Navigating Work Stress: How Occupational Therapists can Support Adults

Work stress is a pervasive issue in today’s society, impacting the mental health of countless adults. A Cigna Wellbeing study conducted in 2023 found that 92% of working Singaporeans are stressed, this was 8% higher than the global average. The workplace was frequently identified as a source of this stress. Amidst the challenges, Occupational Therapists (OTs) specializing in adult mental health offer invaluable support in addressing the complexities of stress in the workplace.

At the core of an OT’s role is assessment. They explore the intricacies of the individual’s work environment, identifying stressors and underlying factors contributing to their distress. This holistic approach allows OTs to tailor interventions that address the root causes of work-related stress.

Empowerment is a central theme in OT interventions. Through skill-building practical strategies and coping mechanisms, OTs equip individuals with the tools they need to manage stress effectively. From relaxation techniques to time management skills, these interventions foster resilience and self-advocacy, empowering individuals to navigate workplace challenges with confidence.

Moreover, OTs recognize the importance of work-life balance in maintaining mental well-being.  Assisting with restructuring work tasks and schedules to promote better work-life balance. Collaborating with individuals to identify meaningful activities outside of work that promote relaxation and promote healthy coping strategies. With support to identify realistic ways to incorporate these activities into daily life, individuals can create a buffer against the negative effects of work stress.

In conclusion, OT can offer vital support to individuals grappling with work stress. Through assessment, empowerment, and advocacy, we can help individuals reclaim their mental health and find balance in both their professional and personal lives.

References
Cigna Global Wellbeing Survey, Stressed In Singapore- Employer Opportunity, 2023

Written by:
Jennie Bhangu
Occupational Therapist
SACAC Counselling

Small Habits that Build Marriages

Frances Hodgson Burnett said, “If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” What a person focuses on (i.e., their attitude, habits, and actions) determines the outcome and the quality of their relationship.

Marriage is a significant relationship for the building of a society. I believe married couples can have a thriving relationship after years of being married. Many marriages drift apart and experience a fallout because couples do not prioritize the importance of their marriage. They quickly take each other for granted after marriage. As the saying goes, “We reap what we sow.” Thus, a thriving relationship between a married couple can continue to bloom and flourish if they reprioritize and cultivate the following few habits:

1. Treat Your Partner Like a Good Friend

Do not take your spouse’s love and friendship for granted. It is important to carve out time to create a relaxing atmosphere to interact, reconnect, and have fun together regularly. There is a saying, “Happy people stay together.” Married couples should continue to develop trust and intimacy through time together in sharing their vulnerabilities, needs, desires, and dreams they have. It will also give them the opportunities to discuss their expectations and avoid any misunderstanding, disappointment, or frustration they might have with one another. Treating your partner like a good friend means maintaining the essence of friendship in your marriage. It means spending quality time together, communicating openly, and being there for each other emotionally are all essential aspects of this habit.

2. Build A Culture of Appreciation and Respect

We live in a fast-paced world. The busyness and demands of our daily lives can cause us to feel exhausted. We might be operating in survival mode. Marriages will not grow, last, or thrive if we do not give appropriate attention to nurture and develop it. Hence, it is important to create rituals for connection, to establish regular stress-reducing connection, and to attune ourselves to our partners. We can build a culture of appreciation by trying the following activity: Three to four times a week, we can set aside ten to fifteen minutes to take turns telling each other one thing we appreciate or are thankful for. Be specific and sincere in the compliments and listen attentively without interruption. At the end of the conversation, we can hug and give kisses as affirmation and appreciation for our partner. Expressing gratitude and showing respect are vital for fostering a positive atmosphere in a marriage. Taking time to appreciate each other regularly can help reinforce feelings of love and connection.

