3 Ways of Carving Your Psychology Career during University

A model was proposed during the recent SPS Student Forum 2017 at Singapore Management University during the opening talk, and it discussed on how one can discover your psychological specialisation.  It is achieved mainly through these steps:
1.  Learn
2.  Explore
3.  Experience
4.  Network

Sounds Easy??
Actually it is relatively easy if you know what to do and have the means to do it.

These steps are actually the same as our topic for today:  Carving your Psychology Career during University, but I will be providing you with more resources, as well as a new opportunity that SG Psych Stuff has decided to pilot for 2018!

When you are doing your university (and other tertiary) education, this is the best time to try out different things, because as a student, a) it is socially accepted to discover and try out new things and still fail at the same time, and b) you have lesser obligations and commitments than a working adult, which results in more time to try out new things.  Starting to plan and carve your career earlier is better, with reasons as stated in 3 Reasons Why You Should Plan Your Psychology Career During University, and it helps to increase your value even before you finish your degree.

So here are three things I would advise you to do before you graduate:
1.  Network
2.  Internship or Volunteer (or any experience)
3.  Find a mentor

With regards to Networking and Internship/Volunteer, SG Psych Stuff has already written multiple posts on their benefits and why you should partake in them as much as possible.  Here are the posts to read before you start anything else:

Networking: (In chronological order)
Power of Networking
Jobs (Part 8): Summary + Major reason for expanding your network
Interactions of Psychology Students in Singapore
Networking on Social Media

Conclusion: Always remember this phrase from Jobs (Part 8):
Expanding your network = More (future) job opportunities

Internship/Volunteer: (In chronological order)
Importance of practicum/work experience/internship
V.I.P. (Volunteering/Internship Project), leading to Why the internship/volunteering plan did not work
5 Things Students can do during the Holidays

Links for volunteering opportunities:
Career Planning for a Psychological Career (Part 3)
Organizations in the Mental Health Scene in Singapore

Finding a mentor was a idea that is relatively new that has only been discussed since November 2016, hence here is the only post:  Having a Mentor for Your Psychological Journey
Often, a mentor is someone that you know through your existing contacts (hence Power of Networking again), whom you can discuss your career thoughts and issues in the hope to better direct yourself in the path that you wish to move in your psychological journey.  This navigation in your journey is not easy, hence it is of utmost important to find a mentor who is willing to guide you, as well as challenge you to become a stronger person.


Throughout our years in SG Psych Stuff, we have tried and implemented many projects to help students gain better knowledge.  Here is our latest project for 2018:

SG Psych Stuff will be taking in a total of 8 students for our pilot mentorship program. We are currently only accepting Year 1 and 2 students who are studying the major of Psychology from local universities in Singapore (as of Jan 2018).
Please click THIS LINK for more details and registration for the program!  Registration for the program will close 14 January 2018.
Interviews may be done in end January or early February to see the suitability of the students to the respective mentors. Stay tuned!

Last advice of advice from Using the "COW" in Building Your Career:
"Whatever you are doing, it is for your future career."

3 Reasons Why You Should Plan Your Psychology Career During University

So you’ve worked hard to get the results you’ve needed to get into that psychology course you’ve always wanted to enter, but... 
What’s Next?
For most university students, it is very easy to get caught up in the seemingly never-ending array of tasks required by the course.  This leads to a cycle that doesn’t end until you’ve finally graduated, but then you suddenly realize that your psychology degree does not allow you to do what you’ve always dreamed of doing, such as a clinical psychologist or educational psychologist or counsellor?  This can be a harsh reality check for many undergraduates who have been so focused on their academic pursuit during their undergraduate years that they’ve forgotten to plan for their future careers.  Not fully convinced?  Here are a few reasons why it’s useful to start planning your career as a psychology undergraduate:

1. Many specialist psychology fields require a postgraduate degree
Image Credit: https://www.popularity.sg/do-you-need-a-postgraduate-degree/
To be recognized a practicing psychologist within most fields (the exception being perhaps organizational psychology, although in most cases you still need a postgraduate degree, but this differs from company to company), you need at least a master’s degree or in some cases (e.g., lecturing at the university level) a doctoral degree.  This means a minimum of 2 to 3 years of waiting and studying before you are able to start practicing in those respective fields. Given that most fresh university graduates have little to no practical experience in these fields, it would be even more challenging for one to be able to find a job, even if it was an entry level position, to do a job related to the field they wish to pursue (e.g., research assistant or associate psychologist). 

