Psychotherapy, counselling and educational assessment services at Punggol, Singapore, are provided by our clinical psychologist.
- 0.1 “Who should I see? Psychiatrist? Therapist? Psychologist? Or Counsellor?”
- 1 A little more about me…
- 1.0.1 “This being human is a guest house.
- 1.0.2 Every morning a new arrival.
- 1.0.3 A joy, a depression, a meanness,
- 1.0.4 some momentary awareness
- 1.0.5 comes as an unexpected visitor.
- 1.0.6 Welcome and entertain them all!
- 1.0.7 Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
- 1.0.8 who violently sweep your house empty of its furnitures,
- 1.0.9 still, treat each guest honorably.
- 1.0.10 He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
- 1.0.11 The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
- 1.0.12 meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
- 1.0.13 Be grateful for whoever comes,
- 1.0.14 because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
- 2 Mental health conditions I am trained to assess and treat
- 3 A glimpse into assessment and treatment
- 3.1 Therapeutic models that I practice include:
- 3.2 “How long is the path to healing?”
- 3.3 Begin your journey of healing
- 3.4 “What can I do now?”
- 4 “How can I get started?”
- 5 How do I prepare myself?
- 6 References
“Who should I see? Psychiatrist? Therapist? Psychologist? Or Counsellor?”
This is the most common question that Singaporeans ask when it comes to seeking help. I will try to help you answer some of your nagging questions here.
“Who is a psychiatrist?”
A psychiatrist in Singapore is a medical doctor first. A psychiatrist has first undergone 6 years of medical school to be trained in general medicine, then subsequently at least 6 more years of specialised training in mental health care. A psychiatrist treats mental health patients by means of medications as well as therapy. Psychiatrists tend to see the more “serious” conditions, especially patients who require admission to a hospital, patients who require multiple medications and patients who experience severe distortion in their perception of reality (psychotic disorders). They possess an ability to differentiate whether certain symptoms are representative of mental health disorders or caused by other medical disorders. They often take up the role of team leaders when mental health professionals come together and play a crucial role in deciding the treatment plan of a patient.
“Should I see a psychiatrist?”
The fact that you are considering seeing a psychiatrist already means that you are very likely to benefit from a consultation. Whether you just want to clarify some doubts or you are suffering from intense mental pain, a psychiatrist would be able to help direct you to the most appropriate treatment pathway. Early intervention is a key for a better outcome. Research has consistently shown that the best treatment outcomes come from teams who have close collaboration¹ between the psychologist, psychiatrist, family physician and social workers; and the best treatment rates² come from patients who have been started on both therapy and medication.
“Can I see a psychologist although I’ve seen a psychiatrist?”
Yes, you can. Anyone, with or without a serious mental illness, can benefit from seeing a psychologist. As mentioned above, there is a higher recovery rate, and faster and better recovery with a combined treatment of medication and psychotherapy. You would also learn new skills that could make you live your life in a more vital and meaningful way.
“Who is a psychologist?”
In Singapore, there are a few different types of psychologists. Among others, clinical psychologists, neuro-psychologists, and educational psychologists are the most common practitioners and they practice in mental health care settings. While neuro-psychologists and educational psychologists mostly deal with cognitive assessments, clinical psychologists specialise in the treatment of mental illnesses.
“What is a clinical psychologist?”
A clinical psychologist’s training includes a basic Bachelor degree in psychology, followed by a post-graduate or Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. By the time you see a clinical psychologist in his/her clinic, he/she would have taken two degrees (a Bachelor then a Master’s), completed clinical internship (directly supervised therapy training under the scrutinising eyes of at least three senior psychologists), passed, and was deemed fit to practise.
But even then, passing the degrees doesn’t mean anything.
A clinical psychologist is required to have completed a requisite number of direct supervision hours (under senior clinical psychologists) even after they have passed the exams to be fully registered.
In short, a clinical psychologist, like a psychiatrist, is a highly trained mental health professional, except that a psychologist does not have the authority to prescribe drugs.
The field of clinical psychology has evolved over many years but the basic tenets that it is built on have not.
Clinical psychology remains a field that is strongly based on research and hard science.
