A dialogue with three voices: The impact of interpreters on the therapeutic alliance when working with asylum seekers and refugees who have lived through traumatic experiences.

  • Lynn Learman

Student thesis: Phd


This study started to explore the process of working therapeutically through an interpreter and whether it was possible to achieve interpersonal attunement with asylum seekers and refugees who have lived through traumatic experiences. Insider research was conducted by the manager of a third sector, specialist psychological therapies service that employed interpreters on a freelance basis. Three perspectives are offered to examine lived experience of the triadic relationship. Four counsellors, four interpreters and four clients were interviewed through a focus group and semi-structured interviews. Using these two qualitative methods, the data was analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Transcripts were examined for group patterns and idiographic accounts. Four super-ordinate themes: the therapeutic alliance, interpersonal attunement, communication and culture and a further ten sub-ordinate themes emerged from the analysis. The discussion raises issues about the specific role of the interpreter in this field, the management of emotion, differing cultures of mental health and verbal and non-verbal communication. When good practice guidelines are adhered to the findings indicate that the presence of an additional skilled professional may enhance the work and support both counsellor and client.
Date of Award31 Dec 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorWilliam West (Supervisor)

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