Preventing vicarious traumatisation in mental health settings: a training course for interpreters


  • Anne Delizee University de Mons
  • Nathalie Bennoun Appartenances
  • Felicia Dutray Appartenances
  • Lorine Pierard University of Mons
  • Orest Weber Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois



Mental health interpreting, Vicarious traumatisation, Education and training, Coping strategies, Public service interpreting


Mental health interpreters are often exposed to traumatic material, such as accounts of torture, sexual violence and persecution, and are likely to experience symptoms of trauma themselves. The risk of vicarious traumatisation of interpreters can be mitigated by helping them defuse emotional repercussions encountered in their profession. Here, we suggest introducing into the training of interpreters a four-step psycho-educational course, based on theoretical and practical insights from psychology, psychiatry, linguistics and interpreting studies. More specifically, the training emphasises awareness of vicarious trauma, identification of its manifestations, detection of its main triggering factors, and elaboration of individual, interpersonal and structural coping strategies to be applied before, during and after consultations. Strategies presented here include hypno-imaginative techniques, and interprofessional pre-consultation sessions making the consultation more predictable. The feasibility of certain strategies due to interpersonal and structural constraints is also discussed. This article focuses on mental health interpreting; however, the findings and the proposed coping strategies may be valid for public service interpreting in other high-risk settings.



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