In the UK, over three-quarters of a million people cannot speak English well enough to access cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in English. If they are to receive an equitable service, they need to be able to access (spoken language) interpreter-mediated therapy. This means that CBT therapists may need support, through training and supervision, to feel confident and positive about incorporating an interpreter into the therapeutic relationship. The requirement for CBT therapists to be able to work effectively with an interpreter is currently acknowledged in the new BABCP minimum training standards and core curriculum, which are recommended for adoption (BABCP, 2021). Understandably, therapists can feel anxious about working with a third person in the room, but when these anxieties are honestly addressed and explored, creative solutions can be found. Therapy is usually conducted in a dyad. A triadic relationship requires attention to the systems at play inside and outside of the therapy room. With careful preparation and planning, interpreter-mediated therapy can be an effective and positive experience for the patient. After an introductory section, the paper is divided into six implementation sections: preparing for interpreter-mediated therapy; meta communication; boundaries; managing three-way relationships; working with interpreters remotely; and support needs of interpreters. Using a case example approach, interpreter-mediated therapeutic situations, which illustrate challenges and solutions, and examples of good practice, are explored. The paper offers practical guidance and illustrations which can form the basis of a training programme which teaches CBT therapists how to form a collaborative working relationship with an interpreter, how a therapist can stay active and maintain their clinical authority in a session in which they do not understand what is being said, and how CBT therapists can ensure that the therapy session remains safe and effective for all three of the participants in the interpreter-mediated encounter.
Key learning aims
(1) To help CBT therapists feel more confident and positive about working with spoken language interpreters.
(2) To prepare CBT therapists to create a more accessible service for those patients who do not speak sufficient English to engage in therapy without support.
(3) To provide CBT therapists with key principles for managing the pulls and pushes in a triadic relationship when you do not understand the language(s) spoken in the room.