2. Tougher Competition
Increasingly, the amount of people with the basic qualifications and who possess the same knowledge as you is constantly getting larger, but the amount of available positions in postgraduate courses and psychology related jobs remains the same.  This leads to a situation where if everyone knows the same things and has the same amount of experience;  how are potential schools/employers going to assess the best candidate or candidates for the limited positions available?  The answer may seem obvious, but as harsh and unfair as it may be, sometimes it boils down to the people you know.  
Often people assume that knowing people helps you to win a position because of that person’s influence within the field you are preparing to enter, and this may be the case sometimes, but in general, having someone in the field vouch for you shows the effort you’ve made above and beyond just ensuring you attain the minimum requirements for entry into it.  It shows potential schools/employers that this is an individual who has long known what they’ve wanted to do and is someone who has taken the required actions to increase their chances at doing so. 

3. Networks Do Not Form Overnight
Lastly, and perhaps mostly importantly, networks do not form as quickly and easily as most people think they do.  A professional network is very similar to a social one, it requires effort and commitment to growing it.  This can be especially tedious for undergraduates who may already be struggling to balance their academic and social commitments.  But just like any other network, people will not remember or consider you a part of their network if you do not make the effort to be part of it.  At this point, some of you may be thinking:  "So what if I don’t have an active professional network during my undergraduate years?"  The answer is pretty straightforward and is directly related to the second point.  Having a professional network allows you to meet and learn from people who are already in the field you wish to join.  This allows you to get a behind-the-scenes look at the field and to know how best to increase your chances of becoming part of it.
 Stay tuned to the next segment: 
3 Ways of Carving Your Psychology Career during University!

SGPsychStud: Reflection on choosing a Counselling Framework Certification

Image Credit: http://seanheritage.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/whats-next.jpg
In the last two years when I had a short career switch stint, I asked myself:
"What do I want to improve now?"
I knew my answers instantly, and it was to improve my counselling skills.  Hence I went on a search to better understand the respective frameworks being taught in Singapore.

This website explains it quite well with the therapies being categorised into:
  • cognitive and behavioural therapies, 
  • psychoanalytical and psychodynamic therapies, and 
  • humanistic therapies
What I wanted to learn more of was humanistic therapies (and this had been always been the same throughout my own psychological journey).

I had a criteria when researching and selecting for these certification courses:
The course has to allow me to be certified and recognised as a practitioner of that counselling framework.
Reason:  There are actually many training courses out there that gives out certifications at the end of the course.  However, the worth and value of these certificates are almost close to nothing, if I am not able to use them in my career or work.  (This is regarding the same question when students ask me if certain degrees are 'recognised'.  My answer is that the industry / employers must "recognise" them in order for the certificates to have value to you.)

I managed to find two institutions that provide such certificates that met my criteria.  Even better, they are quite widely acceptable by the counselling and social work circles, even within the education system and other public services.  They are respectively:
So how did I come to my decision?
I really considered it quite intensely with the below factors:
1)  Price - cost of training can be an issue, considering that I have bills to pay
2)  Duration - How fast I can finish the program, with full-time work
3)  Alignment to my own framework - this is the most important factor for me.
With my psychological training mostly focused on CBT and my preference for Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT) and Person-centred Therapy, it is important that I am able to integrate this new training and framework into my existing ones.  Hence I did my further research on these frameworks and asked both of the institutions many questions before I finally made my decision after a few months.

My choice?  Currently, I am doing my CTRT Stage 4: Advanced Practicum, working my way to the final Stage 5: CT/ RT Certification, where I will receive the designation of Choice Theory/ Reality Therapy Certified (CTRTC).  Fingers crossed!
Image Credit: http://www.wgi-kuwait.org/index.php/ct-menu-item-5

Overview on Complementary and Alternative Therapies

From 1999, National Institutes of Health (NIH) created the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) with the mission of investigating the efficiency of complementary and alternative medicine interventions and how they can better improve health (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/04/ce-corner.aspx).  Since then, many studies have shown the effectiveness of the CAM modalities on various ailments and disorders.

Complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) is being used in practice more often now.  These two words are often used together;  however, they are significantly different from each other.  A complementary therapy is a form of therapy used alongside the conventional medical treatment to cope better with illness.  On the other hand, an alternative therapy is generally used instead of conventional medical treatment.  We will discuss a few CAM modalities below.
Image credit: https://hubpages.com/education/Complementary-Alternative-Medicine-Therapies-cam-meaning-difference
Meditation is commonly and widely used.  It is a process by which people learn to focus their attention as a way of gaining greater insight into themselves and their surroundings.  Research has showed that the meditation program is associated with significant reductions in blood pressure (Rainforth, Schneider, Nidich, Gaylord-King, Salerno, & Anderson, 2007).  In another study by Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt and Walach (2007), they suggested that mindfulness meditation may help individuals with either clinical (i.e. cancer, heart disease, depression) or non-clinical issues to cope with stress level.

Aromatherapy is a natural way of healing a person’s mind, body and soul using the fragrance or smell during the therapy session.  It is believed that using different scents (extracted from plants) and oils are beneficial for different therapeutic purposes, such as reducing pain, anxiety and agitation (Ali, Al-Wabel, Shams, Ahamad, Khan, & Anwar, 2015).  In the study by Domingos and Braga (2015), aromatherapy is found to show the effectiveness in relieving anxiety by decreasing the heart and respiratory rates in patients diagnosed with personality disorders during psychiatric hospitalization.  Chang and Shen (2011) have also found that with the use of Bergamot during the aromatherapy, individuals with moderate and high degrees of anxiety and stress level showed significant improvement in reducing blood pressure and heart rate, hence striking a balance in their autonomic nervous activity.  However, it is also important to note that personal preference on the scents could also lead to different results.

Yoga is a physical practice that unites the body, mind and spirit (Hagen & Nayar, 2014).  During the yoga process, individuals will have slow and rhythmic breathing, which can release prolactin and the hormone oxytocin, lead to a sense of calmness (Toerner, Toschi, Nava, Clapp, & Neumann, 2002).  Besides, yoga can also improve children’s sense of self-awareness, self-confidence and concentration skills (Thiyagarajan Subramanian, Trakroo, Bobby, & Das, 2015).  National Health Interview Survey (2007) showed that yoga was the most favoured CAM practices among children with behavioural, emotional or mental health problems.

Religion and Spirituality
Religion and spirituality are two separate entities.  Religion is institutionized spirituality, hence, there are various religions involves spirituality which are different sets of beliefs, traditions and doctrines (Verghese, 2008).
Brody (2003) found that parents are more likely to have harmonious marital relationships and better parenting skills when they are more involved in church activities.  This leads to the improvement in children’s competence, self-regulation, psychosocial adjustment and school performance.  Tonigan’s (2003) study also demonstrated that spirituality promotes alcohol abstinence by increasing the likelihood of being honesty and responsible.
Religion and spirituality have been integrated into practices among psychologists and psychotherapists (D’Souza, 2004; Verghese, 2008).  Certification is not required to integrate religion and spirituality into practices.  However, professionals should not go beyond their clinical roles and take on the role of clergy.  Education and training should be considered to obtain in order to ensure their clinical competence (Barnett & Shale, 2012).

Dance Therapy
Dance therapy is a psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of individuals (American Dane Therapy Association, 2012).  It is believed that by focusing on the body, one should be able to affect his or her mind and therefore relieve a variety of symptoms by enjoying the pleasure of creating rhythmic motions with the body (Barnstaple, 2016).   Studies have also showed that dance therapy can help with symptoms associated with dementia (Verghese et al., 2013), depression (Koch, Morlinghaus & Fuchs, 2007) and a variety of physical disabilities, as well as to promote overall well-being (Burgess, Grogan & Burwitz, 2006).
Debates are still on-going with regards to the effectiveness of dance therapy.  For instance, Meekum, Karkou & Nelson (2015) have found no significant impact of dance therapy on individuals with depression.  On the other hand, Harris (2007) revealed a reduction in anxiety, depression, intrusive recollection, elevated arousal and aggression symptoms among a group of former boy combatants.

