Psychology Happenings in Singapore 2014 (and 2015 too!!)

This is a list of the psychology-related events that were held in 2014.  Make sure you stay tuned to the Conferences and Events page and the Facebook Page to keep yourself updated about the latest events and happenings!!!  The below events are written in chronological order.

February:  3rd Annual International Conference on Cognitive and Behavioural Psychology
This is an annual conference that is held in Singapore.  The accepted papers are available here.  For the 2015 event, the early bird registration ends on 29 December 2014, so better register now!

March:  NTUxSIM Psychology Societies Spring Talks 2014
Held at NTU, this is the first collaboration between NTU and SIM Psychology societies conducting a talk together.  It was a one-day event, featuring a talk on Emotional Intelligence (by Jeffrey Williams) and a Career talk (by Dr Joy Low and Steven Tan).  Photos are available from the SIM Psychology Society Facebook Page!

March:  SPS Annual General Meeting
The 2014 Singapore Psychological Society Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held at Rendezvous Grand Hotel, with two pre-AGM talks.
Topic: - "Is positive psychology too "positive" for Asians? International and local evidence for behavioral vaccines" by Dr Albert K. Liau
Topic: -"How can we learn from errors and mistakes - A contribution to applied psychology" by Prof. Michael Frese

April:  Brain-Based Therapy workshop by Dr John Arden
This workshop is organised by Singapore Psychological Society and aims to train participants in the use of brain-based psychotherapy to enhance outcomes with a variety of client populations.  This was a very rare event with such a prestigious and highly regarded trainer happening in Singapore!  Hope this happens more in Singapore!

May:  2014 Asian Congress of Applied Psychology (ACAP2014)
This conference was organised by Asia Pacific International Academy (APIA), a subsidiary of Aventis School of Management.  Being the first time it is being organised, it holds good prospects for an event that could be held annually.

September:  Well-Being in Singapore - Current Developments and Implications
This event was organised by the School of Arts and Social Sciences (SASS) at SIM University.  This biannual series serves as an opportunity for an open exchange on well-being with academics and practitioners from the fields of psychology, sociology, communication and related social sciences, with a bigger aim to help develop policies and practices that improve the well-being of all in Singapore.

October:  SIM PsychWeek
This was a successful week of talks from different fields of psychology, organised by the SIM Psychology Society.  I believe those who attended the talks benefited a lot from them!!  Hope this could be a successful tradition and event held in SIM every year!!

October:  Singapore Mental Health Conference (SMHC) 2014
Theme: “Mental Health and Resilience – It Takes a Whole Community”.
This was the second time this conference was held, with the aim to promote discussion to create a holistic care model to better support persons suffering from mental health problems and their caregivers.  This year, SMHC 2014 is held in conjunction with World Mental Health Day, which falls on 10 October.

November:  Is that a Psychologist in your Pocket? The Use of Smartphone Apps and Web Based Applications in Psychology
A full day workshop by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg organised by United World College Southeast Asia (UWCSEA).  Please see link for more details.

December:  20th APECA Biennial Conference-Workshop
Held in National Institute of Education, Singapore.

TMC Academy talks:
February: Ms Clare Yeo - "The role of the psychologist: How to thrive in the 21th century" Poster with Photos
September: Choo KahYing - "Recovering from Manic Depression - An uplifiting story" (Photos)
October:  Dr Julia Lam - Forensic Psychology talk  (organised with Singapore Psychological Society)

Events in 2015:
January:  2015 International Conference on Society, Psychology and Education (ICSPE)
February:  Asia-Pacific Symposium on Motivational Interviewing
February:  4th Annual International Conference on Cognitive and Behavioural Psychology (CBP 2015)
March:  5th ASEAN Regional Union of Psychological Societies (ARUPS) Congress
March:  2015 International Conference on Management and Behavioral Sciences (ICMBS 2015)
May:  2015 Asian Congress of Applied Psychology (ACAP)
October:  Regional Congress of the World Federation for Mental Health

Do make sure you stay tuned to the Conferences and Events page and the Facebook Page to keep yourself updated about the latest events and happenings!!!

SGPsychStud: Top 10 and Bottom 10 of 2014 Posts

It's almost the end of the year of 2014.  I have decided to collate the results for 2014.  This has been a really busy year for me.  After overloading myself with teaching assignments (more than I can handle) for the first quarter, I took up a full-time teaching position since April 2014.  This keep me really busy every month, which I nearly could not fulfill my promises of coming up with 2 posts a month.
To date, there is a total of 31 posts, including 5 invited posts, 4 from Miss Psychobabble and 1 about neurotransmitters by Dr V.  With a total pageview count of more than 54,700 for the whole year, this worked out to be more than 4560 pageviews per month!! Thank you everyone!! 

Let's have a look at the top 10 and bottom 10 posts of 2014.  The rankings are based on the total views on each of the respective posts, from the dates they are posted till today (24th December 2014).

