Mental Health Interpreting

Wholistic, treatment-focused interpreting services that prioritize each patients’ needs and comfort.

What is Mental Health Interpreting?

Mental Health Interpreting​

Mental illness affects people from all walks of life, from combat veterans to Hollywood A-listers. Counseling, psychiatry, psychotherapy, social work, forensic therapy, substance abuse treatment, psychological testing, and many other specialized fields all contribute to the treatment of mental health issues, which cover a wide range of conditions from social phobia to post-traumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, many people face obstacles on their path to receiving proper mental health care. Having the courage to recognize and ask for assistance is challenging enough, but this can become even tougher for those living with hearing loss.

In the event of a mental health crisis, it is crucial that the appropriate medical personnel be readily available to assist a patient in a transparent and fluent manner.

In addition to hearing loss, some ASL users (the Deaf, Deaf-blind, hard-of-hearing, late deafened, and those with verbal communication impediments) have struggled with unnecessarily prolonged mental health issues, hindering their ability to effectively live fulfilling lives. This insight is crucial for medical professionals to be aware of. It’s easy to imagine how Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals confront a unique set of obstacles when trying to access mental health services. Without effective communication accommodations and cultural mediation, the possibility of an incorrect diagnosis and improper care rises dramatically. People who are Deaf, Deaf-blind, and hard of hearing are not given the same quality of care as those who are able to hear unless a qualified Mental Health Interpreter is properly integrated into the treatment plan.

Who Benefits from Mental Health Sign Language Interpreting?

Providing high-quality ASL interpreting services in mental health settings is challenging due to the breadth of the subject and the depth of expertise required for the variety of subfields. Thus, a professional support system committed to the proper equal access of the patient is essential from the first appointment. Whether in a hospital, urgent care, or private therapy practice, the mental health team should request a qualified interpreter at least two weeks prior to the start of services; although, this much notice is not always available for psychiatric emergencies. This is why it’s imperative that hospitals and medical offices form partnerships with credible interpreting agencies with a history and reputation for providing patient-focused interpreting services. Agencies like Inclusive Communication Services maintain detailed profiles of qualified mental health interpreters, denoting their strengths, weaknesses, and triggers to ensure optimal pairing of patients with a qualified interpreter who can understand them and make them feel comfortable and included in the overwhelming healthcare setting. Professional mental health interpreters collaborate and attend development courses to learn best practices, seek advice on ethical concerns, and debrief about the ups and downs of the career that requires them to deal with raw human emotion.

Interpreters work with persons of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Healthcare providers and Deaf patients, some of whom may have language or communication barriers, can have intimate and impactful conversations when properly accommodated by a qualified mental health interpreter. Deaf patients can benefit greatly from the services provided by Mental Health Interpreters. This includes consideration for using a Certified Deaf Interpreter to ensure optimally clear and culturally-sensitive communication with the patient in their native sign language and modality. Qualified Mental Health Interpreters are well-versed and prepared for a variety of relevant areas that can emerge during healthcare discussions, such as substance abuse problems and domestic violence.

In the mental health care setting, qualified sign language interpreters work closely with patients and service providers to eliminate cultural barriers and educate on equal-access best practices and patient rights. Sign language interpreters sometimes act as patient advocates because Mental health practitioners run the risk of potentially violating the rights of Deaf and hard-of-hearing patients if they’re not properly informed. Some common examples include if a doctor chooses a course of therapy without consulting the patient through a qualified interpreter, or a doctor forces the patient to agree to something that the patient isn’t afforded equal access to. In other cases, doctors or therapists may advise against the best course of action because they misunderstand the independence and capabilities of the Deaf, Deaf-blind, and hard-of-hearing communities. Mental health interpreters double as an educational resource to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Professional interpreters in the field of mental health are comfortable communicating with people from a wide variety of cultural, religious, and socioeconomic groups. A competent Mental Health Interpreter will always act in accordance with professional standards and with the utmost care for their patient’s best interest.

Why is Mental Health Interpreting Important?

The diagnosis of mental health requires clear and precise communication because it is not necessarily as transparent or objective as a physical diagnosis. Mental health providers who refuse or neglect to provide proper communication accommodations can pose a serious threat to the patient’s well-being, because they add unnecessary hurdles to the healing process and may even create further suffering.

Professional Mental Health Interpreters are essential since most doctors and nurses do not know enough ASL to have intimate conversations, discuss diagnoses, or suggest therapies. Interpreters are trained to bridge the gap between Deaf and hard-of-hearing patients and hearing healthcare providers in a way that is ethical, inclusive, empowering, and responsible.

Interpreters specializing in mental health are sensitive to the cultural needs of clients with histories of victimization, chronic mental illness, and criminal behavior. The ability to observe and not pass judgment on patients’ circumstances, as well as to maintain neutrality and composure in the face of emotional intensity, are essential skills for qualified interpreters. Language service providers can better serve their clients by recognizing their own prejudices and limitations through continued cultural immersion and professional development.

Sign language interpreters need to be familiar with the norms and values of the mental health care industry, as well as the dynamics between different service providers and patients. Interpreters working in the field of mental health are well-versed in the many settings in which medical treatment is provided and do their best to conform with the profession’s goals while advocating on behalf of the patient.

In this line of work, interpreters and translators frequently come into contact with emotionally fragile clients, some of whom may be easily triggered or react violently, so it’s important to consult with your interpreter on the ideal arrangement to ensure the safety of all parties. A competent Mental Health Interpreter is physically aware, sensitive, and ready to act in any situation. It is second nature for most healthcare interpreters to position themselves such that the patient is at ease while ensuring a clear exit route out of the room should the patient become a threat. Both the patient’s and the mental health provider’s personal space is respected. Professional interpreters in the field of mental health are trained to recognize dangerous situations in the workplace and take measures to proactively address them.

Why Choose Inclusive Communication Services for Mental Health Interpreting?

Mental Health Interpreters should be heavily experienced interpreters who have participated in mentorships, professional development, and continued education to ensure they provide quality equal-access both for Deaf and hard-of-hearing patients as well as the hearing healthcare team. At ICS, we place a special focus on working with professional interpreters who have the qualifications, training, cultural awareness, and competencies to work in this delicate setting. Our interpreters are well-versed in the mental health profession’s terminology, research, and developments, and they regularly bridge knowledge gaps through ongoing training and education.

In addition to knowing their own strengths and weaknesses, ICS’s mental health sign language interpreters are very self-aware. If our Mental Health Interpreters know they cannot provide objective services, they’ll inform the health care provider and service coordinator immediately so that the patient can be connected with a proper interpreter to meet their needs. Our language professionals are able to recognize when an assignment is having a negative impact on their emotional or mental health and take steps for proper self-care and debriefing.

If your organization is in need of certified Mental Health Interpreters, ICS can help! We work closely with mental health care service providers and teams, placing particular focus on meeting the needs of our Deaf, Deaf-blind, and hard-of-hearing consumers in a caring, sensitive, and conducive manner. To discuss your interpreting needs, reach out to an ICS service coordinator today!

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