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What are Losses in Translation?

Losses in translation are just that - losses in translation, and these are losses which result from various transitions in life, from immigration, from retrenchment, from major illness, from major life changes ('mid-life crises') and so on.

A beautiful and succinct notion of what losses can mean, is offered by Judith Viorst, in Necessary Losses. “When we think of loss, we think of the loss through death of people we love. But loss is a far more encompassing theme in our life. For we lose not only through death, but also by leaving and being left, by changing and letting go and moving on. And our losses include not only separation and departures from those we love, but our conscious and unconscious losses of romantic dreams, impossible expectations, illusions of freedom and power, illusions of safety – and the loss of our own younger self. These losses are part of life – universal, unavoidable, inexorable. And these losses are necessary because we grow by losing and leaving and letting go”.

The literature is full of articles and research which make clear that any time people experience a dramatic change or a separation from someone or something important to them, they may experience a welter of different emotions, most often encompassing loss and grief. This is a normal and universal experience which occurs over and over again during people's lifetimes. Losses can involve pain, separation, grief and mourning - but they are an inevitable part of being alive. From the moment we are born, we become subject to losses - whether it be losses of pets, losses of health, losses of friends, losses of support, losses of family - the list is endless.

Thus, losses in translation imply lives in transition - changes, shifts, new understandings, and the losses in translation from one milieu to another imply as well losses of certainty, of understanding, of control, of identity, of all sorts of facets of one's life. One of the major and dramatic causes of losses in translation therefore results from immigration - from having to acculturate in a different country, climate, social and professional milieu, often with limited support systems and multiple pressures.

In short, losses in translation imply losses which occur during the acculturation process from what once was, to what now is.

Losses in Translation was set up in early 2002, as a specific therapy area of a general psychotherapy practice.

So, why was it set up and who set it up?

My name is Michael Cohn and I practice as a psychotherapist in Sydney, Australia.

I have not always practiced as a psychotherapist. My working life started out many years ago as a systems analyst and computer programmer and from there I moved into law, qualifying as an Advocate in the mid 70's and I spent from my mid 20’s to my early 40’s in a corporate environment, as a director of a group of companies, involved in human resources and administration.

In 1988, I emigrated with my family from the country of my birth, South Africa, to live in Israel. I requalified as a lawyer there and in 1989 I was admitted to practice in my new country and in my new language. I lived in Israel for just over 9 years before emigrating yet again with my family, to Sydney, Australia and it was there that I decided to make a momentous change in my life and do something I had always wanted to do - become a psychotherapist.

I went back to study (at the tender age of about 52) and wound up with a Master's degree in Counselling from the University of Western Sydney. My Master's topics were Trauma and Narrative Therapies and the emphasis of my entire post-graduate work centred around what emigration had meant and did mean, to my family and me, on the impact on each of us, and the family dynamics involved in our transition. And much of my work in this area evolved around the question of transition - from one part of life to another. This notion of transition will come up time and again in this web-site.

My deep interest in losses in translation developed from working through my own losses in translation, my own and my family's adjustment to a new country, and my need to work through my own transition and re-invent myself and establish my new identity.

I invite you to explore my site and I hope you find parts of it interesting and worthwhile. But most of all, I hope that it acts as a trigger or catalyst for those of you who are struggling with major changes in your lives.

You really can take meaningful action to make amazing changes for yourselves!

One of the most important aspects of the work I do in this area, whether on a one-on-one basis or in groups, is to offer hope, to motivate, to catalyse and to facilitate shifts in thinking and feeling. The very pain of change offers an opportunity for revival and transformation, from despondency to real, meaningful growth in self. Ultimately, the only way to engage life is … to engage life, and to engage life is to begin to understand that 'proactive people find solutions, while reactive people find problems'. To this end, my practice also involves the teaching of the practice of Mindfulness – the practice of noticing and sitting with, non-judgmentally. This moment of space, of just being, opens the possibility of choice. You have choices! You may not be able to control what winds blow your way, but you can control how you trim their sails. You have a choice whether you see problems or opportunities, whether you see closed doors or open windows. And you have another choice – whether to read the previous sentence as a trite platitude or as meaningful catalyst!

A large part of my practice is involved with transition coaching and I have followed closely on the work of Dr William Bridges whose early and pioneering work in this field in the mid-1970's led to a profound understanding of what transitions in peoples' lives may really encompass. Out of his work has emerged a discrete area of coaching and counselling which helps people engage in these seminal points in their lives, and assists them in successfully navigating the tricky waters and profound changes inherent in these transitions.

Apart from the work which I do with people who have undergone changes, I also do prophylactic or preventative work with pending immigrants - with people who will be making the 'big leap' and I do this via e-mail, chat or telephone and I invite you to visit the e-therapy arm of my practice - that part of the work which I do with people from all over the world. [ www.net-therapy.com ]

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