As language may be an important barrier for ethnic minority families to access health care, interpreters can be a valuable aid to reach these families. Little is known, however, about the effects of using interpreters in mental health care. The present study investigated whether the use of interpreters affected treatment outcomes of Multisystemic therapy (MST) in the Netherlands. Ninety-one cases with an interpreter were compared with 91 cases without an interpreter. The two groups were matched regarding age, gender, imposed sanction, and therapist. Each case’s progress, treatment duration, and treatment outcomes were obtained. For 61 of the matched pairs, long-term re-conviction rates were retrieved from official judicial records. Comparing the cases with interpreter and the matched controls revealed no significant differences. Moreover, the treatment outcomes were the same for professional and family interpreters. Although there was a trend toward higher recidivism rates during MST when an interpreter had been used, the long-term judicial data did not reveal any differences between the interpreter group and the matched control group. Thus, it seems that in a highly structured and goal-oriented treatment like MST, both professional and family interpreters can be used to obtain treatment outcomes comparable with those of native speakers.

interpreters, mental health care, Multisystemic therapy, recidivism, treatment outcomes,
Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
Department of Medical Psychology and Psychotherapy

van der Rijken, R.E.A, Bijlsma, E, Wilpert, J, van Horn, J.E, van Geffen, W, & van Busschbach, J.J. (2015). Using Interpreters in Mental Health Care: An Exploration of Multisystemic Therapy Outcomes. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 24(2), 92–100. doi:10.1177/1063426615592821