What is a Psychologist?

Psychologists are trained professionals who help to ensure the mental health and emotional well-being of all people: individuals, families, and groups. They perform testing, evaluate and treat a full range of emotional and psychological challenges. Our Psychological Team (hyperlink ‘Psychologists’ section) is made up of trained international and local psychologists who will discuss your concerns and tailor our services to your needs. We speak a variety of different languages.

For the wide range of services our Psychologists offer please click here.

What is Therapy/Psychotherapy/Counselling?

Psychotherapy and Counselling are professional interventions that utilise an interpersonal relationship to enable people to develop self-understanding and to make changes in their lives. Therapists rarely offer advice, instead they guide clients to discover their own answers and support them through the actions they choose to take.

While counselling and psychotherapy overlap considerably and are terms often used interchangeably, there exist a slight distinction between them. The focus of counselling is more likely to deal with present issues that can be easily resolved on the conscious level (e.g., specific problems, changes in life and fostering wellbeing) while psychotherapy is more concerned with the restructuring of self and beliefs, and the development of insight.

Counselling may deal with emotions (i.e., grief, anger, anxiety), identifying and managing stressors, clarifying values, managing conflicts, developing better interpersonal and communication skills or changing unproductive thoughts and behaviours. On the other hand, psychotherapy looks at long standing attitudes, thoughts and behaviours that have influenced the current quality of an individual's life and relationships. It explores the root causes of problems with the goal of resolving underlying issues which fuel ongoing concerns. This may lead to changes in perspective of oneself and life in general, empowering an individual by increasing self-awareness of unconscious triggers.

How can I prepare my child for an assessment?

Adequately preparing your child for an assessment can reduce anxiety and encourage cooperation through the upcoming battery of tests.

Prior to the assessment:

  • Be open and honest. Clearly explain to your child the purpose of the testing. Reassure your child that the reason for testing is to better understand their struggles and figure out ways in which adults can help them feel and learn better.
  • Explain to your child that parents are not typically allowed to be present during testing. However, reassure your child that you will be close by while he/she works with the psychologist.
  • Schedule the test sessions during the time of the day when your child usually functions the best. Try to refrain from taking your child out of activities or classes he/she enjoys so that testing will not be a negative experience.
  • For young children:
    • Provide the name of the psychologist your child will be seeing
    • Explain that the visit does not involve any physical examinations or painful shots or procedures
    • Let your child know that the psychologist will have toys and games that he or she will get to play with
  • For school-aged children:
    • Described testing as being like in school. Tell your child that they will be doing many activities. These activities may involve listening and talking, while other activities involve looking at pictures, building things, and drawing.

The night before the assessment:

  • Ensure your child gets plenty of sleep the night before

On the day of the assessment:

  • Make the assessment day a special and stress-free day for your child by leaving brothers and/or sisters at home.
  • Ensure your child has eaten so that he/she will not be hungry during testing.
  • You child may like to bring a snack and/or drink to the session to have during our short breaks.
  • Allow your child to bring an object that may help increase their sense of safety and security. Try to choose an object that will not be too distracting for the child (e.g., a small stuffed animal as opposed to a toy with many small parts).
  • As temperatures in our office fluctuates throughout the day, your child may want to bring a jacket to keep warm.
What is a consult (for parent) and why do I need to come in for a consult when my child is the one with the problems?

A Consult is an initial interaction between the primary caregiver (parents) and the psychologist where parents state and elaborate the concerns their child might be having. Here, focus is placed on collecting all the relevant information from the primary caregiver regarding the child to aid in case formulation and draw a preliminary picture of the possible intervention plan that will successfully reduce the difficulties. Although we assume that the child is the one who is struggling, the primary caregiver (parent) is most informed about the origin and course of the concerns in addition to the developmental history of the child. An accurate account of this information ultimately leads to rightly dealing with the concerns.

How do I know if my child or I need therapy/psychotherapy/counselling?

Difficulties are an inevitable part of our lives and during no stage of growth can we confidently say we are perfectly happy. However, when a concern for you or your dear ones reach a level of severity that are clearly effecting the different areas of functioning such as family/personal, academics/occupational or social life and no help or advice from friends and relatives seem to be solving the issue, you should seek help from a specialist, in this case a psychologist. The psychologist uses their objective observations to make experienced clinical judgments that are non-biased and are aimed to design the most suitable plan of treatment for the client. Usually, this consists of a detailed psychological assessment of the client followed by a structured goal oriented psychotherapy.

Does what we talk about in therapy remain confidential?

Yes, all the information pertaining to the case is deemed highly confidential to respect individual privacy and for strictly upholding the ethical standards on which our psychologists function. Only after written consent from the parent/client can a professional share the information with another specialist if needed. More information can be found regarding this on our consent forms for psychological therapy and assessment.