Music Therapy
Music therapy uses music to promote healing and enhance quality of life.  It provides distraction from anxiety, pain and depression (Mettner, 2005; Petteron, 2001) by directing the listener to soothing and comforting music (Lane, 2005).
Music therapy has been widely used as a complementary therapy along with other cancer treatments to help patients cope mentally and physically with their diagnosis.  Studies have showed the significant improvements in cancer patients’ state of well-being such as decreased level of cortisol, increased level of relaxation and more positive emotions (Burns, Harbuz, Hucklebridge & Bunt, 2001; Hirsch & Meckes, 2000).

Art therapy
Creating art is found to be helpful in the healing process as individuals can slowly walk through their painful or traumatic experiences hidden in their subconscious mind by creating a painting or drawing (Eaton, Doherty & Widrick, 2007; St. Thomas & Johnson, 2002).  Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of art therapy in various health issues such as asthma, depression, cancer (Beebe, Gelfance & Bender, 2010; Thyme, Sundin, Stahlberg, Lindstrom, Eklof & Wiberg, 2007; Svensk, Oster, Thyme, Magnusson, Sjodin, Eisemann, Astrom & Lindh, 2009).  Results showed that art therapy can reduce anxiety, improve quality of life and self-concept, reduce depressive and stress-related symptoms and increase in coping resources with regards to the health issues.

Limitations on CAM
Research on the effectiveness and underlying mechanisms of the many CAM modalities has greatly increased in recent years.  However, psychologists should be aware of the potential limitations associated with some of this research such as the recruitment sample, ways of grouping the participants and sample size.  In fact, many CAM studies have samples that are smaller than 10 subjects (Kunstler, Greenblat, & Moreno, 2004).  These limitations, thus, lead to the generalizability issues.  Although many findings have provided helpful information for understanding the efficacy of various CAM modalities, lack of longitudinal studies remain (Tonigan, 2003).  Despite the limitations mentioned, it does not mean that CAM modalities are not useful.

Ethics Principles
Psychologists should comply the ethics principles when practising the CAM modalities.  For instance, psychologists should possess the needed knowledge and skills to be able to practice effectively and to not practice outside areas of demonstrated competence (Barnett & Shale, 2012).  Further, psychologists are required to maintain their competence through ongoing professional development activities that include keeping informed about recent developments in the field.
Another point to consider is that several CAM modalities are appropriate for psychologists to integrate into treatment with their clients when appropriately trained and credentialed to do so.  Yet administering process may constitute an inappropriate multiple relationship and a boundary violation.  Psychologists should be especially sensitive to boundary issues when a CAM modality is implemented through physical contact, such as with massage therapy, chiropractic and Reiki.
Image credit: http://www.pbdmauritius.org/journal-of-alternative-and-complementary-drugs-the.html

In summary, psychologists need to recognize when it is appropriate to integrate a specific modality into a client's psychological treatment as opposed to making a referral to a CAM practitioner, and knowing how to do this effectively are essential components of each psychologist's competence.  Psychologists must also be aware of when clients should or should not continue with a CAM modality that has been previously implemented.  Hence, remain educated and up-to-date on the field of CAM well as the various modalities and their diverse uses are crucial.

Jerry O.: World Mental Health Day 2017 - Mental Health Concerns at the Workplace

Image Credit: https://www.wfmh.global/wmhd-2017/
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in September 2017, more than 300 million people globally suffer from depression, with many of these people also suffering from symptoms of anxiety.  The WHO has found that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity.

Unemployment is a well-recognized risk factor for mental health problems, while returning to, or getting work is protective.  However, a negative working environment may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity.
Workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains (WHO, 2017).
With the incidences of mental health issues like Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other mental health concerns like depression on the rise in the workforce - a fact that is usually overlooked because these disorders tend to be hidden at work.  In countries like Singapore, the stigma attached to having a psychiatric disorder is such that employees may be reluctant to speak to anyone or seek treatment (especially in the current economic climate) out of fear that they might jeopardize their career, or lose their jobs.
As a result, mental health disorders often go unrecognized and untreated — not only damaging an individual's health and career, but also reducing productivity at work. 
Adequate treatment, on the other hand, can alleviate symptoms for the employee and improve job performance.  But accomplishing these objectives requires a shift in attitudes about mental disorders concerns and the recognition that such a worthwhile achievement takes effort, time, and a lot of support from the organisation.

