“The necessary evil”- an exploration into the provision of sign language interpreters in therapy and its effect on the therapeutic relationship

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O’Donnell, Joanne
Issue Date
Higher Diploma in Arts in Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The author of this dissertation is a sign language interpreter who works closely with the Deaf community and has become interested in exploring the implications of interpretation in therapy. The aim of the study is to understand the use of the sign language interpreter, while also examining the impact of their presence on the therapeutic relationship. Due to newly established accessibility laws in Ireland, it was necessary to carry out research in order to provide an overview of the current literature surrounding the process that takes place when a Deaf person avails of interpreted mental health services. Language was identified as an essential element in the success of therapy, with the use of a sign language interpreter emerging as the most realistic option when working with a Deaf client. It was established that although a necessary addition for communication purposes, the interpreter brings with them much more than linguistic translation. For this reason, they are identified as the necessary evil. Issues such as translation inaccuracies and triadic relationship problems were found to have a profound impact on the therapeutic alliance, reducing the effectiveness of the therapy. In order to combat these negative effects, techniques such as professional collaboration and implementation of boundaries were discussed, leading to an improved sense of effectiveness. The research concluded with an observation of potential successes when using an interpreter in therapy. However, due to the lack of literature in many key areas, it notes that there is a substantial need for further exploration into this topic.