UniPsych Symposium Reflections: Part 1 - JCUS

After the reflections from the SG Psych Stuff team, it is time for some reflections from students.  These reflections are from current students from the James Cook University Singapore, who attended the UniPsych Symposium.
So let's hear from them!
Image Credit: www.jcu.edu.sg
Reflection by Claudia Toh:
I think that UniPsych Symposium was a successful event and through the event I was able to gain insight of the few different fields I am initially interested in.  Particularly, my favourite session was the first session 'Educational Psychology in the Ministry of Education'.  The speakers from from this session were very friendly and helpful in answering any enquiries about their job, the requirements and work schedule.  They also provided us with more information than initially stated in their presentation and encouraged us to look into their field as well as related fields.  Because of their enthusiasm, I was actually impacted and encouraged to pursue in this field of my interest in the near future.
On the other hand, it was also through the event that I realized that I may have wrongly conceptualised certain fields of job due to stereotypes, and that some fields may not be what I am expressly interested in.
In addition, this event also provide a chance and bring together like-minded people from other schools of similar interests.  Therefore in conclusion, I find that UniPsych Symposium was a meaningful event and I am actually glad that I decided to went for it! However, I would suggest that in future, the event could be more interactive and increase involvement between students and speakers.
Reflection by Parimala Uthakumar:
The event was interesting and knowledgeable.  I choose three sessions, of which two were by Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and Forensic Psych Services.  We were informed honestly and accurately about what we could expect for our future after graduation.  There were insides as to what the job scopes were about.  This was important to me because I had a schema on what to expect from certain jobs due to their names and organizations.  My most memorable sessions would be the MSF and forensic sessions due to the fact that I am interested in those particular field of study and am interested in enrolling and applying for those sectors.  It was memorable because I had a reality check on what the job scope was really on,  which was different from what I had expected.  We were also given insides on exactly what we have to do on a day to day basis.  The speakers gave us real life examples on their job scopes such as report writing and building rapport with the clients they work with and others, so that would be my valuable take-away from the sessions.  One good memory was that I met new people and became friends with them through this experience.  One of them is from NUS and the other three were from James Cook University.  We spoke about the different ways we were being taught in our respective schools and the types of modules we had taken and suggestion for modules that would help us in our degree program.  One suggestion would be for the event organizer to not treat us like children during our lunch period.  Other than that, the event was well thought out and smooth.
Stay tuned for the reflections by NUS and NTU students! 

SGPsychStuff Goes to UniPsych Symposium 2017: Part 3

SG Psych Stuff was invited to this year's UniPsych Symposium, and Jon, Xav, and myself joined me in this wonderful event.  We will share with you our thoughts about the symposium (Part 1), the talks (Part 2), as well as our take-aways from the symposium (Part 3)!  Click on the links above for Part 1 and 2!

Question 3:  What are your key take-aways from the respective talks?

Jon:  My key take-aways having attended both the IMH talks as well as the positive psychology talk are that you have to be really sure of the path you are taking before choosing the field you wish to pursue in psychology.  Particularly because psychology is such a broad field and there are so many potential careers to pursue within it.  Furthermore, given that most jobs in the psychology field require at least a master’s degree so you are talking about minimum 6 to 7 years being taken up solely to pursue your studies. Even 6 to 7 years can be considered a less conservative estimate, especially if you take into account the probability of being rejected from graduate school, or the waiting time to being accepted for a graduate program.  I think it is essential to be sure of what you want before choosing to pursue psychology.  Also, networking as mentioned by my two colleagues is key in this field, especially with how small the circles are in Singapore.  Everywhere you go, you’ll definitely see familiar faces so it doesn’t hurt to get to know more people and making that effort to actually maintain a positive working relationship with them, because you never know when you may chance across them again.

Xav:  From the talks I attend, I realised that aside from passion, it is crucial to have self-awareness if one wishes to pursue a career as a Psychologist.  As a psychologist who wishes to help others, it is important to know the reasons why you want to pursue this job, as well as your strengths and weaknesses, and actively work to improve on them.  As put by Dr. Sandor Heng, the psychologist who shared on behalf of NAMS:
“Be aware of what your own issues are and work on them, otherwise they will get in your way of helping people through their problems.”
Apart from being self-aware, I recognise the importance of networking in the field of Psychology.  During lunch, I was grateful to be able to speak to a few speakers and understand that being in the field of helping people, it is imperative to be flexible and resilient as you may meet clients that may not respond well to the type of therapy used and require a different type of approach.  It is also cardinal to be humble and open to experiences as there is so much to learn not only from fellow colleagues in the field, but also from the patients you are treating.