3. Handle Conflicts Kindly and Positively

John Gottman said, “Conflict is an opportunity to learn how to love each other better over time.” If a couple hopes to maintain an intimate and lasting relationship, they need to learn to communicate and handle conflicts in a kind and positive way. One golden rule to remember is when there is a disagreement, try not to engage negatively. Positive conflict resolution requires individuals to maintain a positive attitude, listening without criticizing, blaming, or becoming defensive, shutting down, or acting superiorly over others. Try to understand the problem from your partner’s perspective. Take turns to speak without raising your voice, listen with empathy, do not give unsolicited advice, and show genuine interest in one another. Take a break or time off when emotions are escalating or overcharged. Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, but how it is handled makes all the difference. Approaching conflicts with empathy, patience, and a willingness to understand each other’s perspectives can lead to resolution and growth rather than resentment.

In conclusion, when I was young because I loved reading fairy tales because I loved seeing couples live happily ever after. Now as I grow older, I still love seeing couples get along and live happily in their relationships as married couples. The world that we live in is a chaotic one, there are people hurting around us. When marriages break down, not only are the couple hurting, but so is everyone else all around them. By consistently practicing these three habits, couples can create a strong foundation for their marriage and navigate challenges together effectively. Healthy relationships will contribute to the well-being of society through the strengthening of families.

If you need any support in your marriage, please do not hesitate to call SACAC as we have a group of professional therapists and psychologists who can help you.

Written by:
Joyce Ng
Clinical Psychologist MSPS
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
SACAC Counseling Pte Ltd

Dysthymia in Youth

Prevalence of Dysthymia among Youth

The prevalence of dysthymia among youth varies globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2018), depression is one of the leading causes of disability among adolescents worldwide, affecting approximately 10-20% of youth. In Singapore, studies (Lim, et al., 2018) have shown that the prevalence of depression and related mood disorders among youth is on the rise, with increased academic pressure, social media usage, and other stressors contributing to mental health challenges.

What is Dysthymia?

Dysthymia, also known as persistent depressive disorder (PDD), is a chronic mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in activities (APA, 2013). In youth populations, dysthymia can significantly impair daily functioning and overall well-being. 

Causes of Dysthymia 

The causes of dysthymia in youth are multifactorial, with a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychosocial factors playing a role. Genetic predisposition, imbalances in brain chemistry (such as serotonin and dopamine), childhood trauma or adverse experiences, chronic stress, and family history of mood disorders can contribute to the development of dysthymia in young individuals.

Signs and Symptoms of Dysthymia in Youth 

  • Persistent low mood
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia or hypersomnia)
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Decreased interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors (in severe cases)

Diagnosis of Dysthymia in Youth

Diagnosing dysthymia in youth requires careful consideration of developmental factors, age-appropriate symptoms, and the duration of symptoms. According to DSM-5 criteria, the diagnosis of dysthymia in youth featured with:

1. The depressed or irritable mood has been for at least one year (in children and adolescents) and has caused clinically significant disturbances in daily functioning.

2. Presence, while depressed, of two (or more) of the following symptoms:

  • Poor appetite or overeating.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia.
  • Low energy or fatigue.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.

Treatment for Dysthymia in Youth 

Treatment for dysthymia in youth typically involves a multimodal approach, including psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle interventions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used to help young individuals identify and modify negative thought patterns, develop coping skills, and improve problem-solving abilities. Antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may also be prescribed under the supervision of a psychiatrist or pediatrician.

In Singapore, mental health services for youth are also available through various channels, including school-based counseling programs, community mental health clinics, and private practitioners. Efforts to raise awareness about mental health issues and reduce stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health concerns are ongoing in both Singapore and globally.

References

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

World Health Organization (2018). Adolescent mental health. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-mental-health

Lim, S., et al. (2018). Prevalence and correlates of depression in adolescents in Singapore. Asia-Pacific Psychiatry, 10(3), e12321. https://doi.org/10.1111/appy.12321

Written by:
Jenny Zeng
Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

Reflections on grief

Manu Keirse is a Clinic Psychologist from Belgium who specialises in grief. He has done a lot of research and has written multiple books. He is an inspiration in the psychology field. 

He has written a book in Dutch, a guide for professionals and families named: “Helpen bij verlies en verdriet”, which means “How to help with loss and sadness”. 