Top 10 posts of 2014:
  1. Updated: Comparison of Bachelor Degree programs in Singapore
  2. Pathway for Singapore Psychology Education
  3. Statistics Made Easy 3: Relationships or Differences?
  4. Stereotypes vs Reality: Psychology Major
  5. Why the internship/volunteering plan did not work
  6. SGPsychStud's reflections: Getting a psychological-related career in Singapore
  7. 2014 Update: Academic requirements for local psychology degrees
  8. The Mysterious Neurotransmitters
  9. What we need NOW in Singapore psychological education and training system
  10. Psychological Burnout: How does it feel like?
Bottom 10 posts of 2014:  (1 being most viewed and 10 being the least viewed)
  1. Miss Psychobabble: Positive Psychology - How to Live a Healthier and Happier Life
  2. Accreditation of programs and Registration of psychologists
  3. SGPsychStud's Guide to Exploring SG Psych Stuff
  4. SGPsychStud's Reflections: Experiencing Loss
  5. Miss Psychobabble: Busting the Myths of Counseling
  6. Miss Psychobabble: Facebook Addiction - When logging out is the hardest thing to do
  7. Jack of all trades or Master of one?
  8. The scientist-practitioner model: What it is, the importance and its issues
  9. Fear and Hope in Life
  10. Statistics Made Easy 4: Types of Data
Similar to last year, most readers of my blog are interested in posts pertaining to psychological education and training in Singapore.  The most interesting thing was that the Number 1 post (Updated: Comparison of Bachelor Degree programs in Singapore with over 1400 views) was viewed more than three times of the Number 2 post (Pathway for Singapore Psychology Education with over 400 views).  I hope that these posts have truly helped students who are planning to study psychology or currently studying psychology now.
Despite the bottom 10 in their current position, I believe this is because they are all the most recent posts, with 9 of them posted in the last three months.  Time will make up the difference.  How do I know?  Look at the bottom post (Statistics Made Easy 4) and the Number 3 post (Statistics Made Easy 3).  They are on the same topic of statistics and highly related, hence I believe the numbers will increase with time.
Be sure to read the Bottom 10 posts as well, as some of them are really good and will also help in your psychological journey!!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in advance!!!  Happy Holidays!!!

The scientist-practitioner model: What it is, the importance and its issues

What is the scientist-practitioner model?  I think I already have discussed this in previous posts over the last three years (2011/2012/2013).  There are some really good articles (see reference links below) regarding this topic.

The scientist-practitioner model:
According to Shapiro (2002), the model is of a psychologist practicing as a scientist and clinician at the same time.  The psychologist is to use psychological therapies and methods that have been validated and proven to be effective.  On the other hand, he must also do research through applying scientific research methods and principles, to test out the efficiency of existing therapies and treatments or to understand the psychological theories and mental health issues and disorders.  With the research and practice of validated psychological methods and theories existing at the same time, this is the true display of the scientist-practitioner model.  This is also the reason for why we must take so many modules related to psychological practice and research in university.    

It is important that we have such a model in psychology, as we need to constantly evaluate our methods and theories.  This way, we can make sure that the theories and psychotherapies that we are using are fully validated and tested to be practical for this modern era.   



Why do we need to criticise what we already know? Can't we take it for granted?
In order for psychology to be recognised as "science" and our theories and psychotherapies to be of "scientific value", we must make sure that they can be tested and proven through various levels of testing.  What we know from our textbooks and research articles have also gone through the same scientific testing by the various researchers and psychologists, and that is the only way the field of psychology can grow and improve.  For the continuation of learning and growth in the psychological field, we just have to continue our research and practice our therapies with validated methods.   

Issues with the scientist-practitioner model
Though we know that the scientist-practitioner model is being used in the psychological field, Barlow, Hayes and Nelson (1984, as cited in Dick, 1996) found that:
  • Research paradigms are inadequate for researching psychological issues.
  • The training does not result in practitioners doing research.
  • Practitioners do not even make much use of research findings.
  • Research has little influence on practice
This indicated a lack of connection between the sides of  the researcher and practitioner.  What was found was that students were probably trained more in the practitioner side, rather than the researcher side, which resulted in less people doing researches and less people applying the findings from research.  This indicated that we (students, psychology lecturers, researchers, psychologists, etc.) probably need to try to connect these both sides as much as possible.  

Hence, to improve this situation,  a similar recommendation have been provided by Dick (1996), Lowman (2012), and Shapiro (2002).  The recommendation is to integrate the science of psychology with the practice of psychotherapy, both conceptually and operationally.  This can be done by having research that are driven by and applicable to practice, and have clinical practice that is highly supported by quality research.  In this way, we can then sustain the scientific rigour of psychological research and practice.

References
Dick, B. (1996). Is it time to revise the scientist-practitioner model? An unpublished discussion
paper. Retrieved from http://www.aral.com.au/DLitt/DLitt_P14scip.pdf
Lowman, R. L. (2012). The scientist-practitioner consulting psychologist. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 63(4), 151-156. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/cpb-64-3-151.pdf
Shapiro, D. (2002). Renewing the scientist-practitioner model. The Psychologist, 15(5), 232-234. Retrieved from https://www.uvm.edu/~psych/graduate/clinical/scientist-practitioner.pdf

Miss Psychobabble: Facebook Addiction - When logging out is the hardest thing to do

One specific type of Internet Addiction that emerged recently was Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD).  Facebook, the largest social networking site created by Mark Zuckerberg, had over one billion active users as of September 2012.  Having a profile is the first step to Facebook Addiction Disorder! 

Some noticeable signs of FAD
Click Here to enjoy a free Facebook Addiction test.  Please note that the results on this test are purely indicative.  So, do not take it as a serious diagnosis.











Social factors that influenced the emergence of FAD:


1) Impression Management
Impression Management is how people form, maintain and enhance their social identities to reach one's goal and influence other’s perception on them (Piwinger & Ebert, 2001, as cited in Sharma & Sharma, 2012).  People’s addiction to Facebook arises because of the need to constantly maintain that ideal or perfect impression.  It appears that we present different aspects of ourselves depending on where we are and whom we are with (Goffman, 1959).  This is why we shape our impression based on the user’s desired audience.

http://meme-lol.com/wp-content/uploads/meme-lol/Facebook-Addiction-2014.jpg

2) Mere exposure effect
Mere exposure effect is when we start to develop good feelings towards an object that is expose to us frequently.  Facebook is good at marketing and advertising because it is visible everywhere.  This is why you pay good money for Facebook Ads.

3) Conformity
One would choose to conform and change his behavior just because everybody does it or because it is very evident in our society.  Since almost everybody has a Facebook account, you would also like to have one because you want to be a part the “in” crowd.

