When to Consider Psychometric Assessment for Your Child

Do you feel that your child is not reaching their full potential at school? Do they struggle with learning, attention or processing information in a way that you can’t quite pinpoint? If this is the case, you may want to consider a psychometric assessment for your child.

Psychometric assessments are used to determine a child’s unique profile of strengths and weaknesses. They can also identify core issues and the underlying reasons for a child’s struggles at school. These valuable insights assist in planning for how to best support the child to learn and develop to their full potential, including outlining individualised strategies and interventions that fit with their learning profile.

Indicators in children that may prompt the consideration of psychometric assessment include:

  • Difficulties grasping new skills or concepts
  • Difficulties with remembering or following instructions
  • Difficulty completing whole tasks or extended time needed to complete tasks
  • Rushing through work
  • Behavioural issues in the classroom e.g. work avoidance, disruptiveness
  • Child expressing dislike or disinterest regarding school
  • Child expressing low confidence in their abilities

It is important to note that these issues may appear from time to time in all children, rather it is if these issues are consistent, significant and impact on the child’s ability to engage with their learning. What on the outside may look like ‘laziness’ or poor behaviour at school or home may be a child’s efforts to cope with something that is hard for them. Understanding the underlying reasons for these difficulties can help parents and teachers address them more effectively. Furthermore, children with learning difficulties that are undiagnosed or lacking in support may be at greater risk of developing mental health and self-esteem issues. It is important that these difficulties are identified early so that appropriate interventions can be put in place.

For more information on the types of psychometric assessments offered at SACAC Counselling, please see our website http://sacac.sg/assessments.

Written by

Dr Thea Longman
DClinPsych/MSc, BPsych (Hons)
Registered Clinical Psychologist

 

Preparing your Emotional Bags for the Holidays

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The holidays are coming. For some it is the end of the school year, for others it is the mid-year break.  The holidays bring a change from the usual daily routine. This change carries a whole mix of enthusiastic expectations and stressful anticipations, an emotional journey in of itself.

Let’s take a look at some helpful thoughts for preparing your emotional bags for the holidays:        

  • Be prepared for the PLACE.  Are you staying home?  Are you travelling to visit family or families? Are you travelling to a holiday destination with your nuclear family? Think of the place that you are going in terms of human interactions. The better prepared you are for the family dynamics (eg. meeting your extended family or for being with your nuclear family in the same place for an extended period of time), the better you will be able to handle the family interactions.          
  • Be prepared for the WEATHER.  What kind of emotions flare up when you are with your family members?  In others (extended or nuclear family) or in yourself? How can you deal with those emotions when they come?  Like the weather, emotions come and go.  As you take an umbrella during rainy weather or stay indoors during stormy weather, think of which steps you would need to take care of yourself or others during periods of sadness, anger and any other emotion.         
  • Be prepared for the UNEXPECTED.  Can you remember a time when no matter how well prepared you were, something unexpected happened?  During any kind of journey, unexpected situations happen. Whether they surprise or shock us, the first reaction is to gasp.  Think about what could be your first step after that gasp. A suggestion would be take some conscious breaths to calm down, and then decide what steps to take next.              
  • Be prepared to ASK FOR DIRECTIONS. Can you remember a time when you were lost?  Or either you or someone going with you faced the dilemma of asking for directions?  If anything gets out of control during the journey, it is important to ask for directions and support. Think about where you could find that support, it could be in trustworthy family members and/or professionals (either in person or online).

In summary, it is important to prepare your emotional bags in order to handle difficult emotions appropriately, and to keep enjoying the positive emotions with your loved ones, during your holidays.

Written by Yana Ricart
MSc(Counselling), MSFP, Diploma(Psychotherapy),
Grad Cert(Counselling), Grad Cert (Expressive Therapies),
Diploma (Yoga), BSc(Hons) 
SAC Registered Counsellor (Singapore)

 

Analysis Paralysis-The problem of overthinking and how to reduce it.

Overthinking or ‘analysis paralysis’ is one the main contributing factors to psychological distress. In many ways, it is the human mind just doing what it is supposed to do- analyze and think about potential threats in our environment. The mind is essentially a ‘don’t get killed machine’ and from an evolutionary perspective, it was crucial to the survival of the species. This evolutionary by-product is also the source of much human suffering. Here are some practical steps to help reduce rumination.

