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On My Mark

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

An ex-colleague recently asked me, “Do you regret leaving your stable and promising day job?” She smirked when I replied, “Yes! I regret it very much.” Then I continued, “I should have left it much earlier.” She raised an eyebrow at my matter-of-fact statement.

It has almost been a year since I started this meaningful journey of self-actualization. My official full-time work in the areas of counselling, psychotherapy, clinical supervision, consultation, teaching, and mentorship has been rewarding. Especially when I can assist, nurture and cultivate people - directly or indirectly.

As a result, my own overall wellness and happiness, in the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions, have also improved significantly.

That’s why I am very appreciative of having paid assignments and projects that are aligned with my temperament, beliefs, and values during this season of life, as reflected in my life motto – “Give . Share . Serve”!

In this article, I shall take the opportunity of “Giving is a Privilege”, to share with you a therapy framework called “Support . Change . Systemic”. I developed this framework based on my learnings, experiences, and insights from helping clients since 2013, when I started volunteering and freelancing as a counsellor.

Support . Change . Systemic:

A graphical presentation of the framework is shown below:

I shall illustrate this therapy framework with the story of an ex-client of mine, Ms K (name changed for confidentiality).

Ms K was in her 30s and working as a social media specialist. She booked my therapy sessions as her marriage of three years was on the rocks.

Ms K’s husband was considering divorcing Ms K due to her persistent online gambling habit which had accumulated a huge sum of debt. He was not aware of her addictive behaviours during their two-year courtship.

All - Support

No matter who I am serving, I have to affirm and endorse the bravery of my clients who show up. To me, they must have summoned up the courage to recognise that they need to seek professional help and for making the decision to start a therapy trip with me.

At this level of support counselling for all my clients, I use Person-Centred Therapy as well as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Here, I focus on my clients’ values on how they want to treat themselves, others and the world.

To the presenting issues of my clients, my acknowledgement with empathy, recognition with a non-judgemental disposition and validation with compassion, facilitate the therapeutic alliance between us. Such deep rapport building is very much required throughout the entire course of the therapy journey together, for achieving the desirable and positive therapeutic outcomes, as Irvin Yalom had highlighted, “Therapy should not be theory-driven, but relationship driven.”.

Having this attitude, altitude and aptitude placed me in a position to understand Ms K’s struggles and remorse thoroughly and reflectively, to the extent she reckoned that I was the first person in her life, who could patiently listened to her without being judgemental.

Some - Change

There was a Facebook post of “Daily Quote Singapore”, reminding us that Google Maps “never yells, condemns, or castigates” us if we have missed a turn. It simply re-routes and shows us the next best way to our destination. “Its primary interest is in getting you to reach your goal, and not in making you feel bad for making a mistake.” This is really a great lesson and reminder to myself.

In this stage, my role is to be a map, compass, and haversack, accompanying my clients such as Ms K on the trip with some identified and agreed therapeutic goals of encouraging milestones. It is of course not an easy path as it is filled with many thorns and rough terrains.

As a trained professional therapist, I have an arsenal of various theoretical modalities and approaches as shown in the graphical diagram above, to be explored and used on my clients. Although the skills in interventions and treatments could be personalised and customised, based on each client’s profile and conditions, they are just methods and instruments.

“Know all the theories, master all the techniques, but as you touch a human soul be just another human soul,” emphasised Carl Jung.

Ultimately, it is my duty and responsibility to use myself as a tool, in transforming the feelings of uselessness, helplessness, and hopelessness of my clients, into a strong determination in exercising their worthiness, resourcefulness, and hopefulness!

Ms K’s negative feelings and uncontrollable behaviours in online gambling were processed and handled during this stage of individualised change counselling. The whole treatment path was laid out step by step, the intervention foundation was constructed brick by brick, and the outcome progress was gathered drop by drop.

Few - Systemic

A wise person said, “When I stop struggling, I float. It is the law.”

I agree, but to an extent. It is because almost all of us do not live alone in a family, community, society, country or even on this earth. We are always living in an interconnected and relationship network. There are a lot of uncontainable external forces influencing and controlling us, no matter how strong and resilient we think we are, or could be.

As such, for a few clients, I need to continue preparing them well to interact in a systemic environment. Each of these clients does have a “relationship ecology”, constituted by their respective significant others such as romantic partners, family members, relatives, friends, peers, colleagues, etc. These clients must upkeep a balanced stance and healthy disposition for building up adequate capacity and capability, to cope with the tensions or protect themselves, when interacting with or being treated inappropriately by these stakeholders.

The main reason for Ms K requesting my therapeutic assistance was due to the possible marriage separation as proposed by her husband, not because of her perception of her compelling gambling issues.

After the respective stage of support and change counselling, we moved on to systemic counselling for Ms K, which involved her husband as a primary stakeholder. This stage may present some challenges as many clients’ significant others are unwilling or not prepared to be involved in the process of therapy. It took some time, energy and resources for Ms K and I to bring her husband to come into the therapy room.

The place, space and pace of such a couple therapy demands an impartial and balanced therapeutic alliance so that each party does not feel the one-sided support from the therapist. Though it was not easy, I was happy with the outcomes of how Ms K’s husband was led and guided to review and re-examine their marriage, dynamics, his wife and even himself, with a new perspective and interpretation.

Ms K’s husband finally decided to give Ms K an opportunity to change, provided she continue receiving therapeutic treatment and join a gambling support group that I had arranged for her.

Give . Share . Serve:

As mentioned, my current motto is “Give . Share . Serve”, which is placed in a spot as a “Mindful Google Map”, guiding my clients along the way. This could only be fulfilled if both parties (or more) are willing fellow travellers, having a sturdy grit to continue on the journey of discovery, recovery, bravery, mastery and glory – for themselves or their loved ones!

I must say, this path as a professional therapist is like riding a roller coaster. It is full of amazing experiences, stunning encounters, magical moments, breath-taking episodes and grateful affairs.

However, it is absolutely a worthy and reciprocal path of self-growth and self-cultivation, where I am more mindful and understand myself better these days. The journey has shaped and moulded me to be more aware of why, what and who I am today!

Overall, I am really glad for the progressive changes in me. I also hope that I did sow a seed in my clients for them to be their own counsellors for similar challenges in life, after our course of therapy services. In addition, they could be meaningfully engaged, using The Three Rings.

Patrick Ness said, “Life equals running and when we stop running maybe that’s how we’ll know life is finally finished.”; John Bingham declared that “It was being a runner that mattered, not how fast or how far I could run. The joy was in the act of running and in the journey, not in the destination.” I fully echo their statements of wisdom.

Even as I look forward to my first anniversary in this new career, I am ready to run together with you to transform ourselves to be a better version of ourselves.

I am on my mark. Are you?

I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement. Steve Prefontaine

This article is written based on Krish Phua's greatest aspiration to be a mind healer, facilitating his clients to cultivate and explore "Inside Mind Insights" for improving their Wellness, Wholeness and Wiseness.

Other articles of Krish Phua:


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