Psychologists in Singapore
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Psychologists in Singapore: What to Expect
What Does a Psychologist Do?
Psychologists’ primary goal is to understand their clients’ thoughts, behaviours and emotions. Psychologists help their clients manage situational problems, personal conflicts, and long-term conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Most psychologists in Singapore provide therapy to clients. There are many different forms of therapy, and psychologists will vary the style they use according to their client’s needs.
Psychologists may also conduct research or psychological assessments for individuals or groups. Such assessments may consider medical reports, school records and interview responses etc.
Clinical psychologists (a sub-group of psychologists specialising in psychopathology) also run diagnostic tests.
Diagnostic tests include evaluations of interpersonal skills, personality traits and cognitive abilities.
Psychologists’ other roles include facilitating organisational or social changes.
How do psychologists help during therapy sessions?
How a first session is run can vary depending on the issue, the psychologist’s training, and their particular style. All of these can influence how the psychologist interacts with clients.
Understanding You Better
In general, though, your psychologist will seek to know more about you by asking questions. Your answers would then give your psychologist more information about the issue and how they can help.
For example, they might ask you about the following:
- What prompted you to book a session with them?
- What has been bothering you, and how long has it been since it began?
- What kind of triggers have you found to aggravate your issues — or what alleviates them?
- What kind of goal do you have in mind, in the session or for the long term?
Facing Issues Together
It is important to remember that therapy is a space for you to work things out. As such, you may draw boundaries on what you wish to share, especially if you don’t yet feel comfortable with your psychologist.
Feel free to communicate your worries to your psychologist and set the pace of the session. As it may take several sessions before your psychologist can see the complete picture, it is important to have patience and resist the temptation to rush.
Your psychologist may also wish to perform some psychological assessments or tests. These can help them better understand your problems and arrive at a diagnosis.
Once your psychologist has identified your issues, they will work with you to draw up a treatment plan.
This plan can involve multiple forms of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) or Solution-focused Brief Therapy (SFBT).
As therapy is a cooperative process, your psychologist should work alongside you to determine the best treatment approaches for you.
What should I tell my psychologist?
The first thing to remember is that there are no off-limit topics, barring specific boundaries you agreed on with your psychologist.
A place you may wish to start at is discussing your immediate emotions and worries. This could include something that happened in the past hour or earlier in the week.
You may also wish to bring up feelings that have been bugging you but which you can’t put a name to. Your psychologist can help you articulate your emotions and clarify them further.
How Can Our Psychologists Help You?
The issues a psychologist is equipped to help with can vary based on their training and individual specialisations.
As such, it is difficult to prescribe a single comprehensive list covering all psychologists.
In general, however, some of the issues that psychologists are trained to help with can include the following:
During your first session with your psychologist, you may need help with how to proceed.
You may also need clarification on whether your psychologist fits you well or whether they can offer you the support you want.
Given that the therapeutic journey takes several months or even years, depending on the issues troubling you, it is important to address these questions as soon as possible.
Some questions that you may want to ask your psychologist are as follows:
While your psychologist may undoubtedly have their own opinions and beliefs, mental health professionals, including psychologists, avoid providing advice.
A key goal of therapy is for the individual to understand better what motivates their actions, empowering them to make better decisions.
Providing ‘quick’ solutions not only disempowers individuals but also (incorrectly) assumes that the psychologist knows the individual’s life better than they do.
Psychologists use various therapeutic techniques to help individuals gain self-awareness, cope with life’s challenges, and improve their mental health.
This might involve exploring different perspectives, identifying patterns in thoughts or behaviour, learning new skills, or connecting with past experiences.
Rather than telling you what to do, a psychologist will encourage you to make your own decisions. The goal is to equip you with the skills and insights necessary to navigate life’s challenges independently.
This process is more about personal growth and understanding than receiving advice.
That said, a psychologist might offer guidance or suggestions based on their professional expertise, especially when managing mental health conditions, stress, or life transitions.
But this isn’t “advice” in the conventional sense; it’s more about providing evidence-based strategies for managing psychological challenges.
Remember, each therapeutic relationship is unique, and the exact approach can depend on the psychologist’s style, your specific needs, and the nature of the issue you’re dealing with.
What to Expect at the Psychologist
Are you on the threshold of your first online therapy session, curious and perhaps nervous about what’s to come? You’re not alone.
