Online proceedings for the IRCT General Assembly and 10th International Scientific Symposium - Delivering on the Promise of the Right to Rehabilitation

Time: 15:40 to 16:00 Download Presentation


The role that interpreters play in counselling is complex and multifaceted. This may be compounded by the interpreter's own possible traumatic experiences, as well as the potentially inadequate training received to deal with the emotional and traumatic stories that are dealt with in the therapy room: Interpreters need to be trained to deal with the content of torture, the continuous traumas and daily stressors that clients experience in South Africa and how to respond appropriately to the emotional reactions of clients.


In order to better understand the roles that interpreters play in the therapeutic space, this paper draws on qualitative information regarding how interpretation is played out in therapy with torture survivors. Intervention process notes and capacity building assessments are analysed, and focus groups and interviews conducted with clinicians and interpreters in order to illicit what role interpreters' play in the therapeutic space and how this impacts clients as well as therapeutic relationships.


The understanding that therapists come with regarding what role interpreters play in the therapeutic space is essential in deconstructing the challenges and achievements in therapy: whether interpretation is simply the direct translation of the words that the clinician and client use in the session or the interpretation of both the words as well as the cultural and emotional understanding of clients is fundamental to the role played by the interpreters. Where that line gets drawn is important in the clinical understanding of interpretation and how interpreters consider their roles.

Additionally, given the training that clinicians receive and their expertise regarding counselling skills, there are sensitive nuances in therapy that clinicians are trained to respond to. The interpreters, however, understand essential cultural nuances that may influence the counselling processes. This paper attempts to explore the boundaries and connections between these two areas.

Funding & No Conflicts Declaration

Funding for this study is provided by USAID. The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

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