Many torture survivors do not speak English as their first language, and it might be necessary to have an interpreter be part of sessions with that survivor.

Interpreters take the spoken word in one language and change it into the spoken word in a second language. (Note that a translator takes the written word in one language and changes it into the written word in a second language.) The materials on this page pertain to interpreters.

Most health-related sessions are interpreted consecutively, meaning the interpreter speaks after the provider or the survivor finishes.

Interpreter training

This PowerPoint was developed by the Program for Survivors of Torture for use in training interpreters, and may be useful to you in creating your own introductory materials for interpreters.


These three glossaries (dental, intake, and psychotherapy) were created by the Program for Survivors of Torture to help interpreters make sure they are prepared for different types of interpreting.

Online Book

Healing the Hurt: A Guide for Developing Services for Torture Survivors


22-page guidelines for mental health settings

The International Medical Interpreters Association has a good resources page. It also has a document on the IMIA standards of practice: These standards of practice developed by the IMIA were developed in 1996 and updated in 2007. This document outlines the role of an interpreter in a clinical setting and provides standards of practice on interpretation, cultural competency, and ethics. Additionally the document contains an evaluation tool. This document can be used in the development of a training program for interpreters, as an evaluation tool, and in preparing health care providers to work with interpreters.

The Cross Cultural Health Care Program offers training for medical interpreters in many locations, and a variety of publications for purchase.

Information on working with specific populations


Communicating Effectively Through an Interpreter. From the Cross Cultural Health Care Program, this excellent 28-minute video is available for $150.


Duffy, K. & Veltri, D. (1998). Interpreting in Therapy: Getting Out of the Way. VIEWS, 15 (4).

Gunther, M. (1994). Counter-transference Issues in Staff Caregivers who Work to Rehabilitate Catastrophic-Injury
Survivors. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 48, (2), 208-220.

Haenel F. Aspects and problems associated with the use of interpreters in psychotherapy of victims of torture. Torture 1997;7: 68–71.

Kaufert, J. & Putsch, R. (1997) Communication Through Interpreters in Healthcare: Ethical Dilemmas Arising from
Differences in Class, Culture, Language and Power. Journal of Clinical Ethics 8, (1), 71-87.

Miller, Kenneth E.; Martell, Zoe L.; Pazdirek, Linda; Caruth, Melissa; Lopez, Diana. (2005) The Role of Interpreters in Psychotherapy With Refugees: An Exploratory Study. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. Vol 75(1), 27-39.

Miller, K. (2004). Beyond the frontstage: Trust, access, and the relational context in research with refugee communities. American Journal of Community Psychology, 33, 217–227.

National Code of Ethics for Interpreters In Health Care. (July 2004). The National Council On Interpreting In Health Care Working Papers Series - U.S. DHHS Office for Minority Health.

Palmer, T. (2001, April). An Interpreter’s Retrospective View. VIEWS.

Pollard, R. (1998). Interpreting in Mental Health: A Mentored Curriculum. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press. (Nine-chapter workbook with accompanying videotape of interpreting vignettes.)

Sabin, J. (1975). Translating despair. American Journal of Psychiatry, 132, 197–199.

Shackman, J. &  Reynolds J. Working with refugees and torture survivors: help for the helpers. In: Heller T, Reynolds J, Gomm R, Pattison S, eds. Mental health matters: a reader. London: Macmillan, Open University, 1996.

Stansfield, M. (1981). Therapist and Interpreter: A working relationship. Annapolis, MD.

Tribe, R. (1999). Bridging the gap or damming the flow? Some observations on using interpreters/bicultural workers when working with refugee clients, many of whom have been tortured. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 72, 567–576.

Wallace T. (1990) Refugee women: their perspectives and our responses. Oxford: Oxfam.

Williams, U. (1983). Interpreting in Mental Health Situations: Basic Issues. In D. Watson & B. Heller, (Eds.) Mental Health and Deafness: Strategic Perspectives, Silver Spring, MD: American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association.