A healthy workplace can be described as one where workers and managers actively contribute to the working environment by promoting and protecting the health, safety and well-being of all employees.
A recent guide from the World Economic Forum suggests that interventions should take a 3-pronged approach:

  • Address mental health problems regardless of cause.
  • Protect mental health by reducing work–related risk factors.
  • Promote mental health by developing the positive aspects of work and the strengths of employees.

Interventions and good practices that protect and promote mental health in the workplace include:
  • implementation and enforcement of health and safety policies and practices, including identification of distress, harmful use of psychoactive substances and illness and providing resources to manage them;
  • informing staff that support is available;
  • involving employees in decision-making, conveying a feeling of control and participation; organizational practices that support a healthy work-life balance;
  • programmes for career development of employees; and
  • recognizing and rewarding the contribution of employees.
Organizations can take various steps to facilitate a more conducive work environment for colleagues who come with mental health concerns, without compromising productivity.  Steps organizations can take to create a healthy workplace, includes:
  • Awareness of the workplace environment and how it can be adapted to promote better mental health for different employees.
  • Learning from the motivations of organizational leaders and employees who have taken action.
  • Not reinventing wheels by being aware of what other companies who have taken action have done.
  • Understanding the opportunities and needs of individual employees, in helping to develop better policies for workplace mental health.
  • Awareness of sources of support and where people can find help.
If someone you know is affected by a mental health issues, getting support from friends and family can make all the difference to their recovery. If your fellow colleague is showing signs of a mental health concerns or reaches out for help, you could offer support by:
  • asking how they are
  • being available to listen
  • acknowledging how they are feeling
  • asking what you can do to help
  • choosing a good time and place to talk, when you are both relaxed
  • being sensitive, positive and encouraging
  • keeping the conversation relaxed and open
  • talking about other topics too - don’t let a mental health issue become the centre of your relationship
  • being informed - read quality, evidence-based information and become familiar with the signs and symptoms of their mental health issue
  • starting slowly - try small actions first, such as going for a walk or visiting a friend
  • encouraging them to get enough sleep, eat healthy food and exercise
  • discouraging them from self-medicating with alcohol or drugs
  • inviting them out, and encouraging other people in your lives to do so too
  • offering practical support, such as doing their shopping or cooking meals
  • encouraging them to seek help immediately if they are at risk of suicide or self-harm
  • explaining why you’re concerned and offer examples
  • using ‘I statements’, such as ‘I’m worried…’ or ‘I’ve noticed…’
  • providing information, such as books or brochures for them to read in their own time
  • offering to make an appointment with a doctor or mental health professional on their behalf, and offering to take them
When someone you know is struggling or has a mental health issue, it can be difficult to support them – despite your best intentions, some comments may do more harm than good. Here are some things that are best left unsaid and the reasons why. It is important not to:
  • make unhelpful or dismissive comments like ‘snap out of it’, ‘cheer up’, ‘forget about it’, ‘pull yourself together’, or ‘I’m sure it will pass’ - these comments can make a person feel worse
  • saying ‘I know how you feel’ when you really don’t, because this invalidates their experience
  • point out that others are worse off - this is dismissive
  • blame anyone for changes in their behaviour, especially when you feel tired and frustrated
  • avoid the person
  • make fun of their mental illness
  • pressure them, if they don’t want to go out or to discuss their issues with you
  • think of mental illness as a personal weakness or failing
  • define your colleague by their mental illness (labelling them)
  • use words that stigmatise, like ‘psycho’ or ‘crazy’ or ‘siao’
  • get frustrated or angry
  • feel guilty if you didn’t know your colleague has a mental health issue - the changes can be gradual, and people often hide their symptoms from close friends, colleagues and family
The WHO has advised that Mental health interventions should be delivered as part of an integrated health and well-being strategy that covers prevention, early identification, support and rehabilitation. Occupational health services or professionals may support organizations in implementing these interventions where they are available, but even when they are not, a number of changes can be made that may protect and promote mental health. The key to success is involving stakeholders and staff at all levels when providing protection, promotion and support interventions and when monitoring their effectiveness. (WHO, 2017)

Happy World Mental Health Day!!!
Image Credit: https://www.wfmh.global/wmhd-2017/

Jon: World Mental Health Day 2017 - Personal sharing by Individual with Dysthymia

Image Credit: https://www.mind.org.uk/get-involved/world-mental-health-day/
In commemoration of World Mental Health Day 2017, we have a series of posts on mental health issues lined up for you!  The first will be a sharing of a personal case of an individual who has been through mental health issues and for the sake of this post, a pseudonym will be used to protect the identity of the individual.  This post is essential because it will give insight into the world of the mentally ill from their perspective as compared to what we often learn from the internet or books.  Without further ado, please enjoy this short question and answer style post!
Image Credit: https://ucf.campuslabs.com/engage/news/79643
Q:  What mental illness did you have and how long did you live with it?

