Vicarious Trauma and Interpreters

02/12/2016 No Comments
Caring nurse or doctor holding elderly lady's hand with care.

“Vicarious trauma can be best understood as the absorbing of another person’s trauma, the transformation of the helper’s inner sense of identity and experience. It is what happens to your physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual health in response to someone else’s traumatic history. Vicarious trauma can affect your perception of the world around you and can result in serious mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and addiction if untreated. Interpreters seem to experience vicarious trauma differently than other professionals providing aid since they do more than witness the trauma; they channel it.” – The Trauma and Mental Health Report (1)

The RID Code of Professional Conduct (2) for interpreters states that we should “refrain from providing counsel, advice, or personal opinions.” Maintaining impartiality can become a challenge when experiencing vicarious trauma, or being at risk of such. It is important to recognize the boundaries of the role of the interpreter and to find outlets for processing vicarious trauma that do not encroach on our professional standards of practice.

(1) Vigor, Jana. “Vicarious Trauma and the Professional Interpreter.” The Trauma & Mental Health Report. January 6, 2012. (Full article)

(2) RID Code of Professional Conduct (Full PDF)

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