It is defined as an integration of science, theory and clinical knowledge for the purpose of understanding, preventing, and relieving psychologically-based distress or dysfunction and to promote subjective well-being and personal development³.
The therapeutic techniques and models are based on strong scientific evidence. Theories are developed and tested in clinical trials, and what is proven to work is retained and shared among clinicians in clinical journals. Every psychologist is trained to be a scientist practitioner. We practice an evidence-based approach, while at the same time retain an open mind to novel means of treatment that have the potential to do good for the patients. If we are convinced that a certain approach works, we will run a clinical trial and evaluate objectively and scientifically. A clinical psychologist also discusses with a patient what methods and therapeutic models will be used in the process of therapy. Clinical psychologists work closely with psychiatrists and share the same evidence-based research.
Clinical psychologists are bound by a strict ethical code as delineated here.
“Who is a counsellor?”
Counsellors are a diverse group of therapists who have diverse training. They remain the most accessible and play a key role in seeing clients with less severe disorders. They can be found in many organisations, offices, schools and religious organisations. Try asking yours if they have one!
A little more about me…
Seeing a psychologist is a very intimate affair. You would probably be wondering who I am, how you would be treated and what kind of relationship you would develop with me. All these are very valid concerns and we will address them during our time together.
You are welcomed to ask me whatever you are curious about me.
As a clinical psychologist, I have the privilege of knowing the deepest fears and greatest joys of your life. Invariably, you will also witness the ups and downs of my life as we embark on this sacred relationship as therapist and client.
“The Guest House” by 13th century Persian poet Rumi:
“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness
comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house empty of its furnitures,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
Our “visitors”, mine and yours, are all essentially the same thoughts that might come in many disguises. In a therapy relationship, we will create a “space” where we can be vulnerable, loving and explore our pain and desires with kindness and curiosity.
Mental health conditions I am trained to assess and treat
As a clinical psychologist, I am trained to recognise and treat mental health conditions in adults as well as children. They include, but are not limited to the following:
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Psychotic Spectrum Disorders
- Personality Disorders
- Addictions and Substance Abuse Disorders (Eg; Smoking cessation, alcohol addiction)
- Relationship problems, including male and female sexual dysfunction
While the above conditions are mostly seen in adults, there is a growing awareness that children do suffer from mental health conditions too. Refer to the write-ups for individual conditions <Link:work in progress> to see how certain conditions manifest in children.
Additional services catered for children include the following:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Psycho-educational assessments such as assessment for IQ and specific learning disorder/dyslexia <Link:work in progress>
Other conditions that I have seen and successfully treated
- Low self-esteem and self-confidence
- Grief from loss of a loved one
- Trauma from workplace accidents
- Workplace bullying
- Children’s friendship problem in schools
- Managing life transitions – becoming a parent, becoming a stay-at-home mother, becoming a grandmother, career changes, returning to work after raising children
- Exam stress
- Cultural shock
- Spouse of a person with addiction issues
- Dealing with infidelity in marriage
- Finding life’s directions
A glimpse into assessment and treatment
My role as psychologist involves being a non-judgmental listener, assessing and providing an explanation on possible contributions to current difficulties and discussing and collaborating a treatment plan. I strive to be a “lighthouse” in the forest of your life so that you can choose which path you want to take rather than taking a path someone else chooses for you.
Therapeutic models that I practice include:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
- Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
- Functional Analytic Psychotherapy
- Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
- Integrative Behavioural Couple Therapy
- Supportive Counselling
It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact “models” used most of the time, like how a chef cannot tell us exactly how he slices his fish. The models or techniques applied depend on a myriad of factors including, but not limited to, the presence of past trauma, the client’s goal in therapy, the type of disorder the client is suffering from and ongoing factors that are affecting the client’s condition.
“Would my conditions be disclosed to the government, my employer, insurance company or any other organisations?”
Your confidentiality is assured. We are a 100% privately-owned organisation and we would like to remain so. Your medical records and notes are solely for the purpose of treating your condition. The only people who have access are the treating psychologist and the treating doctor (if one has been assigned to your case).
With adult clients, confidentiality is maintained strictly between the therapist and the client, except when the client wants to harm himself/herself or others (see our article here). In both scenarios, physical safety of the persons involved is crucial and relevant people who can intervene will be informed.
