Working with Interpreters in Psychological Therapy

A book Review

Working with interpreters for the first time in a psychological therapy setting sounds daunting. For me it instantly created feelings of anxiety and I thought ‘is it possible to bring a third person into the room? It would take me the counsellor into an uncomfortable setting. Surely this would affect the quality of the therapeutic relationship?

Last autumn I took on the role of psychological therapist at Sheffield Refugee Council  which meant I was suddenly thrown into the deep end of working with interpreters. As an experienced counsellor, I felt confident in my work but I felt unsettled working with interpreters.

I have been fortunate enough to be working with Jude Boyles who introduced me to her book. The book has helped me address my anxieties as well as the numerous questions floating in my mind. The book has also given me practical steps to consider when working with interpreters throughout the counselling process.

The authors, Jude Boyles and Natalie Talbot, have established a long working therapist and interpreter relationship, and bring these experiences and their lessons learnt into this book.

The book is set out concise chapters addressing working with interpreters such as what is their role, good practice, managing the dynamics, as well as looking at how to brief and support the interpreter. It also provides good practice to managing the therapeutic relationship with an interpreter. Each chapter ends with practical steps to summarize what has been written. These are useful if you don’t have time to read the entire book, as well as being used as a quick reference.

I found the chapter on learn how to debrief the interpreter helpful. Simple things like if the client gives you a letter, make sure the interpreter hands it over to you and you read it out. If you leave the room, take the interpreter with you do not leave them with the client in the room on their own. Always ensure you debrief the interpreter at the end of each session and provide them support for the work they hear from your clients. Check they are ok, and give them a chance to talk about the impact it has had on them. An hourly meeting with my interpreter before I started sessions with the useful tips given in this book was critical to that first session.

The other chapter that stood out for me was the endings. As counsellor we focus a lot on the endings, and ensuring we give our clients a smooth ending. This book highlights that you need to include the interpreter in the ending. They can be impacted on the work the client brings. They need to be included in the ending and ensure the interpreters do not have a relationship with the client after the ending.

As a novice who hasn’t worked with interpreters in a therapeutic setting, this book helped reassure me, as well as provide useful advice to ensure good practice. It taught me not to be afraid working with interpreters. You’ll be pleased to hear with the help of this book, that my first session with my client and interpreter went smoothly.

The book is easy to read without any technical jargon or in-depth theory. It is a practical short book. I would recommend the book. It has been a useful guide to reassuring me my work with interpreters. The only drawback is the price. The hardback copy is £45. Presently the kindle version is £15 which I feel is a more realistic price for a book of this size.


1 thought on “Working with Interpreters in Psychological Therapy”

  1. Pingback: 7 things I learned working with interpreters in the counselling room - Counselling in your Community

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