SGPsychStud:  Takeaways from the keynote lecture, the Brahm centre session on Mindfulness and the panel discussion by private practitioners:
  1. We need to keep in view of possible trends in our industry, and take note of the relevant skills that we need to build, especially for young graduates and psychologists.
  2. Mindfulness is not a difficult practice to do, which sometimes we just need to stop, feel our breath, and be aware.
  3. To experience flow, we need to be aware and mindful of our own physical sensations, thoughts and feelings, and not to be instantly reactive to everything that happens. 
  4. Find our what your passion is and let it drive you towards what you do in your work.
  5. For those planning to go into private practice, you need to build a cliente base, and make sure you can cover your expenses for at least 6 to 9 months.
  6. Always upgrade your knowledge by attending courses, researching and reading up, and improving on yourself and your practice.
  7. Do self-care.
  8. Work towards understand yourself as a practitioner. Make sure to get supervision.
  9. Always network.
This post end our reflections from SG Psych Stuff team members who attended the UniPsych Symposium. From all this final post (and the earlier ones), you can see that there are some similar takeaways and reflection points, which are 1) know yourself, and 2) always make sure to network! This points have always been noted in our posts in SG Psych Stuff!

Know yourself and start craving your career well!

SGPsychStuff Goes to UniPsych Symposium 2017: Part 2

This time, other than myself, Jon and Xav joined me in this wonderful event.  We will share with you our thoughts about the symposium (Part 1), the talks (Part 2) , as well as our take-aways from the symposium (Part 3)! See Part 1 here, and stay tuned to Part 3!

Question 2:  How do you feel about the talks?

Image Credit: https://www.imh.com.sg/
Jon:  The first two talks I attended were by speakers from the Institute of Mental Health and they were really informative on what psychologists within the mental health sector in Singapore did.  They also shared very personal experiences which I thought was really good as it allowed the participants and myself to really understand the situation on the ground.  The speakers were also very open to questions, even the sensitive ones, such as their salary or what they hated about the job.  I think these were important considerations for most people who were interested in a future career in the mental health sector, and to allow them to know what to expect and how they can best prepare for it.

Image Credit: http://www.positivepsych.edu.sg/
The last talk I attended was on positive psychology by Tara Schofield from School of Positive Psychology.  I think this particular talk gave a very comprehensive yet brief overview of what positive psychology was about, and though it may not be as well established as the other fields in psychology (e.g., mental health, organizational, health, etc.), I think it was an eye opening experience for most of the people who attended it.  All in all, I feel the talks were really detailed and well thought out, but if i were to nitpick, i would rather the speakers take more time to answer questions or network with the people.  This sentiment is also echoed by my colleagues throughout this post, as the presentations were at times too long and left little space for any questions or networking opportunities.

Xav:  The first talk I attended was Psychology in a Correctional Setting by Singapore Prisons Service (SPS).  The talk debunked myths of working in a prison - that the prison setting is a safe place to work in and inmates are not uncooperative/aggressive.  The speakers shared with us that apart from clinical assessments and intervention programmes, providing prison staff with training of psychological first aid and research are also part of their job scope.  With regards to the culture at SPS, both speakers agree that SPS has a family-like culture and emphasize on professional development, offering sponsorship to postgraduate studies, opportunities to attend symposiums, training, etc.
Image Credit: http://www.sps.gov.sg/
The minimum requirement for undergraduates is at least a Second Upper Honours degree, a postgraduate degree in Clinical/Forensic/Counselling/IO or a degree in Social Work.  Applicants should be able to able to work with those with low socioeconomic status and ability to speak dialect would be a plus point.  Internships are available so interested participants can send in their applications early.
I feel that the talk was overall very informative to both students with minimal knowledge of the field as well as students who hope to enter the field.  The talk covered the general job scope of a correctional rehabilitation specialist and a psychologist in the prison setting, the people each profile works with, organisational culture and professional development, which are important factors of consideration for students contemplating whether to enter the prisons service field.