I was diagnosed with dysthymia when I was 15 and I have been living with it since I was 8 or 9. I can’t really recall.

Q:  What is living with a mental illness like?

Dysthymia is a milder form of depression but it’s also known as Persistent Depressive Disorder because it goes on for an extended period of time.

Imagine feeling depressed all the time, from your waking moment to when you finally fall asleep.  While I don’t necessarily have suicidal thoughts, I live in such depression every day.  Being in a melancholic state, coupled with my low self-esteem, I tend to overthink every single action and word of people I interact with on a daily basis.  It gets extremely tiring when every micro-expression makes you feel as though a person hates you or finds you a terrible company to be with.  Even when I receive compliments, I feel greatly uncomfortable as I can’t help but think they are just lying to me.

As an extrovert who enjoys being around people, I get exhausted by the end of the day because I have to use a lot of energy to not think about how others see me or that I am worthless to the people around me.  It gets in the way of me enjoying time with people.  Sometimes, I feel so drained, I’d stay in bed the whole day just crying.

Q:  What do you wish for others to know about mental illnesses?

Unlike media portrayal, a large majority of us aren’t violent or perpetually weeping away.  We look just like you, except we are ill.  I hope people will understand that mental illnesses are just like physical illnesses and can be treated overtime with medication and therapy.

I also hope people know that mental illnesses come in different forms and on a spectrum.  Just because someone may not be diagnosed with a severe form of mental illness or may appear stable to you doesn’t mean you can invalidate their experiences and what they are going through.  Nothing hurts more than receiving dismissive comments and knowing someone understands is so important to one with mental illness.

Q:  What advice would you give to people who have friends/family that suffer from mental illnesses?
Be patient.  
Sometimes, we may do things that makes no rational sense or get upset with things that appear trivial to you.  Instead of telling us how we should feel, being a good listening ear goes a long way in letting us know you care.  Personally, talking to people who tries to understand what I am going through motivates me to stop skipping my medication and focus on recovery.

Q:  What do you hope to achieve by sharing your story with us?

While what I say may not be representative of my fellow mental illness fighters, I hope people understand that it is excruciating to live in our heads all the time, just like it’s painful to live with a cold for a period of time.  I hope people will be more aware of the different types of mental illnesses but at the same time understand that everyone has a different experience.  Just because someone may have for example, anxiety disorder, does not mean he/she has the same symptoms as another person with anxiety disorder.

I also hope my fellow mental illness fighters know they are not alone and we are all fighting together.
Image Credit: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/67/9b/d9/679bd92983293bfd219d786569e44bbe.jpg
[The above interview was curated by Jon, SG Psych Stuff team member.]

UniPsych Symposium Reflections: Part 2 - NUS and NTU

After UniPsych Symposium Reflections: Part 1 by JCUS students, here comes Part 2!

