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Language a barrier to seeking counselling

South Africans are adept at talking – with 11 official languages and the majority of the population able to speak more than one dialect, we live in a linguistic melting pot. This diversity can, however, be a barrier to seeking and adhering to mental health services. On International Mother Language Day, which takes place on 21 February, local non-profit Hope House is highlighting the importance of access to counselling in one’s mother tongue.

“Talking about your mental health, struggles and stresses is a deeply personal process and it can be difficult to express oneself in a second or third language. It’s important that everybody has access to counsellors who can speak their language,” says Judy Strickland, a child counsellor and the founder of Hope House Counselling Centre.

Beyond Strickland’s first language of English, Hope House Counselling Centre offers their services in Afrikaans, isiXhosa, Shona and French. “We are always on the look-out for experienced counsellors who speak a range of languages. Being able to offer our services in a variety of different dialects helps us provide a safe and supportive space for everyone in need,” she says.

Language barriers have been found to impact the effective delivery of healthcare in South Africa, particularly within the disciplines of mental health and nutrition. According to research on the subject, metaphors and idioms are often used when describing pain and distress – this means that mental health practitioners need to have cultural and linguistic competence to effectively communicate with their clients.

“People who may need mental health services during a period of depression, grief or trauma may not be getting the help they need because they feel unable to express themselves in the language spoken by their counsellor. This could result in them withdrawing from their sessions,” says Strickland.

Hope House offers donation-based counselling services to anyone that needs help. Located in Bergvliet, Table View and Kuilsrivier, the counselling centres are actively involved in making individual and family counselling available to everyone within the Cape Town community. Strickland is also an experienced counsellor trainer, who offers short courses to adults interested in topics such as depression and anxiety, marriage counselling, play therapy, grief and loss and addictions. For more information on Hope House and its services, visit or call 021 715 0424.



Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications:
Kirsten Macnab
021 447 1082 / 060 528 5857

On behalf of Hope House:
Director: Judy Strickland

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