Working with interpreters is key to providing effective mental health care. Karen Ferguson, Ph.D., and Toc Soneoulay-Gillespie, M.S.W., came to Anchorage to present an experiential training on working with interpreters to provide meaningful language access for forced migrant clients. The workshop was free, co-sponsored by Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services (RAIS) and the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). The Alaska Psychological Association (AK-PA) sponsored seven continuing education credits for all attendees, and the Alaska Community Foundation funded the training. Dr. Ferguson is a licensed clinical psychologist and is currently the Executive Director of the Northern California offices of IRC – the International Rescue Committee. Ms. Soneoulay-Gillespie is the Social Services Manager for Population Health at Care Oregon, promoting health equity. As a 1.5 generation refugee, Ms. Soneoulay-Gillespie brings a unique perspective for understanding the strengths and complexities of this community.
The workshop began with an exercise to open up an appreciation for the power of voice and the art of interpreting. The facilitators reviewed review basic terminology and the profession of interpreting. They helped participants explore a framework of effective interpreting through introductions of interpreting scenarios, group discussion, and role play. Dr. Ferguson and Ms. Soneoulay-Gillespie helped participants to explore challenges that arise in interpreting through continued use of group discussion, scenarios, and role play, and led discussion on additional tools that encourage effective interpreting. Finally, the facilitators helped participants explore ethical challenges that arise in interpreting situations and closed out with a group exercise to take this material forward.