The experiences of interpreters working in a medium secure forensic mental health unit: and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Prof Doc Thesis

Molle, Eleanor (Lana) 2012. The experiences of interpreters working in a medium secure forensic mental health unit: and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsMolle, Eleanor (Lana)
TypeProf Doc Thesis

People from ethnic minorities are vastly over-represented within forensic
mental health services in the UK and Wales. Within one medium secure
forensic mental health unit (MSU) in London, 20.48% of patients detained in
March 2012 did not speak English. Extensive legislation prescribes that there
must be equal access for all to health services. Due to the paucity of bilingual
workers, interpreters are a necessity. There are significant gaps in the
research literature about the work of interpreters in forensic mental health.
The current study set out to explore the experiences and understandings of
interpreters who have undertaken interpreting jobs in a MSU. Six interpreters
were interviewed using semi-structured interviews, and their accounts
analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA).
Five super-ordinate themes were identified: (1) Setting the scene: Medium
secure forensic mental health units, (2) Unrecognised professional identity,
(3) The MSU interpreters: A superior professional excellence or mere
mortals?, (4) ‘Catch-22’ and (5) The MSU interpreter and the MSU patient.
The results draw together the participants’ phenomenological experiences of
working in a MSU, portraying the uniqueness of the MSU environmental
setting; the disparaging ways in which the participants perceive that they are
viewed; the grounds on which they argue for their occupation to be perceived
as a recognised profession; the resulting paradoxical situation in which they
find themselves; and the relationship aspects of interpreting for a patient who
is detained in a MSU.
The study proposes that a means of overcoming the difficulties and conflicts
experienced by interpreters working within this setting would inevitably
involve the creation of specific and tailored guidelines for other professionals
working with interpreters in a MSU; also, the availability of detailed
information booklets for interpreters working in a MSU. Further
recommendations for mandatory training for both the service provider and
the interpreter, and the compulsory provision of support and supervision for
interpreters, are proposed.

KeywordsInterpreters; Forensic Mental Health; Ethnic Minorities
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintApr 2012
Publication process dates
Deposited02 Apr 2013
Publisher's version
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