UniPsych Symposium 2018 (Part 4) - Coverage on Sessions B

Here's the coverage on Sessions B!!
Before you scroll down, make sure you read the earlier posts about the Keynote Address by Dr Majeed, the Panel session (with advice from the speakers), and Sessions A!

Here are the talks we went to for Session B are "Making a Difference with Psychology" and "Going Private"!
Image Credit: https://unipsych18.wixsite.com/main
Session B3:  Making a Difference with Psychology
Speaker:  Porsche Poh ( Founder / Executive Director of  Silver Ribbon (Singapore)
Covered by:  Rachel Lim

Have you ever played video games where characters unwittingly find themselves stuck in a treacherous psychiatric hospital, struggling to flee for their lives before they get hacked or shot?  Or, have you stepped into a Halloween haunted house with an asylum theme, where ‘patients’ dressed in hospital garb ran amok and scared other partygoers?  Teetering on edge, you try to navigate your way around these fictional asylums as menacing beings lunged at you.

We may not realise it, but it is scenarios like these that further perpetuate stigma against mental health.  One common theme runs throughout, that is, the insinuation that psychiatric patients are dangerous.  In Singapore, people may even refer to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) as a “madhouse”, and that label stirs up negative connotations about mental illnesses.
Ms Porsche Poh, Founder and Executive Director of Silver Ribbon (Singapore), is dedicated to removing such misconceptions surrounding mental illnesses.  Introducing herself as a “professional beggar” in good humour, Porsche begged for attention to invest in mental health awareness and advocacy.  Most people are more than ready to go to a doctor for physical ailments, such as a fever.  Yet few are willing to come forth to seek help in mental health.  How then, do we convince people to be unashamed about mental health difficulties?

Porsche acknowledged that adjusting mindsets towards mental health would likely take some time.  One challenge faced is getting adequate funding to support mental health programmes and services.  At the workplace, employers can help by removing mental health query on job application forms to eliminate prejudice against people with mental health conditions.  Porsche also works together with religious leaders to raise awareness about mental health, because there may be misconceptions that mental illnesses befall individuals who “do not pray enough”.

It is important to understand the needs of the community and be mindful of the surrounding cultures and beliefs.  Do not assume that you know everything!  Porsche urged us to take time to do on-ground research, as well as educate ourselves with studies and journals.  We can also explore collaborations on ways to eradicate mental health discrimination.

As psychology students and graduates, some of us may lament about how mental health in Singapore is still seen as a taboo topic.  But, apart from complaining, what have we done to make a change? Porsche’s stirring talk drives a key message across, that is, “YOU can make things happen”. We have the power to shape the mental health landscape for the better; simply take the first step and try.

Session B10:  Going Private
Speaker:  Shirley Woon (Founder / Psychotherapist / Counsellor at The Blue Pencil)
Covered by:  SGPsychStud

The speaker, Shirley, was very focused on specifically one question:
Why do you want to go into private practice?
She commented that it requires a lot of motivation to go into private practice, and it was also not an easy choice for her then.  She also cleared the misconception that one will be earning a lot in private practice.  She mentioned that though one may have a lot of flexibility and freedom in private practice, high earnings may not be a certainty.

Shirley listed some traits that one requires if there are plans to go into private practice:
  • Disciplined - Time is often an issue, and hence one has to be disciplined enough to make sure to continuously find work or do work to maintain the income.
  • Patient - Clients do not come automatically, hence one has to be patient if there is a lack of clients at any point of time. 
  • Able to do the mundane - Being in private practice also meant that she has to do all the necessary administrative work. 
  • Willingness to take other assignments - To maintain the income, one may have to take up other assignments.
  • Humble - this is an important trait in counsellors and psychotherapists, and it does help in building networks with fellow practitioners and possible clients.