Grief is the emotional, physical and cognitive reaction of people who are confronted with a severe loss. Everything that has to do with “loss” creates a grieving process. Every form of loss, such as health issues, illness, losing a job, loss of faith, the ending of a relationship, death, divorce, failing at school, disabilities related to yourself or a loved one, being diagnosed. 

It usually is a confrontation with feelings of injustice, unfairness and/or a feeling of helplessness. 

Grief is not about saying goodbye or letting go but about learning to hold differently. Sadness about a loss is something that won’t change, but you learn to live with it. With death, a life ends, but the relationship never ends. Grief is like a fingerprint: recognisable to everyone, yet always different and unique. Death transforms relationships but does not end them. 

Important to know is that everyone grieves differently, and it is not something that has an end date. Everyone has their own process, their own pace and their own feelings. 

Manu Keirse mentions that to survive loss, you need to do “grieving work/mourning work”. He mentions grieving is not passive, but it is a heavy emotional active activity. Grieving is working to find meaning and rebuild your personal world that has been shaken by the loss. 

He has defined 4 tasks part of the “grieving work/mourning work”: 

1. Facing the reality of the loss. 
2. Experiencing the pain of the loss. 
3. Adjusting to the world after this loss. 
4. Learning to enjoy again and keep the memories. 

He mentions these tasks overlap. Unfinished tasks can get in the way of happiness in life.

My next blog will be on how to support someone with the “grieving work/mourning work”. “ How to support someone who’s going through grief? “ 

Reference
Keirse, M. (2017). Helpen bij verlies en verdriet. 

Written By:
Flo Westendorp
Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

The Executive in our brain

Executive Functions are a very important concept in theoretical psychology that can help us understand our common behaviour and some challenges we encounter in everyday life, especially when it comes to attention and planning.

Research psychology thinks that like in the corporate world, our brain contains an executive control system (or systems) in charge of complex operations, such as solving problems, creating new plans and strategies, and modifying responses in light of new information.

In brief, this system acts whenever automatic psychological processes and a learned set of behaviours are not enough to achieve specific goals. This happens all the time when we need to try to concentrate and pay attention.

Scholars agree that there are 3 main classes of executive functions:

  • Inhibition
  • Working Memory
  • Cognitive Flexibility

Inhibition helps us focus our attention on a specific target, excluding interference from distractors, both external (like background noises when we want to read an email ) and internal (thinking of yesterday’s dinner when listening to a speech).

This also includes self-control: avoid acting impulsively and resisting temptation (blurting out the first thing we have in mind or grabbing the first snack we see on the shelf)

Working memory is the ability to hold in mind relevant information and do mental work on it (not so different conceptually from a computer working memory). It is thanks to our working memory that we can make sense of what somebody is telling us: by putting together the first sentences with the next one we get the full meaning of what we are being told. The same applies to a written page. 

Cognitive flexibility is the ability to change perspective and see things from above instead of in front or even from another person’s point of view. When we think ‘out of the box’ we use our flexibility and sometimes problems may then appear as opportunities instead of obstacles.

Many factors can impair our executive functions, the most known is ADHD, a condition when executive functions are compromised at some level. Some physical conditions also affect executive functions. However, it is important to acknowledge that common life factors like stress, prolonged sadness, and anxiety also have an impact. Forgetfulness, lack of focus, distractibility, and impulsiveness are common situations we experience when under stress or overwhelmed by unpleasant feelings.

Executive Functions develop at different paces during growth and their development and strengthening continue till young adulthood.

Trained professionals can assess the strengths and weaknesses of our executive functions. Like other skills, most executive functions can be enhanced through training and therapy. CBT is very effective in this sense and many therapists and school specialists offer executive function interventions.

References

Ferguson, H.J., Brunsdon, V.E.A. and Bradford, E.E.F. (2021). The developmental trajectories of executive function from adolescence to old age. Scientific Reports, [online] 11(1), p.1382. doi:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-80866-1.

