Many torture survivors do not speak English as their first language, and it might be necessary to have an interpreter be part of sessions with that survivor.

Interpreters take the spoken word in one language and change it into the spoken word in a second language. (Note that a translator takes the written word in one language and changes it into the written word in a second language.) The materials on this page pertain to interpreters.

Most health-related sessions are interpreted consecutively, meaning the interpreter speaks after the provider or the survivor finishes.

Interpreter training

This PowerPoint was developed by the Program for Survivors of Torture for use in training interpreters, and may be useful to you in creating your own introductory materials for interpreters.


These three glossaries (dental, intake, and psychotherapy) were created by the Program for Survivors of Torture to help interpreters make sure they are prepared for different types of interpreting.

Online Book

Healing the Hurt: A Guide for Developing Services for Torture Survivors


The International Medical Interpreters Association has a good page on terminology, as well as other resources. It also has a document on the IMIA standards of practice: These standards of practice developed by the IMIA were developed in 1996 and updated in 2007. This document outlines the role of an interpreter in a clinical setting and provides standards of practice on interpretation, cultural competency, and ethics. Additionally the document contains an evaluation tool. This document can be used in the development of a training program for interpreters, as an evaluation tool, and in preparing health care providers to work with interpreters.

The Cross Cultural Health Care Program offers training for medical interpreters in many locations, and a variety of publications for purchase.

Information on working with specific populations


Communicating Effectively Through an Interpreter. From the Cross Cultural Health Care Program, this excellent 28-minute video is available for $150.


Improving Well-Being for Refugees in Primary Care: A Toolkit for Providers

CVT’s NEW Toolkit for Providers Working with Refugees

Meet Paw, a refugee from Burma seeking medical care in the U.S. for her headaches, nightmares and physical pain. She’s unfamiliar with the U.S. primary care system and she doesn’t speak English. Waiting alone at her first doctor appointment, Paw wonders, “How will the doctor understand me? What if I don’t like my interpreter? Will I ever be healthy again?” Paw’s questions don’t end there. They’re only a few of several listed in in CVT’s new manual, “Improving Well Being for Refugees in Primary Care: A Toolkit for Providers.”  Paw is a fictional character whose real-life experiences mirror those of clients in CVT’s Healing Hearts program.

Like a Refugee Camp on First Avenue

Published by the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture in 2007, this book addresses contextual issues as well as treatment and service provision issues. Notable chapters include Multicultural Issues in the Treatment of Survivors of Torture and Refugee Trauma: Toward an Interactive Model, Medical Evaluation and Care for Survivors of Torture and Refugee Trauma, Social Service Provision, Supportive Group Treatment with Survivors of Torture and Refugee Trauma, and Secondary Trauma, Compassion Fatigue, and Burnout: Risk Factors, Resilience, and Coping in Caregivers.

Edited by Hawthorne E.

Mental Health Interpretation: Program Structures and Funding Challenges

This Information Guide examines the following topics:

  • interpretation funding challenges
  • examples of where and how programs can source interpreters
  • the importance of training interpreters for mental health appointments
  • practical implementation ideas for your own programming

With this Information Guide, you will be able to:

  • Explore helpful ways to increase your program's interpretation pool by reviewing our chart of pros and cons of different interpreters and community outreach engagement activities 
  • Outline your own interpreter training curriculum with a few guidelines to lead you along the way,

Social work with trauma survivors: collaboration with interpreters

By Berthold SM, Fischman Y. In Soc Work. 2014 Apr;59(2):103-10.

Scant attention has been given to the emotional plight, lack of training, and stressful working conditions of interpreters serving survivors of severe human-perpetrated trauma from different parts of the world. This article addresses the critical need for effective collaboration between social workers and interpreters when the provider and survivor do not speak the same language.