Caring for people with special needs

Pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (Majoring in Psychology) at James Cook University laid the foundation for Miss Goh Hui Ting to pave a career as a psychologist

From left: Mr Saez, Miss Goh and APSN Delta Senior School's principal Mr Subash Lazar. PHOTOS: APSN DELTA SENIOR SCHOOL

Growing up with an elder sister who has Down Syndrome inspired 28-year-old Goh Hui Ting to pursue a career that will enable her to work closely with people with special needs.

The two sisters, who were born a year apart, share a close relationship.

"I came to realise that people with special needs have the potential to be active contributors of society. I enjoy being their voice and advocate because I believe in them," says Miss Goh.

She currently works as a psychologist at Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN) Delta Senior School that provides vocational training to prepare its students to join the food and beverage, hotel and accommodation services, retail operations and horticultural sectors.

Her job responsibilities include providing counselling, behavioural intervention, psychotherapy, psychoeducation, psychological assessments and vocational profiling for students.

Since she joined APSN in 2017, Miss Goh has excelled in her work. And her achievements have not gone unnoticed.

Mr Bryan Vega Saez, head of department of APSN Delta Senior School's Allied Professional Department and also Miss Goh's reporting officer, acknowledges that she deserves praise for her work aptitude.

He says: "When it comes to student cases, Hui Ting has consistently shown good, rational abilities when making decisions. She is also reasonably dependable and proficient.

"She is often able to connect well and build strong rapport with her cases despite the challenging nature of their problems. She perseveres with all her cases and will try all ways and means to creatively achieve the treatment goals."

Miss Goh, who is a JCU alumna and now a psychologist at APSN Delta Senior School, credits the bachelor's degree she pursued at JCU for equipping her with skill sets to cope with the demands of her job.

Effective learning

Miss Goh credits the two years that she spent pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (Majoring in Psychology) at the Singapore campus of James Cook University (JCU) for giving her a solid foundation and the vital skill sets to cope with the demands of her job.

In the undergraduate psychopathology module, Miss Goh learnt the diagnostic criteria, assessments and treatments for psychological disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

In her current job, this has helped her to leverage the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association, which is one of the authoritative guides in the world for diagnosis of mental disorders. With that, Miss Goh was able to boost her knowledge and expertise to offer intervention for students suffering from psychological disorders.

Miss Goh recalls another undergraduate module on providing counselling that required her and her classmates to participate in role play that simulated scenarios to practise counselling-related skills such as asking open- and closed-ended questions, paraphrasing sentences and reflecting on feelings and emotions.

"These skills are essential in a counselling setting to encourage clients to share more, and feel that they are being heard and reassured," she says.

After the role play sessions, their tutor would offer feedback on how the students can improve their communication skills and performance when providing counselling.

Such teacher-student engagement was something that Miss Goh appreciated during her studies at JCU. Students were encouraged to ask questions, and teachers would quiz them to ascertain their grasp of the concepts taught.

Although independent learning was expected and students carried out experiments and collected data to complete their assignments, the lecturers were always ready to guide students when needed.

Miss Goh also enjoyed hands-on learning sessions such as giving presentations and experimenting with personality tests.

In addition, as part of the coursework, she got to analyse short films and videos and write essays about psychology-related learning points. These exercises helped in the assessment of her critical thinking skills and ability to put herself in other people's shoes, and also improved her capability to effectively apply the theories she had learnt.

Strong and supportive network

Other than the high quality of the syllabus offered at JCU, Miss Goh shares that the well-qualified teaching staff members were also pivotal in making her undergraduate learning journey a fruitful one.

She says: "The lecturers and tutors are specialised in their field of interests and have impressive résumés. At JCU, you also receive an international learning experience without having to leave Singapore, as there are many foreign lecturers, tutors and students in the same environment as you.

"You get to have fun while learning too. However, with that being said, you still have to study hard to earn your grades as psychology is a competitive field."

Miss Goh also appreciated the non-teaching staff as they gave her assistance during her undergraduate years.

The staff members at the Student Service Centre were helpful and quick to respond to queries that Miss Goh had pertaining to administrative matters.

The Career Guidance Counsellor introduced Miss Goh to volunteering opportunities to increase her exposure to the field. He also offered advice on résumé writing and career planning.

Besides that, the Learning Support Team guided students who needed assistance with academic writing and producing assignments in line with the APA style of citations. This was especially helpful for first-year students.

Having received so much support during her undergraduate studies, Miss Goh feels it is now her turn to assist her students at APSN Delta Senior School as much as she can.

"Being able to see my students graduate, contribute to society and lead meaningful independent lives makes me feel accomplished.

"When a student says 'thank you' at the end of the day, I am always reminded of why I chose to be a psychologist in this sector," she says.

Click here for more information about the psychology programmes offered at the Singapore campus of James Cook University.

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