UniPsych Symposium (Part 2) - Advice from Panel Speakers

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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!