Elliott, R. (2003). Executive functions and their disorders: Imaging in clinical neuroscience. British Medical Bulletin, [online] 65(1), pp.49–59. doi:https://doi.org/10.1093/bmb/65.1.49.

Diamond A. Executive Functions. Annu Rev Psychol. 2013; 64: 135–168. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143750.

De Assis Faria, C., Alves, H. and Charchat‐Fichman, H. (2015) ‘The most frequently used tests for assessing executive functions in aging,’ Dementia & Neuropsychologia, 9(2), pp. 149–155. https://doi.org/10.1590/1980-57642015dn92000009.

Written By:
Claudio Moroni
Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

Conflict Resolution  for Siblings

Sibling rivalry is a typical part of growing up and childhood, but that doesn’t mean that there always needs to be loud and constant bickering and arguments. With a few conflict resolution skills, siblings can learn to communicate effectively, express their needs in a healthy way, and find solutions that work!

Here are 5 conflict resolution skills for siblings:

  1. Cool down. It’s hard to have a productive conversation when you’re both angry or upset and in the Red zone. Take some time to cool down before trying to talk about the problem. Take a few long and slow deep breaths, go for a walk, or listen to calming music.
  2. Listen to each other. When you have had your turn to talk, really listen to what your sibling has to say. Try to see things from their perspective and avoid interrupting.
  3. I-statements. Use “I statements” to express your feelings without blaming or coming across as attacking to your sibling. For example, I feel…..when…… Instead of saying, “You always take my things!”, try saying, “I feel frustrated when I can’t find my things.”
  4. Problem Solving. Once you’ve both had a chance to talk, it’s time to start problem solving solutions. Come up with a few different ideas and be willing to compromise.
  5. Agree to disagree. Sometimes, you won’t be able to agree on a solution. That’s okay! Just agree to disagree and move on. You can always revisit the issue later when you’ve both had some time to cool down.

Remember, learning effective communication is key here. The more you talk to each other, the better you’ll understand each other and the easier it will be to resolve any conflicts.

Here are some further additional tips for resolving conflict with your siblings:

  • Avoid name-calling and put-downs. These will only make the situation worse.
  • Be respectful of each other’s belongings. Ask before you borrow something, and put things back where you found them.
  • Try to use 2 conflict resolution tools before going to an adult when having an argument. For example: If you have a problem with your sibling, talk to them directly and try I Statements. 
  • Spend some quality time together doing things you both enjoy. This will help you build a stronger relationship and make it easier to resolve conflicts.

With a little practice, you and your siblings can learn to communicate effectively and resolve conflicts in a healthy way. So give it a go!

References

https://www.verywellfamily.com/solutions-for-sibling-fighting-and-rivalry-620104

https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/key-strategies-manage-sibling-rivalry

https://kelsoschoice.com

Written by:
Renee Butler
Counsellor
SACAC Counselling

Adlerian Therapy’s Goals

What was Alfred Adler’s role in the world?

Alfred Adler was a physician, psychotherapist, and the founder of Adlerian psychology, also known as Individual Psychology. In his early career, he was one of Sigmund Freud’s colleagues, but later diverged to develop his own psychological theory. In contrast to Freud, who emphasized the role of unconscious drives, Adler focused on conscious factors such as social interests and lifestyle choices. Modern approaches to psychotherapy were shaped by Adler’s theories.

According to Adlerian theory, individuals are interconnected beings influenced by psychological, social, environmental, and physiological factors. According to Adler, the perspective is based on the concept of “Gesellschaftsfühl,” or “community feeling.” The therapist considers how multiple aspects of the client’s life interact to contribute to the current issues rather than treating individual struggles as isolated problems.

It can be useful to understand the dynamics of early family experiences and how they shape an individual’s lifestyle and coping mechanisms through techniques such as the “Family Constellation.”

As a result of using a holistic approach, clients gain a better understanding of their current struggles, allowing them to develop more effective coping strategies.