Image Credit: http://www.nus.edu.sg/
Reflection by Janet, NUS:
It was interesting seeing how speakers of varying backgrounds come together for a single focused event on psychology.  I particularly enjoyed the session by the School of Positive Psychology as it was an area that I had minimal exposure to and it was very interactive and useful in giving more insight into this area of psychology.  While psychology is a broad field, seeing so many people who are passionate about the a common area come together was intriguing and motivating to see so much interest in psychology.  Given the variety of talks, it'll be beneficial for students to come to the event with an open mind to explore different fields of psychology that they might not have considered before.
Image Credit: http://www.ntu.edu.sg
Reflection by Emmaus, NTU:
Organising UniPsych Symposium 2017 was an arduous journey, fraught with trials and learning opportunities. Despite this, I appreciate the opportunity to have worked alongside a team of peers and seniors who put in tremendous amounts of effort to make the event a success.  I would be the last person to say that the event went 100% smoothly - I woke up late and had to rush down from Hall, and it was just the start of the day  -  but it was a joint effort from our beloved volunteers, committee and organisers to keep things moving even when problems cropped up. 
For me, the talk by by Mr Suresh Joseph from Fernhill Consultancy Pte Ltd was the most memorable.  Though the he did not share much about how he got into the field of trauma psychology and addictions, Mr Suresh explained complex trauma in an engaging way, and made sure that everyone could follow the talk.  He also shared a case study of one of his patients:  her symptoms, how the diagnosis was made, and how treatment was arranged to suit her needs - which exemplified the type of work he did as a psychotherapist.
All in all, it was an enjoyable and fruitful event. 
To those thinking of joining the Organising committee, go in with open minds and open hearts.  You may get tired of talking to people or worn out from the processes and your other commitments during the whole planning period, but the thing to keep in mind is that you are no longer just a representative of your school, but a part of something larger, working to help others like yourself to discover more about themselves and their future possibilities.
All the best and I hope to see y'all again next year at UniPsych Symposium 2018!
Hope you have enjoyed the UniPsych Symposium in August and all our reflections!  Here are all the past reflections:
SGPsychStuff Goes to UniPsych Symposium 2017: Part 1
SGPsychStuff Goes to UniPsych Symposium 2017: Part 2
SGPsychStuff Goes to UniPsych Symposium 2017: Part 3
UniPsych Symposium Reflections: Part 1 - JCUS

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.

SGPsychStud: What’s Next? The Polytechnic Edition

Regardless of polytechnic students or university students pursuing psychology in their studies, their next move is always the same.
Image Credit: https://www.futurelmt.com/should-you-work-while-attending-massage-school/
However the strategies used by both groups of students are different.  The preferred choices may also differ.  For polytechnic graduates, more often than not, the preferred choice is most likely to proceed to university.
So what degree choices do you have?
Other than the local degrees that has already been discussed in this earlier post, there are also other degree choices that polytechnic graduates can pursue locally and overseas.  I have provided the links that the respective polytechnic students can check, based on their respective diplomas:
SP:  Advanced Standing Database
NP:  Further Studies Portal
NYP:  Upgrade (University Programmes for Graduates Enquiry) - only accessible by NYP graduates
RP:  Advancement Pathways
TP:  Diploma to Degree Pathfinder
Disclaimer: Do note that the above links are from the respective polytechnics, and do not belong to or updated or maintained by SG Psych Stuff.

As a polytechnic graduate from a psychology course, 
what work can I do and how should I proceed to find it?

The main issue with this question is that psychology is a general field of study. Psychology polytechnic graduates possess a myriad of soft skills, with some basic knowledge of psychology and other related fields.  This may not be enough to get you the coveted positions of a psychology clinic assistant, case worker, or research assistant.

It is understandable that polytechnic graduates may not possess a lot of working experience, however what Knowledge, Skills, Abilities and Other competencies (KSAOs) do you possess?

Through a better analysis and understanding of yourself, this understanding will give you a more informed view of the positions that may be more suitable for you, or the positions you may have a better chance of securing.  If you have yet to have that self-analysis, I would advise that you seek a consultation with your polytechnics’ ECG counsellors.  They can help you achieve that self-understanding.

To locate the ECG counsellors and their offices in the respective polytechnics:
NYP:  ECG@Central

Another thing you can do is to attend the UniPsych Symposium 2017 that is happening on 19 August! See https://unipsych2017.wixsite.com/main for more details and registration! Registration closes on 15 August 2017, 2359. Don't miss your last opportunity to grab your talks before they're all snapped up!! 

SGPsychStud: The Formula and Tips for Building Your Value

Some of you may be thinking this?
"What value do I have when I am only a fresh graduate?"

Everyone has some value. The question is from whose perception are we looking.
The Employers' or Yours?

Before we move on, I would like to ask you to read the below posts:
So what is your value?
During interviews, employers may ask this same question from another angle, with questions like:
  • Why should I employ you?
  • What can you or will you contribute to the company?
  • Have you done anything previously that may be beneficial to the company or this position?
So similarly you should ask yourself some questions:
  • What am I interested and passionate about that is part of a job position?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What skills do I have?
  • What can I do that will enhance my knowledge and experience about the positions or industry? 


So what are some suggestions that you can do?  Actually I have already previously written about them, and here they are!