Stepping into a psychologist’s office can be a journey into the unknown, but it’s a journey that could lead to greater self-awareness, healthier relationships, and more fulfilling life.
This guide is here to ease your apprehension, arm you with knowledge, and prepare you for your journey to better mental health.
Keep reading to discover what you can expect from your initial visit to a psychologist.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can! Psychologists who provide online therapy sessions typically converse with their clients via audio, videoconferencing, or live chat.
Videoconferencing, in particular, also allows psychologists to perform psychological assessments or tests on their clients, as they can read their clients’ facial expressions and body language in real-time despite not interacting with them in person.
At Talk Your Heart Out, our psychologists offer online (audio/video) therapy sessions.
In general, an hour-long session with a psychologist in Singapore may cost anywhere from S$150 to S$300.
The exact amount would depend on the psychologist’s specialisation and pricing policy. Depending on the psychologist, they may make their services more affordable on a means-tested basis.
There are several routes you can take to consult a psychologist free of cost or at a low price, including:
- Check your company’s Employee Assistance Program to see if you can avail of therapy services at your company’s cost.
- Check your insurance coverage to see if it includes mental health support or therapy.
- If you practise a religion, check if your place of worship provides counselling. Many churches and other religious organisations offer free counselling, including non-religious counselling.
- If you are a student, your school or university may provide free or low-cost options for counselling.
- Approach not-for-profit organisations to check if they may provide free or low-cost therapy options.
Yes, many private mental health services in Singapore exist where clients can book sessions directly with a psychologist without a referral.
Sessions are confidential, with a few limits to confidentiality.
Generally, these limits to confidentiality involve situations in which there is a risk of harm to the client or someone else; in these cases, safety takes precedence over privacy.
In general, psychologists and psychiatrists differ on the following points:
- As mentioned above, psychologists are not medical doctors and so cannot prescribe medication.
- Psychiatrists, however, have trained as medical doctors and can prescribe medication.
- Psychiatrists can diagnose, manage and provide a range of therapies for psychological conditions.
- Psychologists, however, primarily focus on providing therapy to their clients, though they can still provide diagnoses.
As such, whether it is best to see a psychologist or psychiatrist will depend on the issues the individual faces.
Seeking a psychiatrist may be a better choice if seeking treatment and medication for severe conditions.
One should note, however, that the choice between a psychologist and a psychiatrist is not mutually exclusive.
One may see a psychiatrist for medication to help with their condition and a psychologist for therapy to manage the same condition.
It is also not uncommon for psychologists to offer referrals to psychiatrists and vice-versa.
If you are in treatment and unsure if you would like a referral, consider bringing the question to your psychologist or psychiatrist.
If this is your first therapy session or the fees are a concern, the fees of a psychologist are generally lower than a psychiatrist.
A good place to start is to check if your psychologist is licensed. While there’s no mandatory licensing regime in Singapore, the Singapore Register of Psychologists maintains an official register of recognised psychologists here.
However, as registration is not mandatory, despite the legitimate credentials held by your psychologist, their name may not be found on the register.
You may also want to ensure that your psychologist is a good fit for you. As a good rapport with your psychologist is important, ensuring you have the right match is vital.
A key determinant is your comfort level with your psychologist and whether you feel at ease around them. This factor is central to the success of the therapeutic relationship.
It may thus take several tries to find a competent, certified psychologist that fits you well.
Some signs that your psychologist may match you well are:
- You feel validated and listened to.
- You trust them and view them as an ally.
- You’ve noticed changes in yourself for the better.
- Your psychologist offers a range of possible solutions and is willing to provide suggestions if the current treatment doesn’t work out for you.
- Your psychologist provides you with the tools you need to adopt better habits.
In the context of emotional difficulties, therapy is a safe, confidential, and non-judgmental space.
Individuals may share their struggles and work towards a goal with a trained professional.
The term “therapist” encompasses many mental health professionals who provide therapy, including counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists and sometimes even psychiatrists.
When assessing who to see for your mental health needs, feel free to ask them or the organisation they work with for their qualifications, training, experience and specialisations.
Most importantly, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable opening up with them and discussing deeply personal issues.
Ultimately, the fit between clients and their therapist is most important for effective therapeutic outcomes.
Psychologists and counsellors (collectively called Therapists on our platform) are trained in providing talk therapy to help clients improve their mental health and wellbeing.
In most situations, which type of professional you consult is not critically important.
