CLAS Standards for Mental/Behavioral Health

Chapter 4: How to work with an interpreter

Considerations for Mental/Behavioral Health Providers

For limited-English-proficient (LEP) clients, the use of trained interpreters should be part of services provided. It's important to understand the role interpreters play in mental/behavioral health care settings.

Conduit of communication


Cultural broker

Easing confidentiality concerns

For many LEP patients, especially those from small, lesser encountered language communities, providing options for type of interpreter (phone vs. in-person) may ease confidentiality concerns. Because of stigma associated with mental/behavioral health in many communities, using interpreters who are well-known community members may not be the best option.

It’s about preparation.

Whether you are using in-person or telephone interpreting, a best practice for working with an interpreter involves some form of a triadic interview. Aspects of the Triadic Interview Method include:

The focus of the interaction should always be between the provider and the patient. The interpreter is there to ensure that everything is communicated efficiently and effectively. This triadic relationship leads to good communication and helps create trust and ensure confidentiality and a balance of power in the encounter.

Plan for an LEP patient by doing a pre- and post-session with interpreter.

Items for a provider to consider for a pre-session:

Items for a provider to consider for a post-session:

Helpful resources about interpretation