  1. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply the art of becoming the ‘observer’ of our thoughts rather than an active participant. We can learn to become present and watch our thoughts without becoming entangled in them. We simply allow them to come and go like cars passing on the road. Mindfulness exercises can also help to balance activity in the right and left frontal lobes of the brain- a process called neuroplasticity, which can assist in the reduction of excessive rumination.
  2. Exercise. The benefits of regular physical activity cannot be understated. It is essential to increase mood and decrease cognitive ruminations. It also helps to deactivate sympathetic nervous system arousal or the ‘fight or flight’ response.
  3. Acceptance. Acceptance is simply the process of allowing something that you cannot change to be. It does not mean liking of agreeing with your thoughts, rather it is about acknowledging them without getting into a struggle. A willingness to accept our thoughts and emotions rather than struggle with them has been shown to greatly reduce overthinking.
  4. Live in the present moment. You can usually cope with what is happening in the ‘now’, however, it is impossible to cope with an issue that is a mental projection of the future and has not happened yet. If there is a problem that need to be attended to in the present moment, then by all mean attend to it, otherwise let it go! Getting present or ‘grounding’ is a very effective circuit breaker for overthinking.

Research indicates that up to 75% of our thoughts are repetitive with very little function or purpose. The preceding steps can provide a simple but effective means to break the cycle of incessant rumination.

Written by Ian O’Neill
BSc (Psychology), PGDIP (Psychology)
Registered Psychologist

Is ‘grit’ so great?

The psychological quality of ‘grit’ has been getting a warm write up recently, following the 2016 publication of academic psychologist Andrea Duckworth’s book ‘Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance’. She portrays ‘grit’ as the critical factor in individual success, whether professionally, on the sports field, or in education. Whilst I have no argument with recognising the important roles of passion and perseverance in pursuit of worthwhile goals, the concept of grit has gained a currency which risks glossing over some of the difficulties it can present.

In particular, the emphasis on sustained, intense effort as the critical factor in success, which in Duckworth’s book is defined principally in the context of success in competition, whether in exams, the selection process for the West Point Military Academy in the US, or reaching the upper echelons of a corporate hierarchy, is problematic.

In Singapore, high levels of corporate stress and burnout are prevalent, just as they are in other global commercial centres. Pressure for exam success in the local and international school systems weighs heavily on young people. By definition, in competition, we cannot all succeed and we do not all share equal academic ability. That may be despite having made great efforts and pushed ourselves very hard indeed. If we have worked as hard as we reasonably can and still not succeeded, how does it serve us to tell ourselves we must work harder still? Or that we have failed, or are defective in some way because our grittiest efforts have not yielded the desired results?

We might also ask ourselves what this hard work and focus on success in competition displaces from our lives. In cases of corporate burnout, great efforts at work have often displaced meaningful and enjoyable time with friends and family, as well as humour, happiness, play, fun and vitality.  Life can come to feel empty and meaningless if the desired goal or state of ‘success’ is not reached. Over time, the “allostatic load” on the body increases: the wear and tear on the body which accumulates as a result of repeated or chronic stress can reach a level where increasingly serious physical health problems may result.

While grit may be a practically useful quality in members of the military, such as the West Point cadets studied by Duckworth, those of us who are fortunate enough not to be living in a warzone or who are not serving in the military might usefully question whether it is healthy for us and our children to live as if going to school or to the office is just another version of going into battle.

For further reading on burnout: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201311/the-tell-tale-signs-burnout-do-you-have-them

Written by Laura Timms
MA Counselling and Psychotherapy; Reg. MBACP
Psychotherapist

FEAR OF MISSING OUT (FOMO)

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Fear-Of-Missing-Out is the constant nagging, anxiety-provoking and sometimes paralysing notion that one is losing out on something more valuable happening elsewhere.

FOMO sufferers feel that others are having better, more enriching or more fun experiences or objects than them and the fear of falling behind or falling short can lead to anxiety, unhappiness and dissatisfaction. In a small, healthy dose FOMO can provide the motivation and drive to engage proactively with and get more out of life. However, on the flipside FOMO fuels insecurity, lowers confidence and makes people minimize / dismiss their own accomplishments. Social media today plays a great role in being a constant reminder of the apparently #Instagram-worthy moments everybody except you is enjoying. At times FOMO also stems from a problem of plenty – having too many lucrative opportunities or options to choose from and not being prepared to risk letting go of something to choose another.