“How are children different?”
With child clients, a comprehensive assessment and intervention is essential for treatment success. During the assessment phase, the people involved in caring for the child are encouraged to come along and necessary information is gathered from them. This process is very tedious and can often take multiple sessions or many hours.
Observation of the child in classrooms and information from teachers are necessary to ascertain an accurate diagnosis in some cases. Treatment of the child often includes educating parents, teachers and other caregivers on how to help the child, as well as individual therapy for the child.
“How long is the path to healing?”
I am stuck as I struggle to answer this question. It is particularly difficult to predict how long a person needs to go through treatment. It depends on a multitude of factors:
First, it depends on how much a client is willing to commit at the stage that he or she comes for therapy. Some just want to seek my opinion on a “once-off” basis., whereas others are ready to do whatever it takes to overcome the difficulty that brought them to the clinic in the first place.
Second, it depends on the nature and severity of the disorder. Even that itself is unpredictable. I had treated a client with an anxiety disorder in 4 sessions. But most of the time, it takes about 8 to 10 sessions to treat a client with anxiety disorder. With past trauma involved, it becomes more intricate and often requires more than 10 sessions to process through all the sufferings of the past and present.
Most clients can be discharged completely after a period of regular followup, some will require a check-in after 6 months while others will require lifelong support. For those who need long-term support, they will be scheduled for follow-up sessions once a month after the intensive phase of weekly therapy sessions are over.
Begin your journey of healing
Faced with unbearable mental pain and suffering, our first instinct is to avoid thinking about it. It is difficult to talk about our innermost fears even to loved ones, let alone a psychologist.
We often distract ourselves by drowning our mind with work, occupying ourselves with social media, playing video games, drinking alcohol etc. It makes absolute sense because as long as we can distract ourselves, we don’t need to endure our shame, guilt, depressed mood or anxiety. But at what cost?
It often stops us from living our life in a way that is meaningful to us.
Depression eats away our joy and vitality, robbing us of our ability to become involved actively in our own lives and our loved ones. Anxiety constantly tells us scary stories and stops us from doing what we value. Shame and guilt keep us away from others as we perceive ourselves to be unworthy.
It is an amazing thing that you are still with me after such a long article and as such, you deserve a reward.
“What can I do now?”
What if living a meaningful life involves taking a close look at our inner monsters of shame, guilt, depression or anxiety? Rumi, one of my favorite poets, described very aptly the path to healing:
“Don’t turn away.
Keep your gaze on the bandaged place.
That is where the light enters you.”
Contemplate your life up till now, this point, when you are reading this article.
Consider how many hoops you have jumped through to be here.
Some of them listed below:
- 1 out of 100 million sperms has reached your mother’s womb for your conception.
- 1 out of 5 fetuses would have been spontanoeusly aborted before they were born due to natural causes.
- And many more are aborted by their mothers for various compelling reasons.
- You are sitting here with a pair of eyes that can read well and even reading is a gift by itself (consider my patients who have dyslexia).
Consider how you are probably lucky to be here (you might not agree at this point). This may be a chance for you to explore and relook the priorities in your life.
You probably already know what needs to be done and exactly how.
But sometimes, what everybody needs is a little push, a little sharing and a guide to walk this path with you.
And sometimes, all it takes is for a psychologist to create a safe space for you to explore, and you will be off courageously into the next path of your life.
“How can I get started?”
Nobody picked up? Sorry, we could be closed now.
Contact us now, and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
How do I prepare myself?
- Just be yourself in this present moment
- Bring your NRIC for registration
- Bring your child’s Baby Bonus card if the client is a child
1. Petersen L, Jeppesen P, Thorup A, et al. A randomised multicentre trial of integrated versus standard treatment for patients with a first episode of psychotic illness. BMJ 2005;331(7517):602.
2. Pampallona S, Bollini P, Tibaldi G, Kupelnick B, Munizza C. Combined Pharmacotherapy and Psychological Treatment for Depression: A Systematic Review. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2004;61(7):714–9.
3. Clinical psychology – Wikipedia [Internet]. [cited 2016 Dec 11];Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinical_psychology