Conclusion
Facebook has truly become a global phenomenon and social factors paved way to its emergence.  Furthermore, it led to many cases of Facebook addiction and cyber crimes.  Therefore, we should try our best to become responsible users, know our limits and control ourselves to not lose sight of our priorities!

References
Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Doubleday. Retrieved from http://monoskop.org/images/1/19/Goffman_Erving_The_Presentation_of_Self_in_Everyday_Life.pdf
Sharma, A., & Sharma, A. (2012). Impression management works in career success! : Myth or reality? International Journal of Research in Social Sciences, 2(3), 350-368. Retrieved from http://www.ijmra.us/project%20doc/IJRSS_AUGUST2012/IJMRA-RSS1728.pdf

Statistics Made Easy 4: Types of Data

(http://www.amygump.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/confused-number.jpg)
In my last post, I mentioned about continuous, discrete and categorical data.  In the statistics used in psychology and in SPSS, these are also known as
  • Nominal (Categorical) data
  • Ordinal (Ranked) data
  • Interval (Scale) data
  • Ratio (Scale) data
Polgar, S., & Thomas, S. A. (2008). Introduction to research in the health sciences (5th edn.). PA, USA: Churchill Livingstone
Nominal data are categorical data, which are separated in different groups.  Each of these categories are assumed to be distinct (as in the above picture) and independent of each other.  A specific value of a variable either falls into a specific category, or it does not.  For example, a value of "male" will only be categorised into the 'male' group and not into the 'female' group.

Ordinal data are ranked data, with the values being ordered in sequence, signifying the rank of the value, e.g. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  Note that though there is an order, the difference in ranking does not imply the variation of class performance, i.e. the the difference between the 1st and 2nd is not the same as that between the 2nd and 3rd.

Unlike ordinal data, the interval and ratio data has that last characteristic (equal differences between subsequent values) as mentioned.  Interval and ratio data are also known as 'scale' data in SPSS, because they are measured on a scale with continuous values.  As long as your value can be measured on a 'scale' (e.g. cm, inch, kg, etc.), it would most probably be interval or ratio data.
The main difference between interval and ratio data is that ratio data has an absolute (or non-arbitary) zero.  An absolute zero is a "0" that is quite meaningful, as it indicates a value of an absence or non-existence of the value.  For example, 0 degree Kelvin represents an absence of heat (ratio data), while 0 degree Celsius is the melting point of water (interval data) with the values of degree Celsius being able to go below zero.  Hence if the value can go below the value of zero and consist of a negative value, it would be interval data, and if the lowest value can only reach zero, it would be ratio data.

Are you now clear on which type of data you using?  Please note that you might have to decide on the type of data you are using earlier in your research, as it might affect your hypotheses and research questions.  

SGPsychStud: Fear and Hope in Life

I have been thinking about it.  What are the inner motives  and reasons for the things we do?  I believe this is the question that all psychologists ask.

Here's my answer:  I believe that two of these unconscious motives that hinder our behaviours are Fear and Hope.

How much of your life is controlled by your fears and hopes that you have? Are you able to control your fears and hopes?


FEAR:
In my opinion, our fear causes us to do things.  If we fear that we will not do well, we practice more and harder at what we are doing.  Fear causes us to stay at our comfort zone, in the fear that if we move out of it, we may lose what we currently have,  People often lose sleep or decrease their quality of sleep due to fear.  Fear can be a result of your past experiences, your current feelings and emotions, or even the unknowns of the future.  But regardless of where it is from, it does hinders us from performing at our best.
I have written two posts on the topic of fear in the last 12 months:
http://sgpsychstuff.blogspot.sg/2013/12/whats-there-to-fear.html
http://sgpsychstuff.blogspot.sg/2014/06/fear-of-failures-in-studying.html

HOPE:
Some people believe that hope is the propelling force for people to do amazing things, things that they will not believe that they are capable of.  With hope, we have a goal, something to aim for and to work towards.  But what if these goals are not achievable?  Are you going to continue working towards them?  Even worse, what if they are achieved?  What else are you going to work towards?

One common goal or hope of some Singaporeans are to earn as much money as possible.  That's barely achievable, for the pure reason or question of "How much is enough?"  If the hope was to buy a landed property in Singapore and you slogged many years to finally reach that goal, what is the next hope then?  Being aimless in life is worse than working hard towards an impossible dream, as we would be going through life like a zombie, without any aim.      

Having fears and hopes are parts of a normal human cognition, i.e. it is normal that people have fears and hopes.  However, this may lead to people having external locus of control in your life, attributing unwanted events and results to external reasons like luck, the unreachable goal, or other people hindering your progress.

In my opinion, always believe in yourself and your abilities.  When performing or doing your work, do not fear or worry about your progress and/or hope that you will perform well.  Just focus on what you should be doing at the moment.  Be in the moment and experience flow.  Only by focusing on the current moment, you will perform at your best.

Miss Psychobabble: Positive Psychology - How to Live a Healthier and Happier Life

Much like the world news, most of Psychology’s branches tend to highlight the negative side such as the roots of abnormal behavior and the effects of dysfunction. This separates Positive Psychology from the rest. Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, its forefathers, used positivity to flourish one’s well-being by focusing on how human beings can live a healthier, fulfilling, and meaningful life.

Instead on focusing on what’s wrong with you, celebrate what can go right and become the best version of yourself! These are some of the ways that you can lead a healthy and happier life...

Simple Ways to Live a Healthy and Happier Life


1. Know and live by your character values and strengths.
(Image from http://imgur.com/gallery/6fxZ3oW)














Authentic strengths (e.g. curiosity, bravery, creativity, persistence, kindness, leadership, or humor) are very important because these are in lined with your behavior. Identifying your core values will direct you to your personal strengths (Peterson, 2006). Using these strengths can improve your well-being and performance in all aspects of life.


2. Be the master of your own emotions.
According to Daniel Goleman, the Psychologist who developed the emotional intelligence appraisal test, having emotional intelligence or being the master of your own emotions help you to become effective in various aspects of your life including work.
Watch this short video (1:52 mins.) to find out more.


