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I WANTED MEANING IN LIFE, WORK

SUPPORT: Ms Alicia (in blue) and Ms Quah Siang Hui provide counselling at the newly launched Sexual Assault Care Centre.

She had spent most of her career in an entirely unrelated field.

But several years ago, Ms Alicia (not her real name) decided to quit her job to study counselling.

After graduating in 2008, she started working at the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

Ms Alicia said: "I wanted to do something different and find meaning in my life and work."

Apart from providing counselling services, she trains volunteers to man helplines and assists with legal clinics.

"The most crucial part is creating a safe place for the clients so they can share their experiences," she said.

She explained that in the early stages, her clients would be quiet and less willing to open up to a stranger.

They may also suffer from nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety.

During counselling, she teaches them to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder by using techniques such as deep-breathing exercises and distraction to remove themselves from stressful situations.

The other staff counsellor, Ms Quah Siang Hui, 40, said that counselling can be draining.

"We handle some very sad stories, such as rape or molest cases involving children," she said.

Both counsellors have seen clients coming back for over a year.

Other successful clients call them back years later to tell their counsellors how they are coping.

"It is very rewarding when they talk about their experiences and how they have moved on in life," said Ms Alicia.