Adlerian therapy emphasizes the importance of understanding each individual’s unique personality and lifestyle, and the power of human relationships in fostering personal growth. It also emphasizes the importance of understanding and accepting one’s flaws, and the potential for personal growth through self-reflection and self-motivation.

Adlerian therapy is based on the idea that everyone is born with an innate drive for personal growth. It encourages individuals to challenge their assumptions and to develop a sense of self-confidence. It also encourages them to become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses. In contrast to other therapies that may focus exclusively on alleviating symptoms, Adlerian therapy utilizes a holistic approach. By addressing underlying beliefs and life goals, it seeks to bring about deep-seated change in an individual’s social context.

Adlerian therapy encourages the individual to become more self-aware and to develop a sense of purpose in life. It also focuses on improving communication and problem-solving skills. Finally, it seeks to empower the individual to take control of their own life.

Adlerian therapy focuses on helping people gain insight into their own behavior and motivations, as well as helping them to develop healthier attitudes and behaviors. It also emphasizes the importance of understanding the individual’s unique social situation and cultural background.

Nevertheless, further research is required, but Adlerian therapy has proven effective in treating a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety, interpersonal problems, and anger issues.

The first goal is to promote personal growth

A key component of the approach is the need for individuals to feel competent and independent, emphasizing their unique abilities and potential. In addition to overcoming challenges, it is also important to realize one’s potential and achieve one’s goals.

Therapy Techniques to Facilitate Personal Growth

The Socratic Method: a method for exploring an individual’s beliefs, values, and setting meaningful goals (Advancing Theoretical Foundations of Adlerian Psychology, p. 162).

Guided imagery: This technique helps individuals visualize situations in which they have overcome challenges successfully, which boosts their self-confidence.

Using role-playing scenarios, individuals can practice different responses to situations, resulting in increased flexibility and adaptability.

Early Recollections: An innovative approach to understanding a person’s present lifestyle and coping strategies based on their earliest memories.

Goal 2: Fostering a Sense of Belonging and Community

Goal 3: Promoting Self-Awareness and Self-Understanding

Goal 4: Encouraging the Development of a Healthy Lifestyle

Goal 5: Enhancing Problem-Solving Skills

Goal 6: Cultivating a Positive and Optimistic Attitude

References

Adler, A. (2013b). Understanding Human Nature (Psychology Revivals). Routledge.

Adler, A., Jelliffe, S. Ely. (1917). Study of Organ Inferiority and its Psychical Compensation: A Contribution to Clinical Medicine. New York: Nervous and Mental Disease Publishing Company.

Capuzzi, D. & Stauffer, M. D. (2016). Counseling and Psychotherapy: Theories and Interventions. Germany: Wiley.

Stein, H. T. & Edwards, M. E. (2002). Adlerian psychotherapy. In Herson, M. & Sledge, M. H. (1st Ed.), Encyclopedia of Psychotherapy (Vol. 1, pp. 23-31). Netherlands: Elsevier Science.

White, W. A. (1917). The theories of Freud, Jung and Adler: III. The Adlerian concept of the neuroses. The Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 12 (3), 168.

Written by:
Leah Selakovic
Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

Psychological research and practice

There is an extremely intricate relationship between psychological research and practice. Psychology borrowed scientific methodology to study non-animate objects like rocks for the exploration of the human mind, akin to natural sciences (Giorgi, 1970; Valle & Halling, 1989). However, this mainstream tradition encountered many difficulties because, unlike other disciplines such as physics, psychologists encounter “very messy” data sets due to substantial individual differences in their research. Furthermore, psychology is currently experiencing what is known as a “replication crisis” (Amrhein et al., 2019; Earp & Trafimow, 2015; Maxwell et al., 2015; Shrout & Rodgers, 2018; Stroebe & Strack, 2014), where the replicability of famous experiments that underpinned the theories taught in psychology textbooks is being questioned.