What makes therapy/psychotherapy/counselling successful?

Meta-Analysis of psychotherapy research has found successes in general, and the average treated client is better off than 80% of untreated subjects.

While there are many factors that influences therapy success, Lambert & Barley (2001) research has pointed to four main areas: extra therapeutic factors (40 percent of effectiveness), expectancy effects (15 percent of effectiveness), specific therapy techniques (15 percent of effectiveness), and common factors (30 percent of effectiveness).

Of the four factors, extra therapeutic factors contributed as the highest factor for successful outcome (40 percent). These include the client’s personal strengths, weaknesses and other characteristics including beliefs and attitudes; and also factors in the client’s environment that help or hinder. Remaining hopeful contributes to another 15 percent of effectiveness. Together, your personal factors, environment factors, and a hopeful outlook contributes to more than half (65 percent) of therapeutic success.

This means that you make therapy successful; success in therapy is within your control.

Practically, some useful advice will be:

  • Take therapy (and homework) seriously. Treat it as a course that you want to excel by doing the assignments the therapist assigns you. Spend time to reflect and think about what you and your therapist have talked about.
  • Build social support by getting family and/or friends involved in your therapy experience, by talking about your sessions and telling them how they can help you.
  • Keep a journal, writing down times when you feel like things are not working out, and times when you feel that you are making good progress. Keep track of what works and what does not, and talk about them with your therapists.
  • Be patient — when we are working through our problems, we are bound to experience some distress and discomfort. Sometimes the most productive therapy session is when you feel frustrated or even depressed.
  • Do one nice thing for yourself every day. Being appreciative of yourself improves therapy outcome.
  • Remember that therapy is hard work, an investment in your mental health, but just as in exercise, the rewards can be invaluable.

On the therapists’ end, common factors such as empathy, warmth, and the therapeutic relationship (30 percent) have been shown to correlate more highly with client outcome than specialized treatment interventions (15 percent). The common factors most frequently studied have been the person-centered facilitative conditions (empathy, warmth, congruence) and the therapeutic alliance.

Reference: Lambert, M. J., & Barley, D.E. (2001). Research summary on the therapeutic relationship and psychotherapy outcome. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training. Vol 38(4). 357-361.

How do I choose a suitable therapist?

Decades of research indicate that the provision of therapy is an interpersonal process in which a main curative component is the nature of the therapeutic relationship. Comparative studies of psychotherapy consistently report that measures of therapeutic relationship correlate more highly with client outcome than specialised therapy techniques. Some therapists are better than others at contributing to positive client outcome. Such therapists are more understanding and accepting, empathic, warm, and supportive. They engage in fewer negative behaviours such as blaming, ignoring, or rejecting.

As a therapist’s ability to form relationships and customize treatments play key roles, some key points to think about when choosing your therapist include:

  • Does the therapist has a sophisticated set of interpersonal skills?
  • Is he/she able to builds trust, understanding and belief?
  • How well is the therapist’s ability to an alliance with me?
  • How well can my therapist provide an acceptable and adaptive explanation of my condition.
  • Does my therapist has a treatment plan and allows it to be flexible.
  • Is the therapist influential, persuasive and convincing?
  • Does he/she monitors my progress effectively?
  • Does he offers hope and optimism (realistic optimism, not Pollyanna-ish).
  • Is he/she aware of my characteristics in context?
  • Is he/she reflective?
  • Does he/she relies on best research evidence?
  • Does he/she continually improves through professional development?

You can also enquire about the psychologist’s theories of practice, specialties, length of experience, academic degrees, and the extent of psychologist’s personal psychotherapy.

Finding a good therapist match is important for successful outcome. Always remember that you do not have to stick to one therapist if you find him/her not suitable. A good time to ask and find out more about your therapist is during the first/ consultation session. The therapist will also be asking you questions to assess suitability, and may suggest referral to a more suitable therapist should he/she find that more appropriate.

What to expect from a session (time frame/content)?


The first therapy session is called a consult session. This is the time when the therapist gathers information about you and your needs. You may be asked to fill out forms about your current and past physical and emotional health. It might take a few sessions for your therapist to fully understand your situation and concerns and to determine the best approach or course of action. This is also an opportunity for you to interview your therapist and assess if he/she is a suitable match. In this session, your therapist will also explain to you what psychotherapy is, what to expect in sessions, fees, and other administrative details.


Psychotherapy is offered in different formats, including individual, couple, family or group therapy sessions, and it can be effective for all age groups. There are also various framework and techniques in psychotherapy. Your therapist may be specialised in a particular framework or adopts an eclectic approach. Depending on your specific issues, format, personal characteristics, and the therapist’s training, different framework and techniques may be used.

