The interpreter is not an invisible being: a thematic analysis of the impact of interpreters in mental health service provision with refugee clients

Trephina Gartley, Clemence Due

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: Given that many refugees are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and may have limited English language competency, health professionals must frequently work with interpreters to provide services to clients. This study aims to examine how working with an interpreter affects mental healthcare for refugee clients. In particular, the study aims to consider the perspectives and opinions of mental health practitioners who have worked with refugee clients with the help of an interpreter, along with identifying what factors play a role in enhancing or limiting the therapeutic alliance between mental health professionals and clients where an interpreter is mediating communication. Method: Mental health professionals (specifically registered mental health social workers and clinical psychologists) working with refugees in South Australia were interviewed (N = 7). Data were analysed using thematic analysis, as part of a qualitative research paradigm. Results: Analysis of the data identified the following key themes: “refugees are unique,” “interpreters are necessary and important,” “interpreters are important to the therapeutic alliance,” “interpreters can present challenges to therapy and therapeutic relationships,” and “training is a problem.” The supportive presence of interpreters, along with the multiple roles interpreters often adopt inside and outside the therapy room, were also highlighted as important in building strong therapeutic alliances. Conclusion: This study found that interpreters were considered to be an integral part of providing mental healthcare to refugee clients, and sometimes contributed to the therapeutic alliance themselves. Future research could incorporate the experiences of interpreters and refugee clients to provide a more comprehensive perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-40
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian Psychologist
Volume52
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

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