3. Try to be as positive as possible in a negative situations.
As the great Mahatma Gandhi once said:  
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."  

Thoughts lead to feelings which lead to behavior. Talk more about your blessings than you do with your problems. Better yet, share your blessings and make others smile. Studies showed that happier people give more and later experience higher levels of happiness from doing so (Piliavin, 2003; Thoits & Hewitt, 2001).


4. Never compare yourself to others.


On one hand, aspiring someone else's success and knowing more about how they got there can become a great motivation. But, unrealistically desiring and measuring your self-worth on what others have can lead to depression. Beating yourself up for not being exactly as famous celebrities is irrational. Instead, get off the couch and work your way up to your goals!


5. Finally, make the most of what you have even in a seemingly unfortunate situation.


makethemost.jpg.png
(http://news.distractify.com/mark-pygas/30-pieces-of-cast-art-that-almost-make-a-broken-bone-worth-it/)

Conclusion

Instead on focusing on what is wrong with you, Positive Psychology helps you to celebrate what is going right and improves that even more. It highlights your strengths and use it to your advantage. Following its principles, here are some ways you can lead a healthy and happier life...
  1. Live by your character values and strengths.
  2. Regulate and master your emotions.
  3. Have a positive outlook when faced with negative situations.
  4. Never compare yourself to others.
  5. Finally, make the most of what you have.



Piliavin, J. A. (2003). Doing well by doing good: Benefits for the benefactor. In M. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well lived. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Thoits, P. A., & Hewitt, L. N. (2001). Volunteer work and well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 42, 115–131.

Miss Psychobabble: Busting the Myths of Counseling

I had a great opportunity to attend an insightful Counseling talk by Ms. Priscilla Lee at The School of Positive Psychology.  It opened my eyes to how counseling is viewed in Singapore or Asia for that matter.

The stigma that our society attached to counseling hinders individuals (especially those who need it the most) to seek professional help.  People do not want to go to counseling because they are afraid to be labeled as mentally ill or called crazy by others.  This fear of being judge impedes healthy recovery.

It’s important to highlight that counseling sessions are private and confidential unless your behavior harms yourself or others.  In fact, counseling records are protected by law and are separate from academic records. Here are other myths that need to be busted:

Myth #1  Counseling is for the weak and crazy people only.
Admitting that you need help and taking the needed action takes a whole lot of guts and strength.  Counseling can be helpful not only for people who are conquering their mental health conditions but also for everyday problems that we all face.

Myth #2  Counselors are like magicians --- they can magically cure all your problems.
Counseling is not a quick fix for all your problems.  It's a gradual and in-depth process that may even years to produce change.  The counselor needs time to build the relationship and uncover unresolved issues that can be difficult if the client is unwilling to share significant life experiences.

Myth #3  The counselor isn’t with me everyday.  He/She doesn’t know me and cannot help me.
One reason why counseling by unrelated professional is successful is because people who surround you every day such as your friends and family might have biases, attached emotions and other intentions that can affect their judgement.  This is why surgeons cannot operate on their relatives.

Myth #4 The counselor cannot understand my problem because he/she doesn’t have the same culture and experiences.I can’t deny the fact that even if we all live in one country, Singapore has diverse cultures.  This is why racial harmony is highly valued.  Counselors are trained to be empathic and sensitive to the views, religion and culture of others.


Myth #5  Being a counselor is an easy job.
Counseling is a challenging yet fulfilling job that involves both listening, thinking and observing simultaneously (more of that here: http://sgpsychstuff.blogspot.sg/2013/05/for-therapy-thinker-and-observer.html).  It is very tiring to multi-task everything while conceptualizing the case in one’s head.  Also, counselors will not tell you what to do, but they will guide you to your goals.  If you are interested in starting your journey as a counselor, here is the list of schools that offer diploma in counseling: http://sgpsychstuff.blogspot.sg/2012/11/diploma-specialisation.html.

So having known all these, what is counseling?
As a client, counseling is a provision of professional assistance in resolving one’s personal or psychological difficulties.

As a professional, counseling involves countless hours of rapport building, listening, comforting and being there for your client in every step of his/her journey towards his/her solving a personal problem or reaching a realistic goal.  Counselors shall be non-judgmental, sensitive, and experienced.  Also you must keep in mind that no matter how hard you try, you cannot save everybody!

SGPsychStud: Jack of all trades or Master of one?

Coming into the season of work appraisal, this is a question that I have been asking my fellow colleagues:

"Do you wish to be a Jack of all trades or Master of one?"


Often in work, we are asked to do a lot of things, however most of them may be pertaining to our line of work, e.g. writing clinical reports, preparing and researching information for upcoming meetings, etc.  Doing these things are fine as they belong in your area of expertise, and were what you expected to do when you interviewed for that job in the first place.  These things are also the job requirements that your employers expect you to be equipped with in the first place.

But sometimes we are also asked to do other "non-expertise" things in the areas of event management, marketing, HR, etc.  This is unavoidable and you cannot often say "No" to your own boss or employer.  In my opinion, it is okay if I have to do it once in a while, but it is not conducive to work if that is all I am expected to do instead of the above "expertise"-related work.  It is sometimes made worse, knowing that your work appraisal is going to be based on these "non-expertise" work.  Imagine getting evaluated for your skills in managing a company event when you are employed as a psychologist?  

We are in a society that wishes to improve all the time (due to our ability to find faults in everything).  Hence there is the thought that we need to be well-rounded in different skills; however, are these extra skills the skills we personally want to have?  Will these extra skills help us in our ability to be a better psychologist or employee in our line of work?