The second talk I attended was From the clinic to the community - Journey of a psychologist in CPH by Community Psychology Hub (CPH). The talk introduced CPH as the first hub model for Psychology in Singapore, focusing on early intervention, adult disabilities, vulnerable adults and research on local needs.  The organisation believes in a practice-based research, support in a naturalistic setting.  Instead of an office setting, psychologists in CPH do home interventions as they believe clients are more comfortable in such settings.  Research assistants in CPH can also expect opportunities to be on the ground and volunteering apart from their research job scope.
Speakers shared that CPH has an open and sharing culture and that the job is fulfilling as not only do employees get to care for the community, they get to learn from each other’s experiences as there are informal sharing sessions about their week between employees.  There are also training opportunities and case conferences for employees.
To be a research assistant, applicants should have an Honours degree in Psychology.  To be a psychologist in CPH, applicants should preferably have a Clinical Psychology, Educational Psychology or Research Psychology Masters degree or Doctorate.
The talk was interesting as it was the first time I had heard of a Singapore organisation that offers therapy and intervention programmes out of a clinical setting.  The speakers mostly shared their personal experiences that gave students a good glimpse on the job scope and day-to-day experiences of a psychologist or research assistant working in CPH.

Image Credit: http://www.nams.sg/Pages/index.aspx
The third talk I attended was Passion Adds Value to One’s Life, An Addiction Takes Away Value: A Clinician’s Journey in the Addictions Field by National Addictions Management Service (NAMS).  The speakers explained that NAMS provides addicts with a platform to vent and regulate emotions apart from therapy, offering a multidisciplinary approach to helping patients.  The speakers introduced the differences between a psychologist and a counsellor in the addictions field, as well as shared their experiences working in the Australia mental health system and the differences working in Australia and Singapore.  Just like the other 2 talks, the speakers shared their job scope and the career opportunities available.  Additionally, the speakers shared their challenges faced when working with clients, as well as the necessary soft skills required to be a psychologist or counsellor in NAMS.
The talk by NAMS was very educational in helping students understand the job scope of a psychologist and counsellor in-depth in the addictions field.  The psychologist acknowledged that unlike what is commonly perceived, clinical psychologists do administrative work most of the time rather than working with patients.  Administrative work include mainly development of treatment modality and researching.  The counsellor also reiterated the importance of soft skills and experience in pursuing a job in the addictions field.
At the end of the talk, the speakers discussed the dilemma some students may face - whether to pursue postgraduate first or take a gap year to obtain work experience.  The speakers presented the advantages of both perspectives that I feel is useful advice for students who are torn between both.

Image Credit: http://brahmcentre.com/
SGPsychStud:  I attended the talks by Brahm Centre and the panel discussion by private practitioners.  Eric Lim from Brahm Centre covered about mindfulness and how it may help in our everyday lives, with a very light touch on what Brahm Centre does.  In the panel discussion by the private practitioners (who were mostly counsellors), it started with a short sharing of what each of them specialise in, followed by a round-robin answering of questions posed by the attendees.

My comment would be that there should be a consistent note to speakers of content to be covered during the talks, i.e. to cover services provided or the work done by psychologists / counsellors / therapists, career building tips, sharing of their own experiences.  With a consistent coverage by the speakers, it will provide better and more detailed information to students.
I would also suggest the panel sessions to have at most 3 speakers, rather than 5 speakers.  I also attended a 5-speaker panel last year in the UniPsych Symposium, and noticed a similar issue in both years.  With 5 speakers (and no moderator) in the panel discussion, there was not enough air-time for each speaker, with everyone answering once for every question.  The issue of not having enough air-time hence caused the session to overrun, which was the same for both years.

Stay tuned for Part 3!

SGPsychStuff Goes to UniPsych Symposium 2017: Part 1

The UniPsych Symposium team has done it again!  This time, with the collaboration of InPsych, NUS, NTU, and JCUS Psychology societies, this event was well-attended by undergraduate students from the respective universities and others.  SG Psych Stuff is very honoured to be invited to the UniPsych Symposium (again)!  If you had seen us wearing the yellow lanyard with the "Guest" nametags, that's us!
This time, other than myself, Jon and Xav joined me in this wonderful event.  We will share with you our thoughts about the symposium (Part 1), the talks (Part 2) , as well as our take-aways from the symposium (Part 3)! Stay tuned to Parts 2 and 3!

