The Singapore Motivational Interviewing Experience | HMA

The Singapore Motivational Interviewing Experience

Dr Joel Porter
I remember it like it happened yesterday. I had been invited to provide a Motivational Interviewing (MI) workshop in Singapore. I told a Pakeha colleague about the upcoming workshop and he wondered out loud, “It will be interesting to see how the Singaporeans react to MI”. His comment piqued my curiosity and I asked to him to elaborate on his wondering. He went on to say, “I can see how they might appreciate the ‘directive’ aspects of MI, but I am not sure about the person-centred aspect…because you know Asian people tend to respond better to more directive approaches.” I replied along the lines of, “Really, I didn’t know that”.

It has been five years since that initial trip to Singapore and now having been back to the country seven times to provide MI training to a wide range of mental health, health and corrections organisations, I can assuredly say Singaporeans do appreciate both the person-centred and goal oriented (formerly called directive) aspects of MI. It is nice to see those types of misinformed and over-generalised stereotypes evaporate into thin air.

Over the past five years we have developed a close working partnership with Shan You Counselling Centre in Singapore. Shan You is a Buddhist based community services and counselling centre that first opened its doors in 1995. Through Shan You sponsorship we have been able to introduce MI to hundreds professionals in Singapore. The last round of MI training conducted at Shan You included both a three-day introduction to MI and a MI Master Class for people who had previously attended intermediate and advanced workshops. Over the years we have conducted a range of professional development workshops including MI and Groups (with Dr Chris Wagner), Understanding Addiction and Relapse Prevention.

Along with Shan You, I have had the pleasure of working with the Singapore Department of Corrections, Singapore Armed Services – Psychological Services, Ministry of Community Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, Youth and Sports and James Cook University – Singapore. I am also aware that Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT) colleagues of mine from The Netherlands and USA are working in Singapore in the areas of problem gambling and behavioural healthcare. In five years, MI has created a ripple effect in Singapore generating more and more interest in the approach as time passes.

My next trip to Singapore is scheduled for February 2012 to provide advanced level MI training to psychologists along with basic counselling skills and MI training to para-counsellors within the Singapore Armed Services. Shan You will also offer introduction to MI and an advanced MI courses during that time as well. The long-term goal we have is to develop MI trainer capacity within the country so that the Singaporeans can adapt and develop MI training to best fit their unique cultural landscape. Hopefully within the next year or two some of the counsellors at Shan You will be positioned to become members of the MINT and we can retire to more of a mentoring and supportive role.

Published on Friday, October 14th, 2011, under Motivational Interviewing

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