This question is also faced by some psychologists.  They may choose to say that they practice eclectic psychotherapy, which is a combination of different therapeutic techniques.  But it is also said that eclectic psychotherapy is practiced by those who are not knowledgeable and skillful in one single therapeutic method, hence they decided to "mix and match" different methods (i.e. jack of all trades).  So would you choose to say that you are very knowledgeable and skillful in one (or a few) types of psychotherapy or just use whichever method (which you learned briefly) that seemed suitable during the session?  But how are you going to attain and practice these "expertise"-related knowledge and skills if you were often asked to do "non-expertise" tasks at work?

This is written from the author's personal perspective working in the public service.  Your current work situation might not be the same as the case above.  

SGPsychStud's Guide to Exploring SG Psych Stuff

This is the 125th post on the blog, with more than 42,500 views in just this year alone!  Sometimes, I do get confused myself with all these different blog posts, but most of the time, I managed to find what I need.  So here are my tips in terms of navigating around this blog SG Psych Stuff:
  • Know what you are looking for.  Type in the topic you are searching for in the "Search This Blog" just under the labels.
  • The labels are on the right on the main text.  Click on them if you are interested in a certain topic from the list.
  • If you are more interested in the more popular posts, there is a list of them under "What Others are reading" on the right as well.  This list shows the most read posts in the last week.
Did you know that there are some tabs on the top of the page as well?
  • If you wish to know more about me and the blog, make sure to click on About this blog.  There are some personal posts about me there.
  • If you wish to know more about the psychological journey, there are many motivational stories on Reflection Stories, which 100% of them are all true from different people at different stages of the journey.
You may ask me:  Where should I start reading?  Really depends on which stage of the journey you are at:
That's all I have for you for now.  Please note that the posts above might have further attached links to other posts which might also be of interest to you!

Thanks for reading SG Psych Stuff!!  

Miss Psychobabble: Tips on Critically Analyzing Journal Articles

In the field of Psychology, you have to constantly research among vast array of articles and make sure that you filter only the useful ones.  Sometimes, searching for the best article is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Here are some of the tips that may help you with that:

1.  Observe the Article’s Structure or Formatting.
This is the first thing that you shall notice.  American Psychological Association or APA style is the most widely used format within the Psychology community (http://www.apastyle.org/manual/).  It must have all the necessary parts namely:  Abstract, Introduction, Review of Related Literature, Methodology, Results, Discussion, References and Appendices.

2.  Check the Credibility of the Author and the Journal Publication.Prefer an article that has been peer-reviewed and cited by others.  Usually the best articles are from scholarly journals with simple names such as Journal of Clinical Psychiatry or Cognition.  Usually, subscribing to well-known annals costs too much.  So if you’re a student, I suggest you visit these Journal database that provide open access or free complete version for useful journal articles:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/
http://www.springeropen.com/
http://elizabethlieutenant.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/the-journal-subscription-price-is-too-damn-high.jpg

3.  Analyze the study's aims and benefits.
Is the study important?  Contemplate whether the society will benefit from this study.  Did the researchers accomplish what they were looking for?  If not, why did they fail?

4.  Spot the study’s blind spots.
Do you find some errors in the results’ interpretation?  Did the researchers describe the methods adequately?  Are the tests used valid or reliable?  Prefer a study that uses standardized measures.
Who are the participants?  The strength of the result may depend on the sample.  Prefer a study that is age and gender representative.

5.  Examine the study’s limitations.
When was the study done?  A good study is no more than 10 years while a better study is from 5 years and below.  This is to ensure that the data, technology and condition of the society or environment are still relevant and updated.
Where was the study done?  Analyze whether a study is cross-culturally (generally/universally) relevant or culturally (specifically/locally) relevant.  For instance, if I were to study the effect of illegality of homosexuality to the homosexuals’ immediate families I can only study the countries that consider it as a crime (the red ones).
http://www.businessinsider.com/where-homosexuality-is-illegal-2013-12?IR=T&
It is a common error for some to overly generalize the study’s results where in fact it is only relevant for a specific group of people.

Conclusion
To help you choose the most appropriate journal article, you must: "OCASE"
  • Observe the article’s structure, 
  • Check the credibility of the author and the journal publication, 
  • Analyze the study's aims and benefits, 
  • Spot the study’s blind spots, and 
  • Examine the study’s limitations

Accreditation of programs and Registration of psychologists

As discussed before (in this link), there is no accreditation of programs for local degrees, and accreditation of overseas programs available in Singapore are to be accredited by the respective accreditation bodies of the different countries.  In Singapore (and some of our neighbouring Asian countries), we have this very unique culture of overseas programs being offered in our local Private Educational Institutes (PEIs).  In Singapore, we have undergraduate and postgraduate programs primarily from America, Australia, and UK.  For those who are new to this blog or wish to understand the study pathway towards being a psychologist in Singapore, please view this post.

For local psychology programs, we know that there are only five local programs*, and according to CPE (as updated on 24 Sept 2014), there are 34* registered overseas psychology undergraduate programs in Singapore.  For postgraduate programs,  there are only seven of them*, local and overseas.  All in all, there is only a total of 45* programs offered by a total of less than 20 different institutions.
*Links are updated. Figures are at 24 Sept 2014.

I have previously discussed the importance of having an accreditation of programs, which the focus of this post would be on Reason 4:
4.  Those who complete accredited programs will be "sufficiently qualified and competent to meet the registration requirements" (APAC, 2012).  With the registration requirements met out, this accreditation standards could be in line with the registration requirements.  This would mean that the program that you are doing will be able to equip you with the psychological knowledge and skills you will need to become a psychologist.
Image Credit: http://singaporepsychologicalsociety.org/singapore-register-of-psychologist/srp-membership-application/
The accreditation of programs should tie in with the registration of psychologists, because the main route of training for students to be psychologists in Singapore is through these programs.  In turn, the programs should prepare you to be a competent psychologist.  However, these connections are only assumed: 
  1. Students assume that schools are training them the knowledge and skills they need.  With no accreditation of the programs, there is no fixed regulation of what are supposed to be taught to the students.  
  2. The registration council assumes that these programs are sufficiently equipping the students with the knowledge and skills, and the certificates the students get upon graduation are proof of these knowledge and skills.  However, we do not truly know the knowledge and skills the 'psychologist' possess when they are applying for registration (to be a psychologist) with just their postgraduate certificates.    
With proper accreditation of the programs being in line with the registration criteria, this will ensure that the institutions are providing the programs to students in a way that will prepare them to be qualified and competently equipped to be registered as a psychologist.

