Dacia Lipkea

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Genetic Counseling

First Advisor

Victoria Vincent


Interpreters are an asset to the genetic counseling process as they help to bridge both cultural and linguistic gaps. For various reasons, their ability to accurately render the often-complex information discussed in genetic counseling sessions is likely dependent on their ability to establish a working alliance and collaborate with genetic counselors to overcome any challenges. Studies in other healthcare fields document the elements crucial to forming a working alliance between interpreter and healthcare provider, but little research has been done specifically investigating how to form a working alliance in the context of the specialized nature of genetic counseling. The goal of this study was to characterize the experience interpreters have had while working with genetic counselors and determine which factors are most important in establishing a working alliance. A total of 180 interpreters were recruited from ten interpreter industry associations and participated in this study. The study involved an online questionnaire and optional follow up phone interview. The majority of study participants characterized their overall experience working with genetic counselors as good or very good (98%). The vast majority of participants (95%) thought it was important that genetic counselors create an environment that allows both the interpreter and the patient to feel comfortable asking questions, followed by speaking at a moderate pace, pausing often to allow the interpreter to easily interpret the information to the patient (93%), and using simple language and avoiding jargon or at least providing a clear explanation of the terms when talking to the patient (91%). A pre-session to discuss sensitive topics that may come up, review technical terminology, and the patient’s reason for the appointment is something that 81% of participants viewed as important but only 15% of participants experience often. Participants also valued sharing with genetic counselors mutual trust, respect, and an understanding of each other’s roles. The results of this study may provide guidance on establishing guidelines on how to work with interpreters in the genetic counseling setting.