What do students need to do if they are considering to start a private practice?
Shirley shared some advice for students!
  • Don't advertise.  Build your website and make sure you have namecards.
  • Rent space if you are going to start your practice.  Don't buy.
  • Practice self care.  Recharge and empty your mind from time to time.  Take a holiday when you need to.
  • Keep on learning and relearn if you need to. 
  • "If it feels wrong,  don't do it." (in terms of taking up assignments and clients)
  • Make sure you have other assignments to have more income.
  • Lastly, believe in what u do!
More advice for students:
  • If you are passionate with what you study, you will be passionate with what you are going to do.  Do well with what you do.
  • Further your training in your choice or expertise in a therapy method to sharpen your skills.
A question a student asked:  "Should I work or do my masters first?"
Shirley's reply:
"Depends on how long you wish to work.  Work allows you to have real life application of the theories,  which may help with the masters program.  However, some have mentioned that if one has worked for too long, it may get too difficult to get back into reading and studying."
Lastly she recommends the below book for those who are interested to start your own private practice!
Image Credit: https://marypipher.com/letters-to-a-young-therapist-reissue/
This post is written by SGPsychStud and Rachel Lim. Rachel is a first-year psychology student from the Singapore University of Social Sciences. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and is currently working as a writer.

UniPsych Symposium 2018 (Part 3) - Coverage on Sessions A

Image Credit: https://unipsych18.wixsite.com/main
Other than the Keynote Adress by Dr Majeed and the Panel session, UniPsych Symposium also offered 3 concurrent sessions, featuring up to 10 talks in each concurrent session.  The image below shows all the talk titles.  We have covered those talks which are in the blue boxes and will be writing about them in the next three posts!
Image Credit: https://unipsych18.wixsite.com/main

Session A6:  Pursuing A Career in Clinical Psychology
Speaker:  Muhammad Haikal Bin Jamil  (Founder / Clinical Psychologist from ImPossible Psychological Services)
Covered by:  Rachel Lim
Image credit: http://www.impossiblepsychservices.com.sg/psychologists

What exactly does a clinical psychologist do?  And how does one embark on a path towards that role? 
Muhammad Haikal Bin Jamil, Founder and Clinical Psychologist of ImPossible Psychological Services, addressed some of these commonly asked questions in his talk  ‘Pursuing A Career in Clinical Psychology’.

Crime dramas first piqued Haikal’s interest in forensic psychology, but he eventually discovered that reality differs from the fictional glamour we see on television.   Furthermore, he cited low crime rates in Singapore as a possible lack of motivation for some people to pursue a career in forensic psychology.

After acquiring a master’s degree in clinical psychology, Haikal became a psychologist at MINDS (Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore).  There, he specialised in assessments and interventions, such as behavioural modifications to assist persons with intellectual disabilities.  Apart from that, he conducts workshops and talks on mental health too.

Haikal discussed the confusion regarding the job scopes of counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists.  There are degrees of overlaps between the various roles, but the main difference lies in each type of training the professionals go through.
For more information, please refer to: https://sgpsychstuff.blogspot.com/2013/02/whats-difference.html
“Why do you want to become a clinical psychologist?” 
A word of advice from him  –  Should you ever get that question in an interview, steer away from answers such as “I want to help people”, as there are many professions that allow one to help others too, including social work.  Being a clinical psychologist does not merely provide assistance;  it allows one to empower people by lifting them out of debilitating situations.  Nonetheless, clients need to possess a desire for change in order to work together effectively.

There may be a few challenges that come with being a psychologist.  Initially, one may need to process difficult emotions.  It is crucial to be emotionally stable in the first place, be able to detach and have proper self-care.  The nature of work requires a high level of confidentiality, so there is little outlet to share the challenges faced in the job.  Thus, having a good network of support from peers is helpful too.  Haikal goes on to share the challenges he faced in his own private practice – that is apart from being a psychologist, he also has to actively network and market the business.

