Why Behavioral Health in Interpreting


The terms "behavioral health" and "mental health" are often used interchangeably. For the purpose of interpreters training, we will use them as synonyms. 

Behavioral healthcare is an umbrella term that refers to a continuum of services for individuals at risk of, or suffering from, mental, behavioral, or addictive disorders. Behavioral health, as a discipline, refers to mental health, psychiatric, marriage and family counseling, and addictions treatment, and includes services provided by social workers, counselors, psychiatrist, psychologists, neurologists, and physicians.

Communication with individuals affected by mental illness can present significant challenges to the psychologist or therapist who is providing treatment. The inability to follow an organized thought process, or to use a grammatically or phonetically structured speech, and/or experiencing hallucinations and delusions,  can severely impact the patients’ ability to provide cohesive answers to the provider's questions during treatment. The challenge is greater when an individual undergoing mental health treatment is either Deaf or Hard of Hearing or speaks a language other than the provider's language.  For the interaction to be successful the interpreter must be able to manage the challenges and responsibilities of facilitating communication between the therapist and patient.

Interpreters who work in the mental health setting play a critical role in fostering the therapeutic relationship between the mental health professional and the patient.  However, the decision-making process and strategies of interpreters engaged in mental health related encounter is far more sophisticated than interpreters with general interpreting experience.

The other aspect of this topic relates to the self-care and well-being of the interpreters engaged in trauma related sessions, where trauma is here used to refer to any deeply distressing or disturbing experience.  Recent researches show that interpreters suffer the trauma they interpret at least four times if they have not been able to build strong enough resilience to protect their emotions and feelings. Hence the need for specific interpreters trainings on how to perform during these sessions, to build resilience and to take care of themselves.