
pervision. ful moment. Later I thought about what does
This on-going documentation of reflections this mean to me. It means my memories from
and co-reflections allows us to collect data and being a Chinese finally gets invited in my own
to reflect on the data as we move along. Such a language, not just primarily in English. This is
self-articulating, self-elaborating process allowed very special for me.
SJW to begin to describe her own practice from AK: I was struck by Shi-Jiuans embodied
within it, both to herself (in her own inner dia- sense of herself and others, and how an imme-
logues) and to others (including AK) (Katz, diate sense of what matters and what is mean-

ingful can get invited. There is a difference be- SJW: Exactly. What word would people use for
tween a position of having to translate and this meaning here?
work out what matters through a professional AK: Probably, passing the time, going with the
framework and re-claiming a sensibility from flow.
her own language and the nuances of her In other words, what could easily have been a
worldan immediate and spontaneous sense misunderstanding herethat by killing the
from Chinese. time the woman meant wasting time, get-
SJW: I was given significance and voicerather ting through it somehow, rather than being
than felt differences being silenced, colonized. I fully engaged, or captivated by her taskswas
feel I can be more who I am and this can help brought to light. It would have been easy for a
me enter my world with others and appreciate supervisor to see the Chinese woman, and her
words differently. relations to her husband, in a completely wrong
But why was SJW so moved by such a simple light.
invitation? The risk to the bilingual clinicianthe Later Co-Reflections
loss, in practicing therapy and having supervi-
sion solely in a dominant language settingis SJW: I was struck by how Arlene approached
that all the nuances, sounds, local phrases, sen- the translated words. She did not assume she
sations from the local language are put aside if knew the meaning of killing the time. Instead,
not openly welcomed. The bilingual clinician is she asked curious questions to invite me to re-
not able to access her local resources through flect on what does it mean and shift thinking in
her mother-tongue language. Sometimes this is between Chinese and English. Its so easy to
of crucial importance. We offer below what think from our point of view and risk patholo-
could appear as a typical referral of a client gizing our client. This is a powerful lesson for
who is depressed. Yet we soon realize that we me and I need to sense words even with more
cant automatically translate depression from humility and curiosity because it allows me to
Chinese to English. A whole world opens up better enter into my clients world and help my
for us as we enter into her Chinese words and client based on her world view, not upon mine.
her worldwhat matters to her. We begin with AK: We notice how a short phrase can be
her own words (as translated by SJW): strikingfait invites a whole world of mean-
Client: Because my husband does not have ingfaand we want to know what that world is.
job, I let him cook. But I also become lazier. I For this client a sign of wanting to feel better
used to live with my mother-in-law in Taiwan. would be that she could kill the timeshe
At that time, I was under more pressure but its would then be able to go with the flow, let
easier to kill the time. Now my business does things happen, go along with her energies. By
not go well, its much harder to kill the time. entering into the words and worlds them-
selves, I was afforded an opportunity to learn of
In supervision: the different aspects of words and phrases in
AK: I am interested in the words and meaning Chinese from the characters that form them, a
of killing the time. kind of invitation to enter into spaces of possi-
SJW: In Chinese, it is pronounced da fa. Da bility, a sense of wonder in learning the subtle
means beat up, fa means releasing. Fa is how nuances of words that can too often be taken
you use your time. Oftentimes it means one may for granted. In navigating these different worlds,
not have to plan how to spend the time. This we make visible what we can learn from each
client wanted to be able to use her time well but other; and become aware of what matters most
did not know how to use her time in a good for each of us. It asks us to become aware of
way. another world, point of view, culturea particu-
lar kind of answerability that makes us aware of
AK: So killing the time is more how she can
what is at stake for each of us in this emerging
manage her time positively. Its not like she did
not want to do things.

local moral world (Kleinman, 1995) between we play some more with each other? For SJW,
us and with our clients. this collaborative and generative process has
And SJW not only became my guide, but she been transformatory; something that she has
went on to become aware of aspects of her not experienced from the textbooks. Even now
own language that she herself had taken for she is still touched by it and believes it will stay
granted. As she said, If you were a Chinese with her throughout her life.
speaker these questions may not be asked. References
And she then went on to be struck by seeing Andersen. T. (1991). The reflecting team. New
what had been a familiar word in a new way. York, NY: W.W. Norton.
This space of engagement is not just about
Anderson, H., & Goolishian, H. (1988). Human
Chinese and English, or professional discourse systems as linguistic systems: Evolving ideas
and lived experience, but about the richness of about the implications for theory and practice.
daring to enter into very different worlds with Family Process, 27, 371-393.
another person. What is at stake for clinicians in
training whose first language is not English, Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). The dialogic imagination. In
whose lived experience is divided between (at M. Holquist, (Ed.), Translated by C. Emerson &
least) two different cultural worlds? A whole M. Holquist. Austin, TX: University of Texas
world of experience can be kept in the back- Press.
ground, in learning a professional practice. Not Katz A. M., & Shorter, J. (1996). Hearing the
only listening to their voicesbut what is at patients voice: Toward a social poetics in diag-
stake for them as they navigate between very nostic interviews. Social Science and Medicine,
different worlds, the professional world and, 43(6), 919-931.
their own local cultures, their own languages. Katz, A. M., Siegel, B. S., & Rappo, P. (1997).
Conclusion Reflections from a collaborative pediatric men-
torship program: Building a community of re-
We write this paper as an invitation to dialogue sources. Ambulatory Child Health, 3, 101-112.
and exchange on what we have found to be
critical issues in the process of multicultural Kleinman, A. (1995). Writing at the Margins:
supervision. We have experienced the process Discourse between anthropology and medicine.
of Ethnographic Participatory Supervision as Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
one way in which to conduct bilingual supervi- Sant, L. (1997). Lingua Franca. Granta, 59, 99-
sion. For SJW, a bilingual clinician, the process 111.
has been striking and has brought out more of Shorter, J., & Katz, A. M. (1996). Living mo-
herself as a Chinese clinician who wants to ments in dialogical exchanges. In V. Hansen
share her personal and professional experiences (Ed.), Dialog og Refleksjon: Festchrift for Professor
with the readers. As AK commented: Its like Tom Andersens 60th birthday.
two languages, two cultures play and mingle Shi-Jiuan Wu, PhD, is an AAMFT Clinical Member
with each other. The question now is how we and Approved Supervisor in Greenville, North Caro-
can invite bilingual clinicians to bring forward lina.
more of who they are, of their world, thus to
enrich our knowledge in the field of supervision Arlene Katz, EdD, is an AAMFT Clinical Member
from native and local points of view; how can and Approved Supervisor in Cambridge, Massachusetts.