Beyond the Language Barrier: Recommendations for Working With Interpreters in Individual Psychotherapy

W. Blake Martin, Natalie N. Benedetto, Daniel K. Elledge, Aysha Najjab, Laura Howe-Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of interpreters in health care settings is associated with improved clinical care for patients. Interpreters may also be helpful in psychotherapy sessions, as they improve communication between the psychologist and patient and may also serve as cultural brokers when appropriate. There are clear guidelines for best practices in the use of interpreters in medical settings but comparatively little guidance on the use of interpreters in the therapy setting. A creation of guidelines is warranted, as therapy sessions differ from traditional medical appointments in the length of session, discussion of intensely emotional matters, and preferably the use of the same interpreter across sessions. However, there are several challenges to using interpreters in the unique therapy setting, specifically: the potential for a dual relationship, transitioning from a dyadic to a triadic relationship, professional burnout in interpreters, potential lack of psychologist cultural knowledge, and unique considerations for termination. This paper discusses each of these challenges in turn and provides proposed solutions. Through addressing these difficulties, we hope to foster more purposeful collaboration between psychologists and interpreters, resulting in improved treatment outcomes for patients, increased patient satisfaction, and a sense of well-being for both psychologists and interpreters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalProfessional Psychology: Research and Practice
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Culture
  • Ethics
  • Interpreter
  • Psychotherapy
  • Translator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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