As a coping mechanism, people often end up taking on more and more activities or tasks on their plate which can consequently lead to overwhelm, fatigue, sleep disruptions, mood swings and burn out. Some of the following tips can help be an antidote:

Remember, appearances can be deceptive. Do not believe everything you see on social media. Just because it looks like the others are having these amazing experiences and living it up, doesn’t mean that’s the whole truth. In reality, almost everyone is struggling with challenges too, though they may post about only what’s going well [probably filtered to exaggeration]. Get in touch with your values – make a list of what’s important to you and why, what gives you joy, what gives your life meaning – do more of these – these experiences will provide the fulfilment and satisfaction which will fill the void of FOMO. Find your individuality instead of trying to do everything that others seem to be doing (refer to values to discover the same). Choose quality over quantity. Instead of hoarding experiences and constantly needing more to feel good enough, invest in quality experiences which add value to your life and help you in becoming the person you want to be.

Identify your priorities and your limitations. Accept that you are merely human – with finite capacities of time, energy and attention – so streamline your goals and desires. Make the most efficient use of your resources to reach your most important goals and build yourself up for success rather than disappointment. Optimize by planning and scheduling – use SMART goals and time management techniques to optimize your day and attend to your priorities. Say NO – set boundaries and limits and avoid over-scheduling yourself. Take time to rest – your body and mind need rest to cope with all the pressure and the adrenaline you’re putting it through.  Practice the art of gratitude. Remember the hard work it has taken to get where you are – appreciate and enjoy the fruits of your labour instead of only looking at the next milestone. Gratitude begets joy. Try Mindfulness – the very opposite perhaps of FOMO. Give it a shot! This articles provides some easy ways to start. http://www.sacac.sg/blogb/2016/08/02/6-ways-to-make-everyday-life-easier/

Written By
Mahima Gupta Didwania
M.A., MSPS, CRT, C.Ht.
Registered Clinical Psychologiest

Teens Suicide: What Parents Need To Know

Most teens, at some point in their lives, have experienced feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and distress. These feelings may escalate into suicidal thoughts if they remain unnoticed by parents and close family members.

Teens suicide can be prevented if parents are aware of its risk factors, warning signs and how they can better support their children.

What makes teens vulnerable to suicide?

  • Mental health issues such as depression (with an overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness), bipolar disorder, and anxiety
  • Stressful life circumstances such as moving, parents’ divorce or separation, financial changes, bullying or cyber bullying in an unsupportive environment
  • Lack of a support network due to ongoing conflict with close friends or family members, which results on young people feeling isolated
  • Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Family history of depression or suicidal behaviour
  • Exposure to emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
  • Being uncertain of sexual orientation
  • The influence of Social Media:  some unhealthy games and Chat Forums on the Social Media would rather suggest committing suicide as a way of showing bravery or dealing with life stressors

Look out for warning signs

Distressed teens may succeed in hiding their pain, however, clues to how they are truly feeling can be noticeable by their families and friends:

  • Talking about death and hinting that they might not be around anymore
  • Pulling away from family and friends, and losing of interest in taking part in hobbies or activities
  • Lack of focus on school work
  • Low self-esteem and self-hatred statement as: “everyone would be better off without me.”
  • Giving away treasured belongings
  • Hinting about suicide in emails or on the Social Media

Helping you suicidal teen: Dos and Don’ts

It’s important that parents see warning signs of suicide as serious and not as “attention-seeking” behaviour.

  • Maintain an open communication with your teen (or start it now if communication between the two of you has been poor in the past) and show your concern, support, and love
  • Ask openly if they are thinking of killing themselves
  • If your teen talks to you, do no minimise the issue, this will increase their sense of hopelessness.
  • Do not be judgmental about suicide
  • Contact your teens’ school and ask to learn their Digital Literacy Programme if your teen is active online
  • Regularly accompany your teen to see a counsellor/doctor

As parents, it is also important to look after yourself by talking to trusted friends about the issue and learning to relax and deal with your stress. Parenting, after all, is never a smooth journey!

Written by
Sanaa Lundgren
MS (Counselling)
MS (PolSci)
Collaborative Family Practitioner (SMC)

Raising Adaptable Kids

Parents, do you wish that your kids were a little more considerate and accommodating ? In other words, wish that they would be less upset and fussy when situations are different than usual ? Are your stays stress-free when visiting family back home ? Unfortunately, cranky, fussy and whiny kids tend to make your stay far from enjoyable. The good news is that, it’s possible to instill sense of adaptability in your child’s life.

