Left: Melanie Liang is a Clinical Psychologist, Psychological Services at the Community Psychology Hub. The NCSS Social Service Scholar has a Master of Psychology (Clinical) from National University of Singapore.
Right: Karen Tan is a Speech Language Therapist with a Master of Speech Pathology from La Trobe University, Australia. She works at THK Children Therapy Centre, providing communication and feeding assessment and intervention for children aged 0 to 18 years, in individual and group settings.
As the world continually modernises and digitalises, social issues become increasingly complex and multi-faceted.
Our social service professionals work with both their hearts and minds, helping those in need to find possibilities amidst life’s challenges. Through their passion and training, they strive to make a difference in people’s lives every day.
The Social Service Tribe is made up of more than 15,000 professionals working in over 450 social service agencies. They support people in need across five main social service areas: disabilities & special needs, children & youth, mental health, seniors and families. With over 30 job roles available, individuals can discover opportunities to make a meaningful impact across diverse career fields such as corporate services, counselling and psychology.
Working hand-in-hand with those who share a common vision, these like-minded individuals come together as one Social Service Tribe to make lives count. Psychologist Melanie Liang and Speech Language Therapist Karen Tan are two such individuals, changing lives for the better in their own areas of specialisation.
How did you get interested in your current field?
Melanie: Before starting university, I went through some tough times myself, when it struck me that everyone faces a common struggle and many people from various walks of life face challenges that others cannot see. Then, I knew that I wanted help vulnerable individuals and families build resilience, overcome adversity and find hope.
Karen: I studied Linguistics as an undergraduate and loved it. At the same time, I wanted a meaningful career where I would be able to make a tangible impact on others. Becoming a Speech Language Therapist was the perfect way to combine my academic interests with my desire to help others!
Why did you choose the NCSS Social Service Scholarship?
Melanie: I took up the scholarship because I thought I could play a part in strengthening mental health support in the community, as I believed that vulnerable individuals and families are more likely to face emotional health difficulties that may be unseen.
Karen: I was especially drawn to the NCSS Social Service Scholarship because of my interest in the social service sector. And since this scholarship is one of the few scholarships offered to students pursuing a degree in speech pathology, my choice was a given. It was a great opportunity to pursue my dream career!
I felt that working in this sector would enable me to reach those who are most vulnerable and most in need of support. I was also attracted to the prospect of being able to rotate between different social service agencies during my bond period.
Karen, having studied abroad, was there any difficulty transiting to the local context when you returned?
Karen: Karen: The transition from theory to practical application was definitely challenging, however I was fortunate to have had very practical and diverse clinical placement experiences that helped to make the transition smoother.
And Melanie, did you have any transition difficulties going from theory to practice?
Melanie: I would say that that is one of the biggest challenges when starting out as a psychologist in the social service sector. The psychosocial issues we see in the community are often multi-faceted and complex, where there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
There is also an added layer of complexity in applying primarily western theories to our cultural context, but it is also interesting to think of ways to deliver treatment and apply various psychological skills to our local population.
Could both of you tell us more about your roles?
Melanie: My current role is to provide psychological services for clients who need mental health support, as well as children and adults in high-conflict divorce families. My responsibilities include conducting clinical interviews, screening and assessments, then providing the appropriate psychological interventions and monitoring the clients’ outcomes.
Karen: Currently, I am working as a Speech Language Therapist at THK Children Therapy Centre. I provide communication and feeding assessment and intervention for children aged 0 to 18 years, in individual and group settings.
Could you both tell us about any memorable case that has inspired you?
Melanie: I had a client with autism who was referred for having anxiety and suicidal thoughts. I remember spending a lot of time reading, researching and brainstorming on how to adapt the therapy modality to meet his needs. There were times when I felt
I was going nowhere, but to my surprise,
I received a letter and drawing from him six months later, thanking me for helping him to feel heard. I learnt that empathy means to try understanding the world from the clients’ own lens.
Karen: I have a four-year-old client who initially presented with significant speech and language delay and showed great distress whenever he had to transition between activities. Nine months later, after weekly speech therapy and dedicated practice at home, he is now able to communicate in short, simple sentences and has even started to show a keen interest in reading. Working with him reminded me of just how impactful this work can be, as well as how crucial families are in supporting their children’s development.
What would you say to someone considering the social sector as a career?
Melanie: Stay curious and open-minded to explore how best you can contribute as there are many different opportunities. Don’t be afraid to “get your hands dirty” to work on the ground, as it will be rewarding! Lastly, stay connected with others within the sector as you will definitely cross paths and support one another across agencies.
Karen: The social sector is one of the sectors with the most opportunities and potential for growth. There are so many people who will benefit from more support and thus there is always a high demand for people who are passionate about serving others, be it as an allied health professional or in an administrative role!
We are professionals who are proudly empowering Singapore's people to lead dignified lives.
Discover how our social service professionals help drive positive change and career opportunities in social service at www.ncss.gov.sg/socialservicetribe.