With regard to competence, you may wish to also read these posts:
1)  The need of a postgraduate program and Competence
2)  Jobs (Part 6): Why so strict??

Stage 3 - A Journey of Possibilities: An Undergraduate's Reflection

Hi! I'm Anna from www.misspsychobabble.blogspot.sg.  I describe myself as an enthusiastic, positive and hardworking individual.   I’ve been a consistent academic achiever ever since I was young.  Fate brought me to Singapore, and I’m happy that it did.  I graduated with 2nd class Honours under the Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK.

Professionally, I'm taking all the opportunities that I can get.  I’m currently working as an Administrative officer wherein I efficiently manage the client’s information and quickly respond to their needs or requests.  As a fresh (BSc Psychology) graduate, I've realised that experience and learning as much as you can are the most valuable things.

As a foreigner living in Singapore, it opened my eyes to the diverse cultures and the stereotypes associated with it.  As psychology majors, I believe that it's our responsibility to educate others about the untainted truth to battle against social biases.  Furthermore, we shall spread awareness about the strong impact of mental illnesses.  Changing other’s perception can diminish the negative stigma. It’s part of the reason why I created a blog-site.

I wanted my thoughts to be heard and to share what I am passionate about (mostly how Psychology relates to life).  I never thought that I would grow to love writing as much as I do now.  My next venture is entering graduate school.  With hard work, luck and faith, everything is possible.

Once again, thank you and I wish you all the best. :)

Statistics Made Easy 3: Relationships or Differences?

For inferential statistics classes, what I always emphasis to my students from the very first classes is:  "Know what you are trying to find: Relationships or Differences?"  This is especially for continuous data, rather than discrete or categorical data.  Please do a bit of research and read up these types of data (and variables). I will probably write a post about this some other day.

So the big question: "Relationships" or "Differences"?
This question looks at the link between your independent variable (IV) and dependent variable (DV), and also helps you decide what type of tests you are going to use (once you decide on whether you are going to parametric or nonparametric statistics for the different types of variables (to be discussed in another post).

To better understand whether you are going to do a statistical test to evaluate the relationship or difference, we need to first look deeper into the IV and the DV by asking some simple questions:
1.  Are there different groups in the IV and the scores in the DV might differ as a reason of that?  If "Yes", you are looking for a difference (between the groups).  If there are no groups, there is a high chance that you are looking for a relationship between the IV and DV.
2.  Does the scores in the DV fluctuate or vary with the IV, i.e. you are expecting that whenever the IV scores increase, the DV scores should increase/decrease in a fixed pattern?  If that is the case, it would certainly be an analysis towards the relationship between the IV and the DV.   
Hope this clears up a big question mark for you towards understanding statistical analyses!!  If you wish to read the rest of the statistics-related posts, here they are!!!
             

SGPsychStud: Stereotypes vs Reality - Psychology Major

I happen to come across this Stereotypes vs Reality: College Major video by WahBanana last night, and I was quite glad that they did not do the example on psychology majors.  Purely for two reasons: a) otherwise, I would not have the idea and chance to write this post, and b) I am not too sure if they will actually get it right.

So for the sake of accuracy, rather than fun, here goes my version of Stereotypes v.s Reality of studying psychology:
Stereotypes:
1.  Studying psychology is going to be interesting and fun. (Try telling someone that you study psychology, one of the common one-word replies would be "interesting" or "fun")
2.  We learn how to read people's minds. (The other replies would be "Don't try to read my mind" )
3.  We will be studying a lot of methods to counsel and help people.
4.  Because psychology is an "arts" subject, we will be not doing maths-related or science-related topics.
5.  People who study psychology will be good in communication and relationships.
Reality:
1.  There will always be some modules which are not interesting or fun at all, and these uninteresting modules will be different for different people.  For those modules, unless you are a person who commit everything to memory, it will be quite hard to get an A.
2.  No.  That module is not in the syllabus.  Period.
3.  You will be studying a lot more on the theories regarding the therapies, rather than practicing the therapies.  Don't worry, as that will be covered more when you get to the postgraduate level.
4.  Dream on.  Talk to anyone who did a psychology undergraduate and they will tell you they studied statistics and about parts of the brain.
5.  Studying it does not mean that the application will be perfect.  Understand?
I believe these are purely teasers and some of the many stereotypes out there.  There will be many more out there.  What psychology stereotypes have you encountered when talking to people?  Tell me and I will add them into this list.

SGPsychStud: R.I.P. Robin Williams


This great comedian has just passed away.  And strangely his death has hit me quite a bit.  Not really sure why.  But I believe his movies have touched many in both the humourous and serious sides.  To commemorate him, I decided to show this movie in my class with the purpose to illustrate how we could connect with our clients.

But I feel this part will be exceptionally useful for other psychology students out there.

Abstract from Patch Adams (1998) movie:
You treat a disease, you win, you lose.  You treat a person, I guarantee you, you win, no matter what the outcome.
Now here today, this room is full of medical students.  Don't let them anesthetize you.  Don't let them numb you out to the miracle of life.  Always live in awe of the glorious mechanism of the human body.  Let that be the focus of your studies and not a quest for grades, which'll give you no idea what kind of doctor you will become.  Don't wait till you're on the ward to get your humanity back.
Start your interviewing skills now.  Start talking to strangers.  Talk to your friends, talk to wrong numbers, talk to everyone.
And cultivate friendships with those amazing people in the back of the room - nurses that can teach you.  They've been with people every day.  They wade through blood and shit.  They have a wealth of knowledge, and so do the professors you respect - the ones who are not dead from the heart up.  Share their compassion.  Let that be contagious. 
Take-away from this part for psychology students:  Do not study without a purpose.  Make sure you study with the purpose of understanding the human mind and behaviour, and not for your grades.  And interact with people as much as you can, as there is often much more you can learn from them than you ever know.

