When it was time for me to choose my specialisation in university, for the first time feeling like an active member of the society whose choice mattered, I chose to delve into the topic I've been interested in since I could remember - Psychology. As to the reason why, this would probably be a lifelong journey of uncovering. Upon graduation, I realised that a degree in Psychology is but an introductory exposure to the evolution of psychology to date; covering the basics of Abnormal, Biological, Cognitive, Developmental and Social Psychology (and of course, statistics). I found myself no less clearer about the questions I had in mind when I first started the programme. Moving along into the working society, I had the opportunity to continue in this field when I was offered an opportunity as a research assistant to work with patients with chronic kidney disease. Albeit with a stronger focus in research, I had the honour of spending time with some of these patients who taught me so much. We ploughed through the periodically administered research questionnaires and I observed the workings of a chronic disease management programme.
Eventually, with the research funding running out, I had to move on and was welcomed into another door that opened for me. A team specialising in women's emotional health was recruiting case management officers. Not even knowing what a case management officer is, I did my research and found out more about the team, their purpose and role in the local hospital. I'd like to think that my interpersonal skills honed from my previous work experience helped me got the position; for that, I thank the countless of dialysis patients who were truly my teachers. In this next phase of my journey, I supported patients who could be perinatal or sometimes with gynae-oncological conditions. I was given the chance to be trained in different basic psychological therapeutic modalities and learnt about the field of psychiatry (the medical way of managing mental health conditions). In the years working with these women, I realised that no one person could fully support another and in addition to the hospital, there are so many heroes in the community; family service centres, community mental health teams and others at the background, working hard to balance the social inequalities which frequently led to perpetuation, if not precipitation of, one's mental health issue.
After a period of time, my clinical learning plateaued as I was working with a very niche population. On the other hand, I was growing more passionate towards closing the gaps that existed in the mental health landscape in the community. It was serendipitous that at that time, the hospital was just starting a community mental health programme and needed people to help develop the team. I jumped at the opportunity and yet again, dived into the work for the follow 6 years, to date. Being a case management officer in the team, I was working with patients who presented with the full range of mental health conditions. What it meant to me was being given the challenge of learning to understand each patient's condition at a level where I should be able to formulate (understand why they are having the condition) with reasonable confidence and have sufficient understanding of the treatment currently provided to foresee the gaps and then try to link they up with resources that are existing. Because this required that I understand, at the back of my hand, what these resources are, I find myself having to constantly work with the community to build that connection with them and keep up to date on changes on their end as well. This meant that I need to use a multidimensional perspective to see the unique circumstances of each patient in the context of their community, in addition to continuing my training in clinical skills in order to work with the patients. This also meant that I had to learn a skillset to work with the organisations in the communities in bringing about positive outcomes for the patients.
Alas, while the meaningfulness of this endeavour persists, the level of frustration realising the multitude of challenges that accompanies working with multiple stakeholders pushed me to consider how I would like to focus my time and energy on in the next phase of my journey. I asked myself if I had answered the questions I first set out to discover when I decided to major in Psychology. The answer is neither a clear "Yes" not a sounding "No." Once again, I sat down and evaluated my path and I feel that the answer is just at my fingertips, just that I had decided to veer off in pursuance of increasing the positive impact in the lives of the patients whom I am working with, in this role as a case management officer. It is time to return to my original path.
During the time, I continued on my education in different ways. Opportunities for more specialised trainings meant that I could add these knowledge to my understanding of the human psyche. Additionally, I felt the impulse to tied my experience, knowledge and practice more cohesively and managed to complete a Counselling Master's Degrees while working.
Finally, I return to creating my own practice. It wasn't an easy decision to make, having invested many years in a piece of work I hold dearly. But disentangle, I shall. I've started to build this practice a short while now, more in the sense of the vision and direction than a brick-and-mortar sense. I feel ready to pour even more to blossom the knowledge and wisdom that lies beneath the different modalities in the work with my clients; a seed will forever be a seed until it gets planted into the soil and nourished with love (this is true in different sense and I leave you to do the interpretation that speaks to you). I feel so grateful for my clients who have given me their trust and has allowed me to journey with them thus far. Choosing to stand as a therapist is choosing to come home to myself. Thank you, and I look forward to the next phase of my journey together with you.