As mental health professionals seek to disseminate information in many languages in order to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population, it is important to consider the methods of written translation that the field is choosing to employ. The method chosen for translation can affect the accuracy and usability of the translated text. This study begins with a survey of current literature, the results of which suggest that the most popular translation method in the mental health field is back-translation, a translation method based in the premise that translating a text back into its original English after it has been translated into a second language provides an accurate indication of the success of the translation. This study then compares back-translation with an alternative translation approach based in skopostheorie, an area of translation theory that asserts that translational activity should be ultimately grounded in the purpose of the translation rather than the objective equivalency of the source and target texts. Each of the two approaches is applied separately in the translation of the Centers for Disease Control's handout, "Helping Parents Cope with Disaster," into Spanish and Chinese. The two resulting target texts for each language are compared in terms of linguistic equivalence by review committees and compared in terms of usability by individuals from the target audiences. Feedback from reviewers and audience members in both languages suggest that the skopostheorie based approach to translation may facilitate higher quality translation than back-translation in terms of both equivalence and usability. Suggestions for mental health professionals engaging in translation are then offered, as well as directions for future research.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





translation, back-translation, skopostheorie, psychoeducational material, language barrier, cultural barrier