Rebecca Weiss

Dr. Rebecca WeissTitle

Using Interpreters in Psychological Assessments

October 24, 2019 (Thursday), 12:00 p.m.-1:30 p.m. CDT


Given the linguistic diversity in the United States and the frequency of cultural discrepancies between mental health practitioners and their clients, evaluators are increasingly likely to consider conducting evaluations using language interpreters. Although best practice would suggest the use of bilingual psychologists and validated translated measures, these options are not always available, particularly for languages that are less globally prevalent. The choice to use an interpreter is particularly complex when using standardized psychological measures. Few empirical studies have addressed the impact of interpreters on psychological measures, and test manuals rarely provide advice about the appropriateness or impact of interpreters. Using guidance from both psychology and language studies, this presentation will review important considerations and recommendations when using interpreters in psychological evaluations. Ethical responsibilities, legal requirements, logistical realities and best practices will be reviewed.


Rebecca Weiss is an Assistant Professor of Forensic Assessment at John Jay College and a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of New York. Before joining the faculty at John Jay, she completed her clinical training at Yale University School of Medicine. She received her PhD and MA in Clinical Psychology from Fordham University. She received her BA in Psychology and International Studies from Northwestern University. Her research interests include the effect of group membership (e.g., culture, intellectual disabilities) on validity in psychological assessment, and the impact of trauma on the treatment and development of aggression and substance use disorders.

At the doctoral level she teaches Cognitive Assessment and Personality Assessment. At the undergraduate level she teaches a range of classes including Psychology & Law, Learning & Memory and Abnormal Psychology. Dr. Weiss is a mentor in the Ronald E. McNair Program and the John Jay Honors Program. In 2019, she received John Jay's Outstanding Scholarly Mentoring Award. In 2016, she received McNair's Kwando Kinshasa Excellence in Mentoring Award. She includes students of all levels in her lab, allowing for advanced students to provide additional supervision for less advanced students. This provides valuable experience for the advanced students, and broadens their research productivity, while proving valuable assistance for the less advanced students. Her students present at 5-8 national or international conferences per year. Her current research projects include evaluating the effect of culture and language on measures of feigning in bilingual and monolingual Spanish-speaking samples. She is also collaborating with Mid Hudson Psychiatric Center in an examination of competency to stand trial evaluations. Under her mentorship, her students are conducting several studies on a variety of topics including the cultural specificity of PTSD in an African sample, the effect of instruction types on simulation designs, the effect of demographic characteristics on competency to stand trial referrals, and the impact of culturally based gender identity on the development of depression.

  1. Appreciate legal and ethical obligations in the decision to use interpreters in evaluations.

  2. Understand how to find relevant resources for decisions about the use of interpreters in evaluations.

  3. Develop an appreciation of the impact of interpretation on issues of equivalence and fairness.

  4. Understand best practices when using interpreters for assessment instruments.