Haikal advised for those aspiring to carve out a career in clinical psychology to get a good clinical supervisor and obtain relevant experience in different settings such as prisons, hospitals, social service, and private practice.  It is beneficial to consider a sub-specialty as well.  There seems to a demand for clinical psychologists, as the ideal psychologist to population ratio in a developed country is 1:10,000.  We are still far from that figure, so there is little need to fret about an oversaturated industry.

Session A4: Psychology in Singapore: A Path to Nowhere?
Speakers: Dr Jessie Chua and Conrad Mark Lim (from Resilienz Clinic)
Covered by:  SGPsychStud
Conrad Lim (left) and Dr Jessie Chua (right)
Jessie asked this question:
Does this degree lead you to nowhere? 
She started with mentioning that a lot of students are feeling anxious about their career options and pathways, as the competition for graduate studies and work is very tough.  She advised that instead of feeling anxious, we should have the mindset that "the world is your oyster".

After compiling a list of information that the participants wanted to find out, Conrad discussed the differences between the different helping professions.  With the brief description of the different helping professions such as psychologists, counsellors, and social workers, he also noted that there is no official regulation of these different jobs.
He also commented that there are actually many other other careers for psychology graduates to consider, such as human resource,  marketing,  research work, or even general business management.

Jessie advised:
Your degree is like your first love.  Sometimes u need to break and learn more and continue.  You never know where you will end up to.  You have to really think about what drives you.   Ask why and think about where you want to go next. 
SGPsychStud:  My talk-away from this talk is that you have to be really clear on your choices with regards to your future work and studies in psychology.  You have to be very reflective and ask yourself what you really wish to pursue among the different helping professions, as they can all be very different.  Your degree is only your first step;  however you have to do much more to have a better understanding and knowledge for what you really wish to pursue in psychology.


This post is written by SGPsychStud and Rachel Lim. Rachel is a first-year psychology student from the Singapore University of Social Sciences. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and is currently working as a writer.

UniPsych Symposium (Part 2) - Advice from Panel Speakers

Image Credit: https://unipsych18.wixsite.com/main
Towards the end of the long day at UniPsych Symposium, we ended off with a panel session with Dr Hanita Assudani, Ms Silma Sulaiman, Ms Geraldine Tan-Ho.  It was quite an enlightening Question-and-Answer session with the speakers sharing about their personal experiences in their respective fields and providing some advice for those interested in pursuing a psychology career.
Instead of a long Question-and-Answer format, we have summarized the provided advice:
[Below quotes from the speakers are reworded to provide better clarity]

Why should we get into this field of psychology?
Working with the patients help us to understand that life is fragile and better appreciate life.
In this field, we have the ability to help people and make a difference in people's lives.
I can make a difference and advocate for mental health patients.
Changes in Psychology
Our history from Freud has evolved and changed to the research and statistics now.  We work with humans and it is hard to explain for that (statistical) 5% or 1%.  We can only make sure that our methods are rigorous and look at how our programs can be better improved.  Local content and norms are being interpreted for psychological questionnaires.  What we are doing are backed up by research.
What makes us different is that we work with humans and make their lives better.  And it is now very research based.
It is a social science, so there is a human element.  It is a art and a science.  But this profession has evolved much from Freud's time.
Advice for attaining work
How I got my job was that I was doing a lot of volunteer work, and I was headhunted as they knew that I was doing volunteering.
Networking is very important, and it is a very important skill to have.
Develop your soft skills and your ability to showcase your experience and knowledge is very important.
Having the research experience also help for jobs; it makes your job more applicable.
Advice for working professionals
Make sure you have good supervision to be better at your work.  As well as good self care and supportive colleagues.  Do ensure people around you are supportive. Setting boundaries and self-care are important and needs to be observed.   If u see that it is your weakness, do speak up and inform your supervisor.