Living abroad with extremely busy lives, often creates a world of structure, routines and schedules. These results in  a mostly predictable  lives and routines. As  children grow up, we hope that these early experiences will be internalized, and that they will emerge strong in a world of flux and change. But is that actually happening?

Tips on raising adaptability kids:

1) Keeping a positive attitude: If parents are positive during transitions, it’s more likely your kids will be too. When in a new country, the likelihood of a child adapting e.g. enjoying the local delicacies, connecting with the culture and people will happen if it’s modeled by the  parents.

2) Avoid casting routines in stone: It’s good to have routines but avoid  following  like the Bible. It’s ok to change routines occasionally giving the child the opportunity to adapt to it. It may be a challenge initially, but things settle soon.

3) Be firm: Avoid accommodating to your child’s every demand. Encourage alternatives by talking to your child. This helps develop both discipline and flexibility.

4) Trying new things: Exposing your kids to new people, foods and environments from time to time. There is nothing better than teaching your kids about the world while exposing them to new things often.

Change, uncertainty, and transition are realities of life. The extent to which children effectively respond to these realities can have a significant bearing on their life course. An encouraging fact is that research and practice have shown that children can be flexible, resilient and adaptable little humans, unless their environment prevents them from being so. Nature certainly plays a role in determining your little one’s personality, but let’s not forget the power of nurture. With time and practice, you can be successful in teaching your little dictator “the art of flexibility”.

Written by Vinti Mittal

Clinical Member of SAC, SAC Registered Counsellor, CMSAC, Reg CLR

MS (Counselling), Grad. Cert (Counselling),

PGDCA (Comp Sci). BSc (Hons)

 

Self -Care – “A problem shared is a problem halved”

The minute we decide to talk to someone about a problem, we are already doing something about it.  We are beginning to take positive control over whatever it is that is troubling us.  This is extremely beneficial and often paves the way for the beginning of the ending of the problem in its current state.

Once we start to talk about the problem it`s power somehow shrinks. Even hearing ourselves speaking about it can provide new and useful insights which helps to reduce the negative impact  of  the problem.

However,  it can be a very difficult first step for many of us to reach out for support with our problems, particularly if we’ve been used to  thinking that we must always be in control of things on our own. In fact it can be considered  an act of great courage to reach out for support when we have a problem, particularly when it`s not something we’re not familiar with doing.

Family and friends are often the first people we confide in when we have a problem and they can often provide us with invaluable support.  However, sometimes this is not possible, for a variety of reasons.  We really do not need to feel alone when this is the case,  as professionally trained therapists have a lot to offer in terms of problem solving skills. In addition there are often many positive community based mental health initiatives.

It has to be acknowledged that previously there was stigma associated with support-seeking. Thankfully it appears that  this is changing rapidly all over the world and has already completely changed in many places whereby it is now  viewed as part of  positive self-care and   responsibility – taking,  instead of something to be feared.

Sometimes a new perspective is all it takes to solve a problem. Qualified therapists are trained  non-judgmental  listeners  and their skills equip them to view problems from a variety of perspectives, which may not have previously considered.  They are trained to understand the human condition very well.

Therapists`  insight, aided by their personal  distance from the problem can provide novel solutions to tackle even what appear to be  the most entrenched issues.   Talking through issues and problems with a therapist usually provides us with a sense of relief and enlightenment and  definitely can form part of  positive self-care to move forward in our lives  feeling less troubled.

Written by
Dr Anita Corfe
CPsychol., DCPsych., BSc.(Hons)
Reg. Psychol. PsSI., AFBPSs., EAP.
Counselling Psychologist & Integrative Psychotherapist

 

Get Your Laugh On!

Laughter Pig Tree Frogs

Over the past week my house has been filled with close relatives visiting from Australia.  Along with all the usual things that go with having guests there can be no denying that the laughter quota in my home has risen during this time.  Going to bed one evening enjoying the effects of a night spent laughing and story-telling, I was reminded of something my mother used to say when I was a child.  “You need at least one good cry and one good laugh per month”.  This often came after an episode of “heartfelt sobbing” or “laughing until my sides hurts”.  It turns out that Mum was right, research has shown that emotional crying excretes stress hormones and other toxins generally resulting in feelings of relief and improved mood.  Research has also demonstrated many physical, emotional and social benefits of laughter which provide a great incentive to boost your laughter output.