This crisis prompts us, as science-practitioners, to reconsider the trade-off between experimental control and real-world application, also known as ecological validity (Matthews, 2000). Often, the more relatable a psychological phenomenon is to everyday life, the less replicable it becomes in a laboratory setting because our daily lives are filled with numerous latent variables that potentially create different relationships among them (e.g., additive, interactive, correlating, etc.). Thus, the replicability of the investigated phenomena significantly improves when we focus on “dry” topics, such as the millisecond bottleneck of visual selective attention (Raymond et al., 1992).

Despite the current state of affairs, I am cautiously optimistic that the deliberate shift towards experimental control will reveal more about the causality of pressing mental health issues than ecological validity theory suggests. For instance, we are beginning to reexamine how we analyze data even for highly replicated phenomena, such as attentional capture (Turatto, 2023). This trend might help us better understand the origins of critical individual differences in how we interpret the world, as seen in cases like autism (Sinha et al., 2014).

Please stay tuned for the latest developments in research on this front. I believe that a careful return to basic science will help unravel some of the puzzling phenomena we encounter in everyday life.

References

Amrhein, V., Trafimow, D., & Greenland, S. (2019). Inferential Statistics as Descriptive Statistics: There Is No Replication Crisis if We Don’t Expect Replication. The American Statistician, 73(sup1), 262–270. https://doi.org/10.1080/00031305.2018.1543137

Earp, B. D., & Trafimow, D. (2015). Replication, falsification, and the crisis of confidence in social psychology. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00621

Giorgi, A. (1970). Psychology as a human science; a phenomenologically based approach (1735391). Harper & Row.

Matthews, G. (2000). Human performance: Cognition, stress, and individual differences (11867987). Psychology Press ; Taylor& Francis Group. http://www.loc.gov/catdir/enhancements/fy0648/99087641-d.html

Maxwell, S. E., Lau, M. Y., & Howard, G. S. (2015). Is psychology suffering from a replication crisis? What does “failure to replicate” really mean? American Psychologist, 70(6), 487–498. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0039400

Raymond, J. E., Shapiro, K. L., & Arnell, K. M. (1992). Temporary suppression of visual processing in an RSVP task: An attentional blink? Journal of Experimental Psychology. Human Perception and Performance, 18(3), 849–860.

Shrout, P. E., & Rodgers, J. L. (2018). Psychology, Science, and Knowledge Construction: Broadening Perspectives from the Replication Crisis. Annual Review of Psychology, 69(1), 487–510. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-122216-011845

Sinha, P., Kjelgaard, M. M., Gandhi, T. K., Tsourides, K., Cardinaux, A. L., Pantazis, D., Diamond, S. P., & Held, R. M. (2014). Autism as a disorder of prediction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(42), 15220–15225. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1416797111

Stroebe, W., & Strack, F. (2014). The Alleged Crisis and the Illusion of Exact Replication. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9(1), 59–71. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691613514450

Turatto, M. (2023). Habituation (of attentional capture) is not what you think it is. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0001139

Valle, R. S., & Halling, S. (1989). Existential-phenomenological perspectives in psychology: Exploring the breadth of human experience: With a special section on transpersonal psychology (3384781). Plenum Press.

Written by:
Takashi Obana, PhD
Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

School Refusal

School refusal can be a common concern that affects children of all ages. It is defined by a child’s repeated refusal to go into school. There are many reasons why a child may refuse to go into school These include but are not limited to anxiety, bullying, learning difficulties, and social concerns.

If your child is currently struggling with school refusal, it is important to be patient and understanding. It is also advisable to seek professional help if your child’s refusal to go to school is causing significant disruption to their daily life.

Here are some top tips for helping children who are struggling with school refusal:

  • Talk to your child about their feelings. Let them know that it is okay to feel anxious or scared about school. Listen to their concerns and try to understand what is causing their anxiety
  • Create a safe and supportive environment at home. Make sure your child feels loved, accepted and heard. Avoid arguing or fighting with them about school
  • Work in collaboration with the school to develop a plan for your child. This plan may include in school counselling, a limited timetable, support when arriving to school in the mornings, academic support, or social skills training classes
  • Seek professional help if needed. A therapist can help your child to manage their anxiety and develop healthy coping skills

Here are some additional tips that you can try:

