Date of Paper

5-2012

Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

msw

Department

socialwork

First Advisor

Pa Der Vang

Abstract

This qualitative study explores the experiences of interpreters in mental health settings and examines how working with clients that have experienced torture, trauma, and war can impact their personal and professional lives. The findings from this study are not meant to be viewed as any form of incompetency that needs attention, but rather to shed light on the needs of this population within mental health settings. In working with interpreters, it is the intention of the researcher that mental health practitioners will use these findings to inform and guide their professional work with interpreters in a manner that is ethical and responsible. A review of current literature reveals that there is not enough effective and appropriate training for interpreters; that interpreters frequently experience role conflicts while working with clients; and that interpreters are frequently emotionally impacted by the traumatic material they interpret. The literature review also reveals a gap in the research on the use of interpreters with refugee clients and populations. Four participants were interviewed regarding their experiences as interpreters on handling traumatic client material. A content analysis of the qualitative data using inductive approach and open coding found that a majority of the participants experienced emotional, psychological, and some cognitive impact in varying degrees that they struggled to manage and cope with on a regular basis. These findings suggest that a majority of the participants have struggled or are struggling with components of vicarious trauma throughout their interpreting experiences and would benefit from more training; additional coping and self-care strategies; guidance on how to navigate changing relationships in the community; and more focus on the healing and hope that can come from their role.

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