Who do you look for to get help?

by Nathan Chua

One frequent inquiry I get is about which psychologist or counselor one should look for, when faced with emotional or psychological problems. I think there is enough confusion around, that compels a discussion about the different specializations available in such a broad field like psychology.

For this post, I will focus on three distinct, but nonetheless related fields in psychology, which are frequently the subject of inquiry. These are clinical psychology, psychiatry and counseling psychology. There are many more areas of learning in psychology that I just don’t have the space to discuss in one short blog. Please note that I am talking from the perspective of someone who works and lives in the Philippines. Some of my descriptions about the way these three are practiced, may be unique to the country.

Counseling Psychology

This is a field where social workers and counselors with master’s degrees would specialize in the Philippines. Some counselors are not just involved in talk therapy or counseling, but they can also give psychological tests as well. They can work in various organizations. A typical example would be a school’s guidance counselor. Others would be involved in hospitals, clinics, rehab centers, religious charities or any organization that is involved in social work. They are not trained to prescribe medication.

Clinical Psychology

Most practitioners in this field are involved in counseling and psychometrics. They are able to do most, if not all, of what counselors and social workers can offer. Of course, this still depends on what the clinical psychologist chooses to specialize in. In the Philippines, clinical psychologists are normally the people who couples approach when they are in the process of annulment.

Psychiatry

This field would have the widest scope. Psychiatrists are trained to do counseling or talk therapy and give tests as well. They are considered medical doctors or MD’s, and are therefore licensed to write prescriptions. Take note again that whether a psychiatrist chooses to engage in other activities like counseling or psychotherapy and psychological testing, is entirely up to him or her. In the Philippines, most psychiatrist specialize in giving prescriptions.

For those who are engaged in talk therapy, psychotherapy or counseling, they would normally have areas of specialization, depending on the segment of the population they feel most competent to work with, and in the theory that guides their practice. There are different perspectives that can be used in talk therapy. Some of them are behavioral, psychodynamic, cognitive and existential. There are quite a few who choose to be eclectic in their approach. This means they use different theories that they feel can be helpful to their clients or patients, who present different concerns to them.

Two Essentials of a Loving Relationship – Video

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Two Things that are Essential to Any Couple’s Relationship

by Nathan Chua

I am not one to say that I have easy answers to all of life’s problems. I hope the title does not mislead you into thinking that there are only two things that you need, to have a better relationship. Please note these are essential, but not the sole needs of every couple, who would each have their own set of unique circumstances affecting them. At times, their struggles concern other matters such as responsibility, physical intimacy, child-rearing, money management or trust. For this blog post however, I will focus on two deficits that I find common among couples that I meet. Let’s call them the Two C’s of Loving Relationships.

First C is for Connection.

In a blaming and shaming culture, it is easy to fall into adopting a false stance, or a false self. We essentially try to hide who we are, in the face of the shame that we experienced, most often early in life. To minimize emotional pain, we dig deep into our comfort zones, where the need to express some of our more vulnerable emotions, is held in abeyance. We therefore lose that inherent ability to show our emotions as they truly are.

This inability to show authentic emotions is connected to how couples feel toward each other. Couples only see the angry side of each other. I often wonder how a weeping and distressed individual that I see in my office, could be treated so harshly by the other. It is rather simply because this helpless and vulnerable state, is not what is normally displayed at home. Home has become unsafe. The relationship is no longer as real as it had been when it was just beginning. The result is each partner just expecting the worse out of the other, as they only see their angry and resentful selves, with no reason to believe that change can come anytime soon. Connection is lost and will be hard to come by if vulnerable emotions are kept hidden.

Second C is for Compassion.

This should not be confused with guilt or pity. Compassion is a genuine concern for the welfare of the other. Caring enough for your partner, that the last thing you’d like to see, is witnessing him or her in deep pain and sorrow. Guilt on the other hand, is a focus on the self and not on the other, while pity is too distant, and denigrates the dignity of the other. Without compassion for the offended person, it will be hard to connect and heal the inevitable emotional wounds, that are bound to be inflicted in all close relationships. Compassion is the fuel that feeds forgiveness, and the glue that connects our souls.

How to Raise Great Kids

by Nathan Chua

Parents often end up in a quandary about what they had done wrong to their kids.  They never saw it coming.  Why has my child become rebellious or turned into someone I hardly know?  From the loving child who saw me as someone who meant the world to her, she has now turned to other things, or people to find love and solace.  There are also cases when a child becomes unmanageable even at an early age.  We witness this when we see parent and child engaged in a battle of wills, with the child having no other recourse but to cry her lungs out.

If there was one factor that can influence the child’s emotional quotient or EQ, it is the level of validation that they get early from their significant caregiver.  I say caregiver or guardian because it matters less who gives the care, than how the care is given.  Validation means that a child feels precious and worthwhile to her guardians.  It allows a child to develop a self-confidence that her voice will be heard when she needs something.  Validation overcomes shame and withdrawal.  The child realizes that her efforts to get her needs met as well as to change her circumstances, can be effectual.

Now the question is, how can a toddler experience this even at an age when they seem unable to understand the consequences of their early experiences to their later life.  We must understand that early childhood experiences can already create indelible memories in a child.  The best way to validate a child is to give her the proper attention she asks.

You have probably watched scenes where a child approaches a parent who is tired, working or talking with another adult.  It is common to observe a mother losing patience with her child incessantly tugging at the seams of her blouse.  “Can’t you wait?” “Don’t be disrespectful, I am still talking to someone!” are some of the common responses in these situations.  This experience, believe it or not, is invalidating for a child.

A better response would be to stop and look at the child straight in the eyes and tell her, “Yes my child, I understand that seems important to you.  Please give mom a few minutes.  I just need to finish what I am doing, and I would certainly love to listen to what you have to say.”

Make sure though that you exhibit the kind of body language that allows the child to infer that she is just as important as what you are engaged in at the moment.  In fact, she should feel that she is first and foremost in your priorities.  Offer her that loving gaze that assures her you value her.

What can you expect from your child if you do this?  Although it is still dependent on other factors, you will probably see a child grow up with confidence, persistence, trust and initiative.