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URMC / Deaf Wellness Center / Research / Mental Health Interpreting Curriculum


Mental Health Interpreting: A Mentored Curriculum

Mental Health Interpreting: A Mentored Curriculum is a textbook and accompanying video (VHS or DVD) of interpreting vignettes, designed to teach spoken language interpreters and sign language interpreters how to work more effectively in mental health service settings. The curriculum consists of a 139 page text (9 chapters and a resource list) with an accompanying 32 minute video ( DVD) of eleven interpreting vignettes. See below for a listing of the table of contents and descriptions of the interpreting vignettes. For further information about the project that yielded the curriculum, download the Connections MHIC Article and turn to page 7.

The target audience for the curriculum includes foreign language and sign language interpreters who occasionally or frequently work in mental health service settings. There is an open-captioned version of the video for deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers (the regular version of the video shows subtitles when characters speak in a foreign language and their comments are not immediately translated into English). The curriculum was designed and written by a multi-cultural team of bilingual clinicians and mental health interpreters. The text and video are designed to be used together in a learning relationship between the interpreter-trainee and an experienced teacher or mentor. The curriculum format allows for study at the interpreter and mentor's own pace, although it has been used in traditional classroom settings as well. Chapters 1 through 9 begin with a set of learning objectives and end with a learning check or brief examination, so that educational progress can be documented. At the end of most of the chapters, there are instructions about which videotape vignettes to watch, followed by discussion questions for the interpreter and mentor to talk about together to facilitate deeper appreciation of the material and issues raised. The curriculum text is written at a modest English reading level and is formatted with a 1.5 line-spaced text and wide margins to facilitate note-taking. The table of contents and descriptions of the videotape vignettes appears below. The price for the DVD and the text is $24 each ($48 for both). (The DVD includes both standard and open-captioned versions.) Orders and correspondence should be sent to Dr. Robert Pollard. The curriculum may also be ordered by contacting Dr. Pollard at (585) 727-2765.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: About This Curriculum

Chapter 2: The Role of the Interpreter

  • Types of Interpreters
  • The Evolving Role of Sign Language Interpreters

Chapter 3: Ethics in Mental Health Interpreting

  • Confidentiality
  • Counseling, Advising, and Adding Personal Opinion

Chapter 4: Mental Health Professionals

  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Social Workers
  • Psychiatric Nurses
  • Students, Interns, and Residents
  • Other Mental Health Workers

Chapter 5: Mental Illnesses and the DSM System

  • Diagnoses and the DSM System
  • Common Axis I Diagnoses and Interview Questions

Chapter 6: Mental Health Settings and Clinicians' Objectives

  • Acute Care and Emergency Rooms
  • Crisis Services
  • Inpatient Services
  • Outpatient Services
  • Other Clinician Objectives

Chapter 7: Interpreting and Dysfluent Patients

  • What is Dysfluency?
  • The Interpreting Role and Dysfluent Patients
  • Strategies for Interpreting With Dysfluent Patients

Chapter 8: Dynamics of Mental Health Interpreting Work

  • The Nature and Importance of Dynamics
  • Emotions, Trauma, and Tragedy
  • Difficult or Unusual People
  • Danger and Control
  • Confidentiality
  • Transference
  • Countertransference
  • Cross-Cultural Dynamics

Chapter 9: Cross Cultural Issues in Mental Health Interpreting

  • Human Variability and the Interpreter's Role
  • Broad Cross-Cultural Issues in Mental Health Interpreting
  • Specific Cross-Cultural Issues in Mental Health Interpreting

Resource List

Summaries of the Eleven Vignettes

The Introduction

An example of a recommended pre-session, in which a Spanish language interpreter and a clinician discuss what each other needs to know to prepare for an upcoming intake.

Cultural Bonds

A Russian-speaking patient makes several private side-comments to the interpreter, who then takes a moment to explain his role to her.

Cultural Attitudes toward Mental Illness

A two-part scene. In part 1, Chinese cultural values factor heavily in a consumer's reluctance to be cooperative with a clinician. In part 2, the interpreter conducts a post-session, explaining the issues and providing useful advice and information to the clinician.

I Can't Do Your Job for You

A clinician inappropriately pressures a Russian interpreter for clinical guidance. He responds only on language and culture issues.

It's a Small Community

An interpreter seeks confidential supervision to deal with questions and stress pertaining to outside knowledge of a psychiatric patient.

Gender, Age, and Culture

In a pre-session, a Vietnamese language interpreter provides a clinician with guidance on how to handle gender and age issues likely to come up in the forthcoming session.

Linguistic and Cultural Barriers to Translation

A clinician conducting a mental status exam runs into several language and cultural problems that hinder the assessment. The Spanish language interpreter provides explanation and some guidance on the spot.

Language and Psychosis

A two-part scene on how to (and how not to) handle interpreting for patients' whose language is disrupted by mental illness. In part 1, the interpreter cannot provide coherent translations and just gives up. In part 2, the interpreter shifts to third person and provides additional language information.

Embarrassing Moments

A two-part scene showing alternate ways to translate a patient's comments that are offensive and embarrassing (a common interpreter concern). In part 1, the Spanish language interpreter translates verbatim; in part 2, by using some third person distance.