Mental Health Interpreting

Helping to provide empathic care to patients.

mental health interpreting

Mental Health Interpreting

Professionally trained and sensitive to patients’ needs, our interpreters make emotionally vulnerable therapies, evaluations, and appointments ripe opportunities for mental health professionals to provide empathetic care to patients.

Never worked with an interpreter before? Don’t sweat it! We’ve included some helpful tips to ensure your inclusive experience goes smoothly. Still anxious? Reach out to a coordinator or ADA-specialist to ask a question or discuss how to prepare for your appointment.

Tips for Working with Mental Health Interpreters

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    Request mental health interpreting services as soon as the Deaf, Deaf-blind, or hard-of-hearing patient schedules an appointment. You are able to cancel most appointments 48-72 hours before the request date, so do not hesitate to request an interpreter as early as you receive notice.

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    When submitting your initial interpreter request, please share any information that would assist the interpreter in their work. Relative information includes: the patient’s name, mental health diagnosis, sensitive topics that may be discussed (abuse, alcoholism, DV, etc), any patient “triggers,” or any special requests to make the patient feel comfortable.

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    If the Deaf person has requested a preferred provider or gender of the provider, please include these details in your request. You may also wish to ask if the patient has any additional preferences for their interpreter, such as a Deaf Interpreter (DI or CDI) or a Trilingual interpreter. If you are unsure which services are best for your patient, reach out to an ICS coordinator for assistance.

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    Anticipate the interpreter arriving 15-20 minutes prior to the appointment start time. Ensure the interpreter has all necessary parking and security clearances so they are not delayed in arriving. On the interpreter’s first visit, they may request a briefing of the patient’s history to support their interpreting and minimize the frequency of clarification.

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    An interpreter never signs any documentation or makes decisions on behalf of a patient. Please respect the patient’s autonomy by addressing them directly and not handing papers with PII to the interpreter.

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    Respect the interpreters’ scheduled time. Freelance interpreters provide services for multiple requests every day. Holding an interpreter past the confirmed time postpones their schedule and results in supplemental invoice charges.

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    If an additional appointment is scheduled, please refrain from asking the on-site interpreter if they are available. Instead, submit all follow-up or referral appointment requests to ICS immediately, so our coordinators can begin securing an appropriate, qualified interpreter.

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    When using an interpreter in a medical office or hospital, advise all pertinent medical personnel to adhere to the following rules of communication:

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    Always speak directly to the patient, never to the interpreter. Address the patient in first person language (ex: “How are you feeling today?” instead of “How is she feeling today?”) and maintain respectable eye contact with your patient as customary.

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    Medical personnel do not need to speak slower for the interpreter; however, clear and precise language does assist to ensure your patient leaves with a proper understanding of their visit.

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    Your patience is appreciated as the interpreter clarifies any details or questions. Particularly when discussing medical history or medications, it is not uncommon nor detrimental for there to be occasional lapses of silence as the interpreter communicates with your patient. The interpreter may interrupt to request the spelling of a medication or to clarify a term unfamiliar to them or the patient.

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    Do not leave the interpreter in the room alone with a patient. Similarly, ensure the interpreter is positioned near an easy exit, especially for high risk patients.