Clinical and Ethical Issues in Working with a Foreign Language Interpreter


Searight, H. R. (2017). Clinical and ethical issues in working with a foreign language interpreter. Journal of Health Service Psychology, 43, 79–82.


With an increasing population of persons with limited English proficiency (LEP), psychologists are likely to need to conduct assessments through a foreign language interpreter at times. The goal of the interpreter-mediated patient encounter should be to approximate a language-congruent clinical encounter. Issues such as the spatial configuration of all participants during the session, guidelines for the interpreter’s verbalizations, and some modification of the psychologist’s interview style will maintain patient rapport while obtaining necessary patient information.


American Psychological Association (2017).  Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Washington DC: American Psychological Association. (

Bogic, M., Njoku, A., & Priebe, S. (2015). Long-term mental health of war-refugees: a systematic literature review. BMC international health and human rights15(1), 3-41

Flores, G. (2005). The impact of medical interpreter services on the quality of health care: a systematic review. Medical Care Research and Review62(3), 255-299.

Flores, G., Abreu, M., Barone, C. P., Bachur, R., & Lin, H. (2012). Errors of medical interpretation and their potential clinical consequences: a comparison of professional versus ad hoc versus no interpreters. Annals of Emergency Medicine60(5), 545-553.

Juckett, G., & Unger, K. (2014). Appropriate use of medical interpreters. American Family Physician90, 476-489

Ma-Kellams, C. (2014). Cross cultural differences in somatic awareness and interoceptive accuracy: A review of the literature and directions for future research. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1379.

Raval, H., & Tribe, R. (2014). Working with interpreters in mental health. London: Routledge.

Schulz, P. M., Resick, P. A., Huber, L. C., & Griffin, M. G. (2006). The effectiveness of cognitive processing therapy for PTSD with refugees in a community setting. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice13(4), 322-331.

Searight, H. R., & Gafford, J. (2005a). Cultural diversity at the end of life: issues and guidelines for family physicians. American Family Physician71(3), 515-22.

Searight, H. R., & Gafford, J. (2006). Behavioral science education and the international medical graduate. Academic Medicine81(2), 164-170.

Searight, H. R., & Searight, B. K. (2009). Working with foreign language interpreters: Recommendations for psychological practice. Professional psychology: Research and practice40(5), 444-451

The Joint Commission (2015). Overcoming the challenges of providing care to LEP patients. Accessed on June 14, 2017

U.S. Census Bureau (2015). Census bureau reports at least 350 languages spoken in U.S. homes. Accessed June 8, 2017

Zong, J., & Batalova, J. (2015). The limited English proficient population in the United States. Migration Policy Institute. Available at: http://www. Migration policy. org/article/limited-english-proficient-population-united-states/. Accessed June 8, 2017

Thank You to Our Fall 2017 Advertisers

1200 New York Ave NW, Ste 800

Washington DC 20005

p: 202.783.7663

f: 202.347.0550

Endorsed by the National Register