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?

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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!