Given the growing number of immigrant and limited-English-proficiency individuals in the U.S., accessing language-congruent services can be a significant barrier for many seeking mental health treatment. The use of spoken-language interpreters can help address this barrier; however, the interpretation in the context of trauma therapy can be particularly challenging for interpreters without mental health training. This quality improvement study explores issues identified by interpreters assisting in the provision of trauma-focused treatment for primarily immigrant populations. Ten certified medical interpreters (nine Spanish-language interpreters and one American Sign Language interpreter) participated in a focus group at a specialty trauma clinic in the southeastern U.S. Core findings concerned the challenges of interpreting (i.e., use of mental health terminology, little time to process emotionally charged sessions, the impact of vicarious trauma, difficulties related to the speed of interpreting and interpreting for multiple patients at once, logistical difficulties, and the availability of interpreters). Interpreters also identified perceived needs and provided recommendations for overcoming challenges (i.e., holding presession meetings with clinicians, ensuring breaks between trauma patients, creating a support group for interpreters, ensuring a direct telephonic line between interpreters and the trauma clinic, providing interpreters with session materials before appointments, and training clinicians on the use of interpreters specifically for trauma treatment). Specific recommendations for agencies and clinicians new to the use of interpreters for trauma-focused services can ultimately enhance service provision for trauma patients in need of language-congruent services.
Villalobos, B. T., Orengo-Aguayo, R., Castellanos, R., Pastrana, F. A., & Stewart, R. W. (2021). Interpreter perspectives on working with trauma patients: Challenges and recommendations to improve access to care. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/pro0000404
Professional Psychology: Research and Practice