This is because there are considerable overlaps among them for the training they have received, the types of problems they help with, and the approaches they use.
All can recognise and help with the more common mental health issues, whether mild to moderate depression, anxiety, relationship problems, or addictions.
Having said that, there are some differences between the type and level of support that will be provided depending on the Therapist you pick.
They have all acquired different educational qualifications and specialise in different areas.
Here are some key points to remember:
- Psychologists have usually studied psychology at a master’s level and are experts in the science behind human emotions, behaviour and mental processes.
- They use evidence-based strategies to diagnose and manage mental health illnesses and disorders non-medicinally over the long term.
- They may also perform assessments, analyse the results, and diagnose psychological or behavioural conditions.
- Counsellors generally have a minimum of a postgraduate diploma (TYHO’s Professional Counsellors all have at least a Master’s in Counselling degree).
- They are highly skilled in applying integrative therapies to assist people in working through their personal and emotional issues.
- They tend to adopt a more person-centred approach that focuses on the overall wellbeing of their clients when helping them address specific problems.
- If you want to talk about a specific issue (eg adjustment to a new job, coping with loss, problems at school), then a counsellor is more appropriate to approach.
In general, general psychologists (or counselling psychologists) and clinical psychologists share much in common.
Both clinical and counselling psychologists aim to help their clients work through their emotional difficulties and unhelpful behaviours.
Both types of psychologists may also use similar therapeutic methodologies and conduct psychotherapy during their sessions.
The main difference between the two types essentially boils down to severity.
Clinical psychologists tend to focus more on managing issues faced by individuals with severe psychological conditions or illnesses.
Conversely, counselling psychologists work with clients facing various life stressors arising from interpersonal conflicts, academic pursuits, work or financial situations, family dynamics, or mild mood disorders.
Of course, often, there is a significant overlap between the issues that clinical psychologists and counselling psychologists help with.
For example, a clinical psychologist may see more patients with severe bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depressive disorders.
A counselling psychologist, on the other hand, would help clients with depression, anxiety, addictions, eating disorders, anger management, family violence or abuse and grief.
Both clinical and counselling psychologists are equipped to handle a wide range of psychological conditions.
It is thus important to consider the particular specialisation of the psychologist when choosing to see them for therapy.
Figuring out that your psychologist has ill intentions can be confusing, especially if you are new to therapy and do not know what to look for.
As a guideline, in Singapore, the Singapore Register of Psychologists has a Code of Ethics for psychologists practising in Singapore.
The full code of ethics can be found here—but in general, some of the general principles are as follows:
- Your psychologist should accord you proper respect. This means being respectful of your values, attitudes and beliefs. Your psychologist should not be attempting to impose their values onto you.
- Your psychologist should always work for your benefit. They should consider the potential of their actions to impact your life positively and work with that in mind.
- Your psychologist should maintain confidentiality where possible. Barring legal and ethical interventions, your psychologist should protect your personal information from being leaked. They should also seek your consent before recording or using any personal information.
- Your psychologist should not discriminate against you based on differences such as race, religion or sexual orientation.
- Your psychologist should also not harass, exploit or engage in an intimate/romantic relationship with you.
If you feel threatened by your psychologist or find they may have violated some of these principles, raise them with your psychologist.
Alternatively, you may wish to contact the authorities—or if they are on the Singapore Register of Psychologists, you may lodge a formal complaint with the Singapore Psychological Society.
While psychologists can diagnose psychological conditions and offer psychotherapy, it should be noted that psychologists generally do not prescribe medication.
This is because most psychologists do not attend medical school and are not trained to provide prescriptions.
If you require medication, a psychologist may refer you to a psychiatrist who can provide the same.
People practising as psychologists are not currently regulated in Singapore.
Nonetheless, according to the Ministry of Health (Singapore), professional bodies such as the Singapore Association for Counselling and Singapore Psychological Society guide its members’ professional and ethical conduct.
At Talk Your Heart Out (TYHO), we require at least a relevant Master’s degree, training, and experience to provide psychological services.
Yes, psychologists can use diagnostic tests to diagnose mental health illnesses and disorders. You may wish to check with the psychologist you are seeing to find out if they can help with this.
Uncertain about starting therapy now?
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Our priority is to ensure a welcoming environment where you can freely discover all aspects of your inner world.
As you take this important decision at your own pace, we encourage you to engage with our community. We offer insightful blog posts, free resources, and interactive events to enlighten, entertain, and inspire.