Including a question which I thought was interesting:
How do you prevent yourself from detaching from your clients story and not bringing that emotional baggage home?
Empathy v.s. Compassion.  We practice both, but there are differences.  I remind myself that that is work and make it mindful not to do it at home.  You must have other interests and things to do outside work, so be mindful to do them and unload from work.
You are a human before a psychologist.  Self-care takes effort.  Do talk to your supervisor and feed those emotions off someone.  We can be empathetic, but we need to draw the line not to indulge in the compassion.
3 things to note: Intention, Mindfulness and Boundaries.

  1. Intention:  When I go for my sessions, I have a goal in mind.  When I leave the session, I try not to have unfinished business.  Is this discomfort that I am feeling my discomfort or the client's discomfort?  Seek supervision if it is your discomfort.
  2. Mindfulness:  Being there and enjoy the moment that you are not a psychologist, when you are not in office.
  3. Boundaries:  You are not just a psychologist or counsellor.  You need to empower the client that they will not die without you.  We are all working with clients towards the goal that they don't need us anymore.
Final advice for undergraduates
Don't be afraid to try things.  It is not necessary to get things right at your age.  Only when you try, you know what works and doesn't work for you.  Use whatever skills you have, and take further courses.  Don't be fixated and try and have a goal, and find what works for you.
This is my 3rd job and the soft skills are transferable from one to another job.  You will better understand your own limits through the volunteering experiences.  In terms of jobs, don't be afraid to try, and try to stay for at least a year to see if the job is really for you.
Do go out and volunteer if u wish to do direct work with people and try everything.  You contribute to society and understand yourself better.  As long as you r proud of what u do, it is the right thing to do.
SGPsychStud's takeaway from the panel session:
  1. Do volunteering! It helps your career in the long run.
  2. Always seek supervision and set your boundaries right from the start as a therapist.
  3. In order for us to attain new opportunities and experiences, it is best that we have a thirst for knowledge, always be curious, and have a positive mindset! Read more about these qualities in this post!

UniPsych Symposium 2018 (Part 1) - Keynote Address by Dr Majeed Khader

This year’s UniPsych Symposium saw a keynote address by Dr Majeed Khader, the Director of the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre.  Dr Majeed is also the Chief Psychologist of the Singapore Police Force.  As a seasoned psychologist with decades of experience, Dr Majeed first shared an overview of the psychology scene in Singapore, then highlighted the multiple pathways aspiring psychologists can progress to after a degree.  Next, he delved into his area of speciality  –  forensic psychology.
Forensic psychology is a fascinating sector to work in, but it is more diverse than the glitz and glamour as portrayed by the media in crime shows.  Forensic psychologists need to be competent in the detection of deception. 
How do different criminals lie? 
Are there variations in deception across different cultures?  
Though some criminals may commit the same crimes, they may not possess the same mindset and intentions that led to their unlawful actions.  As a forensic psychologist, Dr Majeed had to interpret the modus operandi of various criminals.  Providing essential support to victims of traumatic crimes is part of the job too.

Dr Majeed is also involved in the assessment and selection of police personnel, as it is crucial to pick the right individuals for appropriate roles.  In the police force, job responsibilities can be highly demanding and vigorous.  Officers need to make swift decisions in high-stress situations.  Forensic psychologists are then tasked to design tests to evaluate the suitability of applicants.  In forensic settings, psychologists can also be part of the hostage negotiation team, as Dr Majeed was during the Little India riot in 2013.

Dr Majeed recounted a particular incident where he had to interview terrorists at the Internal Security Department.  In terrorism psychology, a psychologist is required to understand why individuals are compelled to carry out acts of extremism.  Figuring out how to combat violent extremism in a digital age is an important area of work.

Being a forensic psychologist holds good prospects, and it is meaningful work.  However, the job could be unstructured and stressful at times.  To communicate effectively with people, psychologists should know how to adapt accordingly to the situation.  It is crucial to be skilful in using language that resonates with the specific demographic.  Dr Majeed ends off his address by encouraging us to “unlearn from school” as well.

