Interpreting for Mental Health Encounters

Interpreting Mental Health

Depending on where they work, medical interpreters can expect to find themselves interpreting in a wide variety of settings – from cardiology and urology to childbirth and eye surgery. However, there is one field that stands out for its unique interpreting challenges – mental health. Encounters related to mental health may take place across many settings and modalities, including inpatient psychiatric wards, over-the-phone counseling sessions, in-office neuropsychological assessment, and group therapy sessions. Topics covered can also vary widely and may include discussions related to addiction, eating disorders, serious psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia or severe depression, bereavement and anxiety. In addition, interpreters may find themselves challenged as they try to faithfully render a message that is extremely long, rambling or incoherent, where clarification or repetition may be impossible due to a patient’s condition or undesirable for fear of interrupting the patient’s painful recollection of a traumatic event. 

In order to be better prepared for interpreting in mental health settings, interpreters should consider educating themselves on all things mental health. To help with this, we put together a list of helpful resources to choose from. 

Educational Resources

Mental Health Training Series from Americans Against Language Barriers 

Kelly Henriquez, a certified Spanish medical interpreter, is working on a series of lectures which are free to watch – you only pay if you’d like to receive CEUs. Currently 2 out of 13 lectures are available to watch. 

Psychiatric Interviews: The Impact of Language from ALTA 

This is a one-hour on demand class that offers participants an opportunity to learn about how to effectively interpret the questions and answers in mental health appointments.

Interpreting in Mental Health, a 25-hour Online Course for Advanced Skills from Cross Cultural Communication Systems. 

This course offers insights into common mental health disorders and interpreting challenges and includes numerous interactive practice activities. 

Introduction to interpreting for mental health from HCIN Learn 

A 1.5-long recording of a 2019 webinar presented by mental health professionals from Hennepin Healthcare which includes an overview of the mental health field and provides recommendations for best interpreting practices. 


What Is Mental Health Interpreting? Subject to Interpretation podcast 

This podcast episode includes an interview with Arianna Aguilar, who has extensive experience in and a passion for interpreting in mental health. 

Latinx Therapy 

This weekly podcast discusses mental health topics related to Latinas, Latinos, and Latinx individuals.

Stories of Stigma: South Asian Mental Health

This podcast series features guests who share their experience or expertise on unique topics related to South Asian Mental Health. 


Other Tongues: Psychological therapies in a multilingual world

The author Beverly Costa argues that a profession that practises ‘talking therapy’ should consider more carefully the challenges and opportunities working multilingually presents. She also explores the important role of interpreters in giving a voice to clients who do not speak English as a first language, and offers guidance on good practice to counsellors working with them.

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves

This book consists of short stories detailing personal encounters between a British psychoanalyst and his patients. 

Whether you decide to attend a class, listen to a podcast, read a book or all of the above, we hope that the suggested resources can help interpreters prepare to interpret in mental health settings!