And this next part is more about me:
This is what I want to do with my life.  And as God is my witness, no matter what your decision today, Sir,  I will still become the best damn doctor the world has ever seen.  Now you have the ability to prevent me from graduating.  You can keep me from getting the title and the white coat.  But you can't control my spirit, gentlemen.  You can't keep me from learning.  You can't keep me from studying.  So you have a choice.  You can have me as a professional colleague, passionate, or you can have me as an outspoken outsider, still adamant.  Either way, I'll probably still be viewed as a thorn.  But I promise you one thing.  I am a thorn that will not go away.      
For those who do not like me or do not see the purpose of why I am writing this blog and the posts, it is to better prepare the psychology students, current and future, for what they are coming up against.  I believe this will only improve our psychology scene in Singapore, and not meant to criticise it in any way or form.  I will keep on researching and writing, as long as my brain and mind allows.  So you have a choice.  Try to understand my views and try to improve our psychology scene in Singapore, or just ignore me.  "But I promise you one thing.  I am a thorn that will not go away." (I love this sentence...)  

SGPsychStud: What we need NOW in Singapore psychological education and training system

Based on my updated list of psychology programs in Singapore, I have been getting emails from students (and some parents) asking whether the programs that they are planning to enroll  in are "recognised". My reply is:
Programs conducted in Singapore (in the above list) are recognised by CPE but the accreditation of the programs are done by respective accreditation councils of the various countries. There is no accreditation council in Singapore to verify whether the programs are of high quality training and will suffice for one to move up to the next levels of education and training.
Having an accreditation council to accredit psychology education and training is very important for students, as:
  1. Having a list of accredited programs will allow you to know which programs are accredited.
  2. If you have graduated from an accredited program, this will allow you to move on to the next levels of tertiary education and training (e.g. Masters, Phd, etc.).
  3. There will be no dispute of whether your degree is "recognised" or not, as long as the program is accredited by the accreditation council.  With the accreditation, it would mean that the program that you are doing will be able to equip you with the psychological knowledge and skills to proceed to your postgraduate studies.
  4. Those who complete accredited programs will be "sufficiently qualified and competent to meet the registration requirements" (APAC, 2012).  With the registration requirements met out, this accreditation standards could be in line with the registration requirements.  This would mean that the program that you are doing will be able to equip you with the psychological knowledge and skills you will need to become a psychologist.
Hence, it is important and essential that an accreditation council is existing in our local psychological system.  However, it has to be understood that building and developing this council is a a task of Himalayan proportions, and it cannot be completed by just only one person or volunteer.  It has to be completed by a team of professionals working on this large project, and has to be done hand-in-hand with the registration council. 

The Mysterious Neurotransmitters

This is a topic in psychology which we can't avoid studying about: Neurotransmitters.  You might study it in the first year or last year of your Bachelors program.  I thought that we probably need more information, especially on what neurotransmitters are and how they work.  To have a more accurate answer to that, I decided to ask a colleague of mine, Dr. V., who is a biochemistry scholar to give us some advice.  If you have any further questions about this topic, you may email me at sgpsychstud@gmail.com and I will further your email to her.  Here goes:  

Point I: No Discrimination

The term ‘Neurotransmitter’ maybe intimidating but it is important to explore this stereotype.  In actual fact, ‘Neurotransmitter’ is just a fancy name for a chemical molecule that is synthesised and functions within the proximity of the brain.  It is essentially brain hormone, just like any other hormone in the body.  It does not have any special magical power for being in the most complex organ, the brain.

There are still many unknowns within the world of neurotransmitters, like:
-  How many different neurotransmitters are there?
-  Are all known neurotransmitters fully characterised?
-  How does neurotransmitters work?
-  Why are there so many different neurotransmitters functioning together?


Point II: A Stable Partnership

Neurotransmitters are produced from two main types of cells:  Neurons and Glia cells.  Neurons are commonly known as brain cells (the main players).  However, they cannot function without the help of Glia cells (the supporters).  Glia cells feeds and maintain neurons, from the blood supply which the neurons do not have access to.  The functionality of the brain is dependent upon these brain cells’ stable partnership.

 Point III: The Factory

The brain works as a network of neurons, which is constantly communicating with one and other.  This is how the brain control and regulate our whole biological being.  The communication between neurons is based on chemical and electrical signals.  The chemical signals are provided by the neurotransmitters, produced by the brain cells.

Point IV: The Delivery Service

Neurotransmitters are the ultimate messenger of the brain.  However, this job is not straight forward.  This neuronal network is made up of neurons that are not physically in contact with one another.  So, it is not possible for the neurotransmitters to travel fluidly from cell to cell.  That is why the electrical signal is equally important.  These tiny gaps at the neuronal terminal are known as synapse (Figure 3).  The message overcomes this hurdle in a specific manor:
1.  Neurotransmitters are grouped together inside a membrane to form a vesicle.  This makes a neat and tidy package for delivery (Figure 4).
2.  These vesicles get stacked and wait just before the synapse.  When the electrical signal arrives, it will trigger the release neurotransmitters into the synapse.  (It is OK – don’t panic. This is part of the delivery process).
3.  The released neurotransmitters form the chemical signal in the synapse (Figure 5).  The neurotransmitter will swim across to the surface of the neighbouring neurons, where there are receptors (life buoys) to note their arrival.  [Please note:  under no circumstances are any neurotransmitters permitted to enter neighbouring neurons.  They will be rescued, biochemically, by their own parental neurons.]
4.  The arrival of the chemical signal will in turn trigger the electrical signal.  This will then sprint toward the awaiting packages (neurotransmitter-filled vesicles) and push them off the synaptic cliff (release of neurotransmitter).  Then the cycle will repeat from one neuron to the next, until the message has reached its destination.


