A pilot study on interpreting in mental health interactions

Demand for mental health services is increasing due to increased rates of reporting and diagnosis and due to an ageing population with increasing rates of dementia-related conditions.  In overall terms, culturally and linguistically diverse Australians make up a significant proportion of patients who seek mental health services, in part also due to aphasia or a decline in acquired language skills.

This project examines psychologist-patient consultations that are interpreter-mediated and focuses on aspects that are key for a psychologist to reach a diagnosis and provide treatment, as well as for a patient to adequately communicate symptoms or issues, and to receive the treatment needed, via an interpreter. The project elicits data from interpreters and psychologists on the following: discourse patterns of psychologists’ and patients’ speech; aspects of non-verbal behaviour; physical configurations in interactions that facilitate or hinder interpreted communication; interpreters receiving a briefing before and de-briefing after mental health interactions; conventions of using consecutive or simultaneous interpreting; negotiation of personal, family and cultural beliefs on mental health and mental health treatment; and vicarious trauma and secondary stress. Findings of this study will inform both research in mental health interpreting and the development of teaching materials for interpreters seeking specialisation in this growing area.

This study provided a knowledge framework that will help to further improve services of psychologist-patient consultations that are interpreter-mediated.

Chief Investigators
Jim Hlavac, Marc Orlando, Rita P. Wilson

Victorian Interpreting & Translating Service (VITS)

Other Partners
Northern Health

Date of Award


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