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.