Some examples of psychotherapy techniques proven to be effective include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which helps you identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviours and replace them with healthy, positive ones
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy, a type of CBT that teaches behavioural skills to help you handle stress, manage your emotions and improve your relationships with others
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy, which helps you become aware of and accept your thoughts and feelings and commit to making changes, increasing your ability to cope with and adjust to situations
  • Psychodynamic and psychoanalysis therapies, which focus on increasing your awareness of unconscious thoughts and behaviours, developing new insights into your motivations, and resolving conflicts
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy, which focuses on addressing problems with your current relationships with other people to improve your interpersonal skills — how you relate to others, such as family, friends and colleagues
  • Supportive psychotherapy, which reinforces your ability to cope with stress and difficult situations

While framework is a consideration, your personal factors such as being open and honest about your thoughts and feelings are also important to bring about effectiveness. For most types of psychotherapy, your therapist encourages you to talk about what’s troubling you. As you work through the difficult issues, you may experience intense emotions, and may find yourself crying, upset, or even having an angry outburst. Do not give up in such situations, as they can be your best therapeutic experiences. You therapist is there to help you cope with such emotions. You may also be asked to do “homework” – activities or practices that build on what you learn and feel about yourself, and improve your ability to cope with problems. Your diligence in completing this homework seriously plays a big role in successful outcome.

Duration and Length of psychotherapy

Each therapy session is 50 minutes in duration. The number of sessions you require depends on many factors including but not limited to:

  • Your specific issue
  • Severity of your symptoms; how much and how deeply these issues interfere with your day-to-day life
  • Hong long you’ve had symptoms or have been dealing with your situation
  • How quickly you make progress
  • How much support you receive from family members and others

There is no one fix answer to how many sessions you will need exactly. Short term therapy dealing with mild issues and generally using problem solving methods may take around 4 to 6 sessions. A medium length therapy framework that involve looking into a change in cognition style might takes around 8 to 12 sessions. For deeply rooted behaviours that might require a psychodynamic framework exploring unresolved conflicts may require a long term approach that can take more than 20 sessions.

What is psychological assessment and how can it help my child?

A psychological assessment is conducted by a psychologist to ascertain an individual's current level of functioning. The focus of the assessment and choice of assessment tools varies depending on the referral concerns and will be discussed and agreed upon during the initial consult. As the underlying cause of an individual’s problems are not always clear (For example, if a child is having trouble at school, does he have a learning difficult or is it ADHD or is deficits in memory), the results of the assessment allow a psychologist to gather a comprehensive understanding of the child. Results from the assessment is never focused on a single test score, instead, an individual's competencies and limitations are evaluated and reported on in an objective but helpful manner. Understanding of a child's strengths and weaknesses and the nature of the problem will help a psychologist to figure out the best way to address the challenges faced.

What is psychological assessment and how can it help my child?

Here are just some of our areas of expertise:

  • Intellectual functioning
  • Sadness/Depression
  • Anxiety/Phobias
  • Social skills
  • Anger management
  • Family/Relationship challenges
  • Grief (Death, Loss and/or divorce)
  • Work/Productivity problems
  • Gifted & talented assessments
  • Sleep management
  • Learning difficulties
  • Autistic spectrum disorders
  • and more.
What are some common issues children/adolescent can seek help for in sessions?

Here are just some of our areas of expertise:

  • Intellectual functioning
  • Learning difficulties
  • Autistic spectrum disorders
  • Fears/Anxiety
  • Behavioural difficulties
  • Social skills
  • Anger management
  • Sadness/Depression
  • Peculiar/concerning behaviours
  • Grief (Death, Loss and/or divorce)
  • Gifted & talented assessments
  • Developmental assessments
  • Sleep management
  • Picky Eating
  • Toilet Training
  • Bedwetting
  • Family/Relationship challenges
  • and more.
How can I help my child/teenager feel less anxious about seeing a psychologist for therapy?

With children, you should ensure familiarity to the process and environment. You can help your child understand what to expect during therapy/assessment with social stories. You may also introduce your child to his/her psychologist, here. During the consult session, you may ask your child’s psychologist for more assistance on how to help your child feel less anxious.

With teenagers, you should introduce the topic of seeing a psychologist in a gentle manner, when both you and your child are calm. Express your concerns clearly in an open and loving way, and let your child know you want him to be happier, healthier, more productive, and less sad or anxious. Avoid approaching your child with accusations, lectures and angry or disappointed reactions. This leaves them feeling ashamed and would be more reluctant to see a therapist. Also avoid broaching the topic right after an argument. Seeing a psychologist should not be seen as a punishment or threat to ensure compliance.

Many teens resist therapy because they may feel there is a taboo to it, or that their friends will find out and believe there is something ‘wrong’ with them. During the consult session, you may speak to the psychologist to find out more about the client-therapist confidentiality and limits; and how to communicate these to your teenager. You may also ask the psychologist for more assistance on how to help your child feel less anxious.