Interpreting in Mental Health Settings: Bridging Language Barriers for Better Care

Interpreting in Mental Health Settings

Nowhere is communication more critical than in mental health settings, where accurate interpretation can significantly impact patient outcomes. At iTi, we recognize the unique challenges faced by mental health interpreters and the importance of their role. Since 1986, we have been providing language services for mental health and addiction treatment and counseling facilities. This gives us a unique understanding of the specialized skills needed to work effectively in these environments.

The Role of Mental Health Interpreters

What is Interpretation in Mental Health?

Language barriers have a significant impact on mental healthcare access in Limited English Proficient communities[i]. Interpreting in mental health settings involves bridging language and cultural gaps between patients, mental health professionals, and other stakeholders. These interpreters facilitate communication during therapy sessions, psychiatric evaluations, crisis interventions, and more. Their role extends beyond mere language translation; they must also convey emotions, nuances, and context accurately.

Techniques for Effective Mental Health InterpretingHispanic couple speaking with a counselor

  1. Active Listening: Mental health interpreters actively listen to both parties, ensuring they capture the speaker’s tone, emotions, and underlying messages. They remain empathetic and nonjudgmental throughout the process.
  2. Cultural Competence: Understanding cultural norms, beliefs, and taboos is crucial. Mental health interpreters navigate sensitive topics with cultural sensitivity, respecting individual differences.
  3. Neutrality: Interpreters maintain neutrality, avoiding personal opinions or biases. They faithfully convey the speaker’s words without adding or omitting anything.
  4. Clarification: When faced with ambiguous statements, interpreters seek clarification from the speaker. This ensures accurate understanding and prevents miscommunication.

Mental Health Interpreter Certification

The Importance of Qualified Mental Health Interpreters

Training classQualified Medical Interpreters play a pivotal role in ensuring effective communication in a mental health setting. At iTi, our interpreters undergo rigorous training and certification processes. Our nationally recognized training program includes the following:

  1. Language Proficiency: Interpreters must demonstrate fluency in both the source and target languages. They understand medical terminology and mental health concepts.
  2. Ethics and Confidentiality: Mental health interpreters adhere to strict ethical guidelines. They maintain confidentiality and prioritize patient well-being.
  3. Cultural Competency: Our training program emphasizes cultural awareness and sensitivity. Interpreters learn to navigate diverse backgrounds and beliefs.
  4. Specialized Training: Qualified Medical Interpreters receive specialized training related to mental health terminology, therapeutic techniques, and crisis intervention.
  5. And much more. Our 40-hour course for qualified mental health interpreter certification teaches important skills and techniques to be more effective in each session.

For an idea of the scope of knowledge a professional interpreter needs to work in a mental health setting, as well as some of the challenges unique to the field, check out this Student Handbook from The Interpreters Lab.

iTi’s Commitment to Mental Health Interpreting

At iTi, we recognize the critical nature of mental health and behavioral health interpreting. Our commitment includes:

  1. Experience: With extensive experience in healthcare settings, including mental health, we understand the challenges faced by interpreters.
  2. Qualified Interpreters: Our team comprises Qualified Medical Interpreters who meet Affordable Care Act (ACA) standards. They ensure accurate communication between patients and providers.
  3. American Sign Language (ASL): In addition to in-person availability, our most commonly requested languages, including ASL, are available 24/7/365 via our easy access Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) platform. This ensures compliance with accommodations for your deaf and hard-of-hearing clients as required by the Americans with Disabilities act.

Mental Health Translation

Translator working at computerWhile interpreting (the spoken word) is vital to effective mental health treatment for LEP individuals, it is important not to overlook translation (the written word) of materials that are provided to patients and their families. These might include:

  • Treatment plans
  • Progress notes
  • Discharge summaries
  • Informed consent forms
  • Psychiatric advance directives (PAD)
  • Authorization for disclosure of mental health information

Studies show that A.I. translation of documents with specialized terminology produces only 60-90% accuracy. This can result in disastrous results for patients and liability for mental health care organizations. At iTi, we assign professional translators with specific knowledge of the terminology and have rigorous quality control protocols for every translation project.

Authorization to Service State-Run Facilities

Many mental health facilities are fully or partially funded by state and/or federal sources. Interpreters and Translators, Inc. is an authorized provider for the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, and also for services to federal agencies. To learn more about the services we provide to our government clients, visit our Government Services Page.


Effective mental health interpreting is a bridge to better care. At iTi, we stand by our commitment to quality, accuracy, and empathy. Whether in-person or through VRI, our interpreters play a vital role in supporting mental health professionals and their patients.

Remember, effective communication knows no language barriers—especially in mental health. iTi is here to bridge those gaps and ensure everyone receives the care they deserve.

Talk to an Expert

Interpreters and Translators, Inc. is a full-service language solutions company based in Glastonbury, Connecticut. iTi is an NMSDC-certified minority owned business.


[i]Overcoming Language Barriers in Mental Health Services, Hispanic Community Counseling Services,


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