The simple act of smiling causes the brain to produce dopamine which is associated with the production of endorphins, our feel good neurotransmitters.  From the humble beginnings of a smile to full blown laughter the benefits of laughter are far reaching.  One of the reasons that laughter is so good for us is that it stimulates both sides of the brain simultaneously, something that is not readily achieved in many other activities.  This dual stimulation activates our centres for creativity, clarity, humour, problem solving and focus.  Thus creating great preparation for a large variety of activities.

Laughter can also result in reduced muscle tension and increased energy a natural form of stress release and a good substitute, if you can’t get to your yoga class. In fact there is growing body of literature on laughter yoga and support for it as a legitimate form of exercise.

During laughter the brain releases nitric oxide which triggers an anti-inflammatory effect that boosts immunity.  This health benefit of laughter is just one of many.  The Cancer Treatment Centres of America report that laughter can boost the circulatory system, stimulate heart and lungs, balance blood pressure, ease digestion, improve memory and alertness, improve sleep, reduce anxiety and strengthen social bonds.  Wow, the benefits are huge.  Research has also shown that laughter can contribute to stronger therapeutic bonds between client and therapist and that laughter during therapy can be a means of clients communicating high level emotions.  All of this suggests that we should seek opportunities for laughter often.

However, if laughter is not something that comes to you easily, never fear as you can always join a Laughter Therapy Group.  Such groups involve participants laughing together and trying out different laughs.  For example, the 1cm laugh a simple repeated “Ha”, the “Boo-Hoo” laugh (fake crying) and the donkey laugh “ee-haw, ee-haw”.  The group silliness generally results in spontaneous laughter creating a positive emotional release, facilitating group bonding.

Whether you get your laughs from TV, movies, books, spending time with friends, your kids or YouTube, it doesn’t matter.  The important thing is to look for opportunities for laughter in your daily life and create a little for those around you, laughter is after all contagious.  It has been found that people who are the most resilient are those who are able to laugh at themselves and see the funny side of life.  For your own physical and mental well-being be sure to “Get Your Laugh On!” 

References
www.laughteronlineuniversity.com
www.psychologytoday.com
Yale Scientific

Written by
Dr Rachel Upperton
B. Psych (Hons) PhD.
Registered Psychologist, MAPS

 

The Revolving Doors of Friendship Abroad

Yana's 120417 blog

“If you think nothing is impossible, try slamming a revolving door”…

If you have lived in country other than your own for any period of time, you have probably experienced the transient nature of friendship abroad.

At any time, there is always someone arriving or leaving, it could be ourselves or others. The constant movement of people in our lives can feel very confusing, like endlessly going around in a revolving door.

The continuous experience of saying goodbye to friends and meeting new ones sometimes seems sad and overwhelming.  We wish we could close those fast moving doors… but of course, that is not possible!

Let’s look at some helpful thoughts for navigating the revolving doors of friendship:

  • Awareness and Openess. It is important to develop awareness about the nature of friendship abroad (constantly changing) and how we feel about it (so we can address our feelings).  Also, to start nurturing an attitude of openness, we might befriend people that in a different set of circumstances we might have never interacted with (eg. different cultures, age groups).
  • Connections and Values.  We might choose to start cultivating connections with people that relate to our different interests. We might also choose to connect with people with whom we share similar sets of life values. In either case, we become part of a community (that regularly changes its members).
  • Flow and Trust.  Two other key elements are: going with the flow and trusting the process. There might be instances where we would need to change our approach or look for help. We may feel completely alone despite all efforts. At that point, it is essential to continue the path and trust that it will lead us to more self knowledge and fullfilling relationships.

Joseph Campbell said that “we must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”  Paradoxically, the constant change provide us an opportunity to stop, look at our life from a different perspective and let go of our preconceived plans and notions.

By developing awareness and openness, we progress in our path towards a more flowing and trusting behaviour.  By focusing on our life values, we develop profound connections that open doors to more adventures.

In summary, learning to navigate the revolving doors of friendship abroad helps us to develop pathways to new life possibilities.

Written by Yana Ricart

SAC Registered Counsellor (Singapore)

MSc(Counselling), MSFP, Diploma(Psychotherapy), Grad Cert(Counselling)

Grad Cert (Expressive Therapies), Diploma (Yoga), BSc(Hons)