Working together

Working together

Developing shared language, understanding and meaning through language interpreting

The way language is used to engage and communicate is a fundamental cornerstone of working with people in mental health settings. Language is what mental health professionals use to establish relationships with people and form connection and trust with others. Language is also a tool through which people express how they feel, communicate values, beliefs and attitudes and share what they are thinking. Therefore, being thoughtful about language and meaning when working with young people and their families helps to provide good quality care.

Working with interpreters in mental health settings is essential in facilitating the development of shared language and meaning when working with young people and their families from multicultural backgrounds.

Working together: developing shared language, understanding and meaning through language interpreting is a collection of short videos that share the experiences of young people, families, language interpreters and clinicians as they work together to develop shared language and meaning in youth mental health settings.

It is recommended that you watch the videos clips sequentially, however once you have done this, you can go straight to any individual video clip as a refresher of the content. It will take approximately 30 minutes to watch all the videos.



The role of an interpreter

The role of a language interpreter in mental health settings is complex. Language interpreters often bridge cultural gaps in language, beliefs, values and attitudes and foster trust. When valued as part of a clinical team, language interpreters broker essential cultural knowledge that can enhance engagement and service users’ experiences.

In this video, young people, an interpreter and youth mental health clinicians explore the complex and sophisticated role language interpreters play in youth mental health setting.


What might happen if a language interpreter isn’t included in a care team?

Not having access to a language interpreter can create barriers to quality health care. Research highlights that language barriers are one of the most fundamental challenges to accessing mental health services and ultimately quality care for multicultural communities.(1)


What responsibilities do clinicians have for supporting young people, significant others and language interpreters?

It’s important for clinicians to consider setting a culture that includes and values language interpreters as an integral part of clinical teams and services. Mental health professionals should make careful considerations in preparing, conducting and debriefing an interpreted session to ensure that young person and their families get the most from their appointments.

Victorian Transcultural Mental Health (VTMH) have produced a practice tool for mental health practitioners working with interpreters. Download their nine tips for an interpreted session from the VTMH website.


Cultural diversity and mental wellbeing – key considerations

Language interpreters are part of a multipronged approach to cultural responsiveness in mental health settings. However, simply using a language interpreter for language translation is only a small part of their role. This video explores how clinicians can work collaboratively with language interpreters to enhance access, reduce stigma, understand beliefs or relationships to mental health and mental health services, consider and reflect on generational cultural needs and develop cultural humility.


What are the most important aspects to take away?

In this video we summarise key points and take a moment to reflect.


For further information on language interpreting in mental health settings, please refer to the VTMH website

Orygen would like to acknowledge the work of Victorian Transcultural Mental Health in the area of working with interpreters and their initial consultation for this project; Orygen’s youth advisers; members of Orygen’s expert working group on culturally diversity and mental wellbeing; and all of the other brilliant people consulted in the process of developing of these video.

Special thanks to the following people: Belthrand Habiyake, President, Australian Burundian Community in Victoria Inc.; Desirée Smith, Clinical Educator, Orygen; Iman Messadi, Youth Advisory Group member, headspace; Micheline Gador-Whyte, Clinical Educator, Orygen; Phuong Nguyen, Peer Researcher, Orygen; Refugee Access Team, Orygen; Yamiko Marama, Clinical Educator, Orygen, for sharing their valuable time and expertise.

1. Fennig M, Denov M. Interpreters working in mental health settings with refugees: An interdisciplinary scoping review. The American journal of orthopsychiatry. 2021;91(1):50–65. Available from:

Suggested citation Working together: language interpreting with young people, families, interpreters and clinicians [video]. Melbourne: Orygen; 2020.

Disclaimer This information is provided for general educational and information purposes only. It is current as at the date of publication and is intended to be relevant for all Australian states and territories (unless stated otherwise) and may not be applicable in other jurisdictions. Any diagnosis and/or treatment decisions in respect of an individual patient should be made based on your professional investigations and opinions in the context of the clinical circumstances of the patient. To the extent permitted by law, Orygen will not be liable for any loss or damage arising from your use of or reliance on this information. You rely on your own professional skill and judgement in conducting your own health care practice. Orygen does not endorse or recommend any products, treatments or services referred to in this information.

Orygen endeavours to produce high quality resources to support the learning experience of users. Due to restrictions related to COVID 19, there is a variation in film quality.