‘Lost in translation’ – a qualitative study of therapists experience in counselling cross cultural clients and the need for an interpreter

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Antolovi, Chiara
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BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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With the ever rising cultural diversity within Ireland over the past twenty to thirty years, there also comes a great need for knowledge within cross cultural therapy, such as language, how we speak and express ourselves. Most of the literature in cross cultural psychotherapy comes under different umbrellas such as mental health and vicarious trauma. This purpose of this study was to explore the therapist's experience of counselling clients whose first language is not English and needing the use of an interpreter. It also examined any challenges and barriers that emerged from this. A qualitative approach using semi structured interviews was used to gather information. Four psychotherapists working in different practice centres and having experience working with interpreters within Dublin participated in this study. Three key themes emerged: the role the interpreter adopted cultural differences and the therapeutic relationship. Further issues that emerged were language barriers, miscommunication, vicarious therapist, boundaries and the qualifications and training of the interpreters. Two therapists reported having an interpreter in the therapy room worked to a certain point but slowed down the process and two reported that it just did not work but recognised that it is a necessity when the client does not have enough English. The interpreters qualifications and training were questioned and the need for additional training when working in the therapeutic space. It was acknowledged that interpreters do not have training like the therapist but there is a need for interpreters to have supervision especially when working with traumatic events.