Do read more about Forensic and Criminal Psychology in Singapore by Dr Majeed!

This post is written by Rachel Lim, a first-year psychology student from the Singapore University of Social Sciences. Rachel also holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and is currently working as a writer.

Xav: How Technology has Affected our Mental Health (Part 2) - How Technology Can Improve Mental Health

Part 1 looked at the Good and the Bad of technology for our mental health. As mentioned:

"Even for adults, much of our stress is caused by technology. We often become overwhelmed by technology's flood of incoming demands on our time and energy. Mobile phones, texting, e-mail, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram notifications all insistently demanding an immediate response. We sometimes allow our gadgets to dictate our lives."
If we are unable to effectively manage our use of technology, it will not be good for our mental health.  Here are some technological methods to help you:

1. Mood tracking
In recent years, many mood tracking applications have appeared on the digital market.  While more research on digital mood trackers needs to be done, experts have acknowledged that digital mood tracking can bring new insights to the clinical psychology field (Malhi et al., 2017; Caldeira et al., 2017).  Mood tracking helps individuals understand their mood patterns better, thus improving one’s self-awareness.  As such, while studies have shown that technology affects psychological health - for example, it drives anxiety, as mentioned by Jerry in the previous post - it can be used as well, to cope with anxiety and low moods in the context of mood trackers.

2. Sleep quality
Many studies have also shown that browsing through light-emitting devices such as smartphones and laptops can disrupt sleep (Chang, Aeschbach, Duffy and Czeisler, 2015).  The over-usage of technology is linked to poor sleep quality.  As we know, quality sleep is the foundation of health- better sleep is linked to higher well-being.
However, technology can improve your sleep quality.  There are many applications and technological devices available these days for you to track REM sleep, snoring and even how much you toss and turn in your sleep!  Some applications even synchronise sounds with your breathing pattern to help you fall into slumber.  Evidently, if used right, technology can too, improve your sleep quality.

3. Meditation
In recent years, meditation has been highly raved about on social media and health websites because of the health benefits it brings.  This is also backed up by many scientific studies.  Research has found that meditation can improve stress-related conditions such as fibromyalgia and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Kozasa, Tanaka, Monson, Little, Leao and Peres, 2012; Lang, Strauss, Bomyea, Bormann, Hickman, Good and Essex, 2012).
But, despite all the benefits of meditation, it can be undeniably difficult to find meditation lessons or take time out for meditation classes, especially if you are in a fast-paced society like Singapore.  This is when technology comes into handy.  There are many meditation phone apps available currently in the market, focusing on breathing and providing guided meditation.  These applications usually allow the user to choose the duration of time they can afford, and even send out daily reminders that help you to cultivate a habit.  Evidently, technology allows us to fit healthy mental health habits such as meditation into our busy schedules.

4. Improving attention
As mentioned by Jerry, technology affects attention span and cognition.  However, there are applications that can improve one’s attention span.  These applications allow you to add distracting applications to a blacklist and when you use the application, it prevents you from accessing those applications on the list.  This allows the user to be fully focused on the task at hand without getting off-track due to distractions such as social media or the internet.
If you do not want to download an application for this purpose, you can always use the alarm function on your phone and allocate time-slots to work and breaks.

5. Reaching out to communities
Image Credit:

Indeed, using technology around people disrupts our social life, eventually leading to social isolation.  However, technology can also be used as a platform to facilitate social bonding and ease feelings of loneliness.  There are many online communities that provide social and emotional support for those without a social support structure, as well as those facing mental health issues.  These communities seek to educate and spread awareness.  Under circumstances where an individual is facing difficulties and has no one to turn to for advice, these communities provide information for these individuals and give them empowerment.

Indeed, technology brings about psychological effects and can impact our mental health.  However, if used correctly, it can also empower an individual and get our health on track.
Here's an infographic to help you summarise this post!