  • Help your child by writing down things they are looking forward to at school the next day. This could be a favourite subject, a teacher or a friend
  • Help your child to develop a positive morning routine. This could include getting dressed, eating a healthy breakfast, and mindfulness
  • Set small, achievable goals for your child. For example, you could start by setting a goal of getting your child to go to school for one hour per day
  • Praise your child for their efforts. Even if your child only goes to school for a short period of time, let them know that you are proud of them
  • Avoid forcing your child to go to school. This will only make their anxiety worse

It is important to remember that school refusal is a complex problem. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, by following these tips, you can help your child to overcome their concerns and return to school

Additional tips:

  • Encourage your child to stay connected with their friends and classmates. This could involve inviting friends over for a playdate, participating in hobbies or activities together, or using social media
  • Help your child to develop healthy coping mechanisms. This could include relaxation techniques, mindfulness, exercise, or spending time in nature or with a pet
  • Be patient and supportive. It may take time for your child to overcome their school refusal

References: 

The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/feb/06/you-cant-fix-school-refusal-with-tough-love-but-these-steps-might-help

National University Hospital: https://www.nuh.com.sg/our-services/Specialties/Psychological-Medicine/PublishingImages/Pages/IPMDA/School%20Refusal.pdf

Written by:
Renee Butler
Counsellor
SACAC Counselling

To Stay Or Not To Stay In A Relationship

Someone asked me for advice on whether she should stay or leave her relationship. Her partner is affectionate and loving. He makes her feel cherished and loved. But on the other hand, she is confused and stressed by her partner’s possessive and controlling attitude. He gets upset and threatens to end their relationship when she wants to spend time with her family and friends.  

Her situation led me to reflect on the following questions: 

  1. When does a relationship become unhealthy?
  2. What signs should prompt a person to consider leaving such a relationship? 

Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship:

  1. Insecurity

Insecurity in a relationship may manifest as a lack of trust. It can result in possessive and controlling behavior. It may cause a person to hide things from their partner because they are afraid of the possible consequences of openly sharing their thoughts and feelings.

  1. Walking on eggshells

A person may feel like they are constantly “walking on eggshells” around their partner. They may even feel like they are always giving in and giving up on things they like or want to do to keep their partner happy.

  1. A one-sided relationship

A person may feel like they are in a “one-sided” relationship. They feel like they invest more effort, energy, and emotion to keep the peace in their relationship. Thus, the person can often feel drained because they feel like they are always “doing all the work” without the support of their partner.

  1. Disrespect 

Mutual respect is key to a secure and intimate relationship. Disrespectful words and behaviors can leave a person feeling rejected and hurt. It may foster emotions such as hurt, shame, guilt, loneliness, and embarrassment.  This kind of treatment often includes dismissing someone’s feelings or thoughts without trying to understand them. The spectrum of disrespect can span from outright ridicule to making fun of their opinions to the use of dark humor or hurtful remarks, all aimed at belittling and exerting control over the partner. 

  1. Gaslighting

Gaslighting and manipulation can confuse and cause a person to think that they have done something wrong or that something is wrong with them. It uses past matters, memories, and mistakes to cause the other person to doubt themself.

  1. Loss of self-worth and confidence

Another “red flag” is the loss of one’s self-worth and confidence. In an unhealthy relationship, individuals can feel small, accompanied by increased self-doubt and multiplying anxieties. This can manifest as a decline in confidence, particularly in decision-making or engaging in activities that were once routine or enjoyable.

The Takeaway

If one or more of these signs resonated with you in your relationship, please take some time to reflect on your thoughts and feelings. Confide with a close friend, journal your experience(s), or consult a therapist if needed. Going through this process can clarify any doubts you may have. Being honest with yourself is the first step in discerning whether you should stay or leave a relationship. If you choose to stay, you still have to work through the things that caused you to have these concerns in the first place. If you need professional advice or help, please contact our counselors at SACAC Counseling.

Written By:
Joyce Ng
Clinical Psychologist
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
SACAC Counselling