Engineering roots & professional counselling qualifications
I started out my professional journey not as a counsellor but as an engineer. After I graduated from Nanyang Technological University with an engineering degree, I spent slightly over a year as a design engineer in a local firm. After I left that company, I spent the next 5 years or so as an Air Force engineering officer.
My first exposure to counselling was during my interactions with the technicians in the air base which I was working in then. I became a paracounsellor with the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) in 2003 and had several opportunities to use my lay counselling skills to work with numerous men and women in the military. I discovered my passion in counselling and obtained my post-graduate degree in Master of Social Science (Counselling) with Edith Cowan University in end-2006. In order to further my knowledge in the field, I completed my Master of Science course with King's College London, specialising in Psychology & Neuroscience of Mental Health, in Aug 2019.
Counselling in the military
Upon the completion of MSocSc (Counselling) course in December 2006, I began my new journey as a counsellor in SCC (Singapore Armed Forces Counselling Centre). A large part of my work, as you would expect, was with young men who are performing their National Service. The presenting problems range from adjustment in the military, coping with anxiety, struggling with interpersonal difficulties to even problems with various forms of addiction. I also worked with men and women who are regulars, where typically, issues of career and spousal relationships are attended to.
Working with teenagers
After spending about a decade in the military, I moved on to work with young women in July 2011 - Dec 2015. These young ladies were from a top Secondary school in Singapore - Raffles Girls' School. I played a supportive role in enabling them to perform academically, excel in their talents, develop their character as well as help them shape their identity and vision for their future. I did this by journeying alongside with them as they struggle to deal emotionally and psychologically with the difficulties, challenges and expectations of themselves as well as the people around them (parents, teachers, peers and so on).
In 2016, I started my new journey working with both girls and boys in St Joseph's Institution International as a High School Counsellor. Besides engaging in one-to-one counselling sessions with students, I also work with the students and their parents in family counselling sessions. I also advocate the importance of preventive work so I gives talks to students, parents and teachers, and also run group sessions to engage parents in conversation.
Every individual is unique
My approach in working with clients has been largely influenced and inspired by Irvin Yalom, one of the "giants" in the field of psychotherapy. I have extensive training in various therapeutic modalities but my inclination would be to work with clients using emotion-focused, experiential and expressive approaches. Hence, my approach is very flexible and eclectic because I believe that every individual is unique and it would be impossible to expect that there is a fixed formula for any problems encountered.
Strengthening couple relationships
I have a keen interest in working with couples as I believe that building a good foundation for marriage is very important. As a certified PREPARE/ENRICH facilitator, I am able to use this tool to identify the strengths and weaknesses of couples who are planning to get married or couples who would like to enrich their relationship. I have conducted marriage preparation and enrichment workshops for couples within and outside the military.
The key in the family system
No one is an island. We do not live in isolation and the basic bonds and interactions that define who we are is established from the family unit that we come from. Hence, I may work with the family unit to effect the changes where necessary and appropriate. Although it may be ideal to have the family in the sessions, it is not always possible for various reasons. What then happens is that I will have the family system in mind and put it out in the session (without their presence) and work with the client accordingly. In 2013, I developed a programme for parents of the students in the school where I work in. These ongoing group sessions provide parents a platform to discuss parenting issues and concerns, share experiences and support one another, in order to strength the parent community within the school.
I have been a registered counsellor with SAC (Singapore Association for Counselling) since 2008, which ensures that I maintain and upkeep my professional development by attending counselling-related training and receiving supervision. In August 2012, I also became a registered clinical supervisor with SAC, following a training on clinical supervision. This enables me to supervise counsellors as well as counsellors-in-training. In addition, I became a Certified Family Trauma Professional in Dec 2017, accreditated by ITTP (International Trauma Training Institute).
Personal growth and development
Finally, I recognise that a barber cannot cut his own hair. I feel that since counsellors bring so much of themselves into the sessions, it is important for us to have self-awareness and constantly work on our issues that will inevitably arise during the course of our work with our clients. Hence, I engage in personal therapy for personal growth and development.
On this final note, I look forward to our journey as fellow travellers.