Question 1: As a participant, any overall thoughts about the symposium?

Jon:  I think this year’s UniPsych Symposium went much smoother than the previous year’s and this is definitely due to well coordinated efforts of all parties involved in the planning.  The speakers were all professionals with a wealth of experience and inside knowledge to the workings of the fields they were in.  I’m sure the participants were able to gain a good overview of the various fields in psychology, which would hopefully allow them to make a more informed decision.  That said, I feel the opportunities for networking could be improved, as there were often times where the participants are not too sure how to best approach speakers.  Perhaps setting up a system where participants can send their questions to the speakers for follow-up after the event may be a good way to address such an issue. 
Xav:  This was my first time at the UniPsych Symposium so I am unable to make a comparison from last year’s.  I do feel that this year’s UniPsych Symposium was well-organised, with ample time for lunch and networking.  The Facebook page and website were well-organised and provided useful background information on the speakers.
I enjoyed the keynote address by Dr. Denise Dillon as she summarised the history of Psychological research over the years and the importance of Psychology, as well as the necessary soft skills that give graduates an edge over their peers in the Psychology field.

However, I feel that after Q&A segment during each session, most students were rushing to the next talk or the restroom and were unable to further network.  Perhaps it might be favourable to add a short break (10 to 15 minutes?) in between back-to-back sessions (Session 2 & Session 3) for students to refresh themselves and/or get more one-to-one interactions with the speakers.

SGPsychStud:  I feel that it was more well-organised than last year’s, with their registration booth at a more visible (and bigger) area, a longer time for lunch, as well as a longer lunch and timings for the talks.  Website was professionally done as well.
The keynote address focused on the upcoming areas of psychology, as well as the skills required of young graduates.  This topic is a very important one for students, to note the trends in the psychology industry.
The issue, which is also often faced during other symposiums and talks, is the level of networking.  One purpose of the whole event was to allow students to network;  however, most students stayed within their own comfort areas by staying with friends, and the talks (that I went to) mostly ended with a Q&A session without a further networking with the speakers.  Speakers (thankfully) provided their contact details, for students who have further questions and wish to network further.  Probably it is just our culture?  But I do hope to see this to be improved in further events.

Stay tuned to Parts 2 and 3!

5 Ways to Benefit from UniPsych Symposium 2017

With the UniPsych Symposium less than 24 hours away, we hope you are as excited as us for it!  Here are five ways you can make the most out of attending the Symposium:

1.  Dress properly
You never know who you will meet.  The world is an exceedingly small place.  They say an impression is created within the first 7 seconds.

2. Come with an open mind
One of the perks about hearing from the people who are currently working in the field is that you get to hear about what it’s like.  What they share may surprise you, so abandon all your preconceptions and listen to real life experiences on the ground.  Learn about the day-to-day struggles and victories that you wouldn’t typically hear about!
Image Credit: https://media.giphy.com/media/3o7qDQNEs2CtC5AkZW/giphy.gif
3. Be prepared
While our speakers will be more than ready to share their experiences and advice with you, do come prepared beforehand in order to maximise your learning potential!  Interact with working professionals by doing a bit of research about the field/organisation you are interested in, and prepare a set of questions you want to ask them.  That way, you will get additional information on top of what the speaker has presented and also leave a positive impression.

4. Network
The majority of attendees all have come to together to learn more about the one passion we have in common:  Psychology.  Step out of your comfort zone, talk to everyone and anyone.  You never know, the person you encounter today may be your colleague, subordinate, or even superior in the near future!

5. Follow-up
The benefits of the Symposium do not just end after the event.  The Symposium will be the springboard to help you discover even more about your options in careers and future studies.  Armed with your newly learnt knowledge, continue to research on the different organisations/programmes.  With all the consolidated information, you will have greater insight into the field that you wish to pursue!

Image Credit: https://facebook.com/UniPsych-Symposium-2017-1928681934083021/
Disclaimer:  This guest post was written by the UniPsych Symposium and InPsych teams.