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Journal article

Working through interpreters

Farooq S, Fear C...(+2 more)

Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, vol. 9, issue 2 (2003) pp. 104-109

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Language is the essential psychiatric tool for eliciting both history and mental state. Both diagnosis and treatment are handicapped if there is no common language between doctor and patient and understanding is facilitated through a third party, who usually has no psychiatric training. Many factors can affect this process resulting in a convoluted interview and greater potential for misunderstandings and diagnostic errors. Linguistics and the use of interpreters are rarely mentioned in standard psychiatric texts. The different processes of translation and interpretation and their use in psychiatry are explored here. The variety of errors and pitfalls described in the literature are considered. The authors offer advice on the use of trained and untrained interpreters in order to minimise errors and make the most of the information available.

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