Point V: The Cocktail Mixture

There are a large number of different neurotransmitters.  About 50 neurotransmitters have been identified so far.  The most commonly known ones are GABA, Histamine, Acetylcholine, Dopamine, Noradrenalin, Endorphins and Substance P.
It is not clear:
i)  Why the brain needs so many different neurotransmitter?
ii)  How are each neurotransmitter different in function from each other?

Initially, the theory was that a specific neuron was only capable of producing a specific neurotransmitter.  Therefore, the outcome function is very rigid and limited.  One neurotransmitter is for one type of functional output.  This is supported by the vase number of neurotransmitters that has been identified.  However, it is unlikely that neurons are only able to function in ~50 different ways.  Biochemically, this number is far too small for any biological system.
A more feasible theory is that each neuron produces a cocktail of neurotransmitters.  The mix ratio from each neuron is varied, so a different combination of neurons gives a different message for a different function.  Just like if each neurotransmitter is a letter of the alphabet, the different combination of letter can form different words to give different meanings.
All in all, the outcome of the neuronal system (Brain) is dictated by the neurotransmitters.

Point VI: Error in the Signal

Neurotransmitters have a heavy role in neurological diseases, but very little is known.  Since the brain is the most complex organ of the body and it governs all other organ systems.  There is no limit to the outcome of any neuronal disorders.  However, it can be categories as anatomical deficit (physical/structural damage of neuron) or chemical deficit (lost of chemical signal).
The neurotransmitter’s function has been associated with physical action, thinking, mood and behaviour.  The most abundant neurotransmitter is Glutamate, which has been linked with autism, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia and depression.  This does not suggest that glutamate is the cause of these psychiatric disorders.  The pathology is likely to be much more complex because some have these disorders have also been linked to other neurotransmitters as well.  Dopamine has been linked to schizophrenia and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).  Serotonin has been linked to depression.
This overlap of neurotransmitters and diseases strongly suggest that each neurotransmitter must have more than one functions.  The role of these neurotransmitters in psychiatric disorders is unclear.  By studying these diseases, it will give clues to the normal neurotransmitters’ function that is lacking.
The mystery that lies within the different neurotransmitters cocktails are waiting to be discovered.  The master recipes of these cocktails may be the key to tackling psychiatric disorders and possibly be the cure.

Useful links:
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/educational-resources/brain-basics/brain-basics.shtml
http://science.education.nih.gov/supplements/nih5/mental/guide/info-mental-a.htm

SGPsychStud's Reflections: Experiencing Loss

I apologise that I was absent in my Facebook page, not updating the daily newsfeed, over the last weekend.  Something happened at home which have inspired me to write this post.  It was a great loss especially for me and those close to me.  I often say: "There is always a choice" and "We can always do something about it".  However, this is the first time, since my revelation and acceptance of those principles, that I felt despair and was distraught by the inability to do anything about this loss.  The first two days were very bad for me, as I was emotionally tired and could not think much about any other things at all.

Being a learner of psychology, I experienced a few "selfs" in this short period.  The therapist in me tried to allow myself to experience the emotions that were overwhelming from time to time and counsel myself with my conflicting and hurting self through my own self-talk, while my scientist self tried to analyse the situation with whatever knowledge I have learnt previously from my Grief Counselling module.  K├╝bler-Ross' five stages of grief, relaxation and coping techniques, my counselling framework and techniques were researched in depth and under scrutiny by my scientist self.

I was truly hurting (and I still am), and I told my spouse that this is truly the most heart-breaking thing that happened to me.  Nothing will be able to come close to it, because this loss is very personal, as if losing a part of myself.  Numbing my feelings is not going to help in any way, and I believe that though I could not do anything about the loss, I could do something about myself.  I decided to be more positive and stronger for my spouse, despite all the pain.  I understand that the memory of the loss will forever be etched in my memory bank, and there is no way I can remove it.  However I can do something about the pain, using it each time to make me even stronger again.  

There was a post on the Slice of Life Facebook page yesterday (25 June 2014), which expressed mostly how I felt and is very good encouragement of how one can recover from a great loss:
"When hit by a major setback in life - like losing a job we love, losing a partner, or losing our life savings, our focus tends to veer towards the negative.  We think we won't survive the crisis, that we have nothing left to live for, that this is certainly the end.  For some people who keep dwelling on this theme, they actually do make the end happen, not because it was inevitable, but because they had resigned themselves to it so completely.  They keep to themselves, keep playing worst-case-scenarios in their head, yield to anxiety attacks, and toy with suicidal thoughts.  Of course it's tough to weather a misfortune, and some doom and gloom is sure to cloud your day. But the problem with staying preoccupied with your loss is that it blinds you to the possibilities.
And the possibilities are always there.  As they say, "when one door closes, another one opens".  Not to mention the doors that were there all the time.  You didn't see them because you weren't looking.  So if you're currently working through some trauma, learn to pay more attention to the possibilities.  The darkness may be threatening, but in the light of dawn, even the most pernicious thorns turn out to be the softest petals.
So when you feel like closing up, force yourself to expand.  Even if you can manage to open up a bit at first.  There is the bad reality, but there are many other realities that are good, waiting to be explored and nourished.  And stop guilt-tripping yourself.  You did all you could, and there are many things that are simply out of your control.  Ultimately, you can only think for yourself.  But as you open up more and more, the possibilities you can choose from grow and multiply. This is where the potential for transforming not only your life, but your world as well, can happen."