Home » Blogs » Lessons from the Couch » Using An Interpreter: The Challenges and Benefits

Using An Interpreter: The Challenges and Benefits

110224_interpreter_symbol_textThere are times when I am blessed with a non-English speaking client and it is usually a bitter-sweet experience.  I say that I am blessed with these clients because I always look forward to the times when I get to meet new people through my work experience, does not matter if they speak English or not!  However, the experience is bitter-sweet as communication can be difficult.

I utilize an interpreter (via telephone), and while I am grateful for a service provider that can be available whenever I need it, it can be frustrating at times.  Besides the fact that your call can get disconnected, I find it difficult to maintain eye contact with the client as I try to speak to the interpreter.

Eye contact is important, says a lot and means a lot in a therapeutic setting.  Strong eye contact can mean they are engaged, understand what you are saying, aware and focused, to name a few.  Minimal to no eye contact can indicate an internal struggle, shame, guilt, avoidance, deception, to name a few.

When using an interpreter, you are encouraged to maintain eye contact with your client, not the interpreter.  You should continue observing the client’s body language and look for non-verbals.  However, I find myself trying to make more eye contact with the telephone and less with the client!

I decided to pay closer attention to what happens during the session when using an interpreter and one thing stood out for me:  the client mirrored my behavior.  They would look at the phone when I did, but if I happen to remember to make eye contact with them while talking to the interpreter, they also made eye contact with me when responding.

An interpreter provides a valuable service as they help you to understand what your client is saying and allows the client’s words to be interpreted.  An interpreter acts as a guide throughout the session.  I certainly value their service. Since I do not use an interpreter frequently, it always seems like a new challenge when the need arises.  However, it is important to remember that the client is the main focus in the session.

If you have used or frequently use an interpreter I would love to hear your experience.

Photo credit to this website
Using An Interpreter: The Challenges and Benefits

Karisse Callender, MS, SAC, LPC

Karisse Callender, MS, SAC, LPC, is a native of the Caribbean, living in the Midwest. She obtained her Master of Science degree in Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and is a licensed Substance Abuse Counselor (SAC) and Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). She does individual and group therapy with a Not-for-Profit Agency where she incorporates various treatment modalities to aide in client care. She has a special interest in relapse prevention, integrated treatment, counselor and client wellness and dual diagnosis. She enjoys reading, crafting, baking, socializing with friends and trying out different brands of tea. Lessons From the Couch was created out of her experiences on her new journey as a professional. This blog is about the process of seeing things unfold with clients who have mental health and addiction concerns and her keen interest in self care. Feel free to contact Karisse at: Follow her on Twitter: @lessonsbykc

2 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Callender, K. (2013). Using An Interpreter: The Challenges and Benefits. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Sep 2013
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.