The North side of West Bank has people living who face a very complex array of pressures. Since about fifty years of military occupation by Israel of area, a conservative society and a poor economy adds up and increases burden of mental health problems in a community.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been providing psychotherapy services in Qalqiliya and Nablus. Among the five of our psychologists, three are local Palestinians while the other two are foreigners and thus they need an interpreter because they do not speak Arabic. This implied the intense need of interpreters for their work.
To have realised that speech could be a healer, even more substantial than medication. This was a breakthrough in psychotherapy.
Now what is Psychotherapy? It is process of talking through one’s mental health issues with an extremely trained professional where both collectively try to understand and analyse possible causes and possibilities in which to talk to each other. People with severe to moderate mental health issues require psychiatric support and therapy which MSF provides in Northern West Bank.
An expert interpreter of MSF named Layali who initially worked with MSF’s team back in 2007, gave answer to a very interesting question that being from two entirely different regions and having divergent experiences even speaking different languages, how does the client and psychologist make it work?
Answer was that they do not only translate language but also act as mediators.
They do not just translate the words; they have to translate the feelings as well making sure that their patients feel that they are being understood.
In psychotherapy as we know, relationship between the client and the therapist has huge importance. Its through an ethical, empathetic bond that the work of analysis functions – and mostly it is just 2 people in that room with privacy. In West Bank in the MSF’s project the interpreter creates that link between therapist and client. Moreover, everything said is kept confidential.
Layali further explained that in order to create a real link with their patients they would have to feel what they would have felt. Moreover, to be respectful of same ethics that they respect, a distance is maintained between the two.”
Another Psychologist from France, Lea said that the dynamic of a session changes if an interpreter is present as the emotions would be conveyed through the interpreter instead of a direct connection.