Dr. Nicolson Siu – Dubai

Dr. Nicolson Siu – Dubai

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PhD in Neuropsychology, CUHK

Languages:  Cantonese, Mandarin, and English.

Dr Nicolson Siu Yat Fan is a neuropsychologist and lecturer at The Division of Social Science of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He has been working with children with special education needs for more than ten years. Nicolson also has extensive experience in relational and couples therapy.

Nicolson obtained his Ph.D. Degree in Neuropsychology at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is committed to exploring the relationship between the brain and behaviour with neurophysiological methods like electroencephalography (EEG) and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). He conducted intervention studies to support children with special educational needs (SEN). His dissertation focused on training the executive functions of children with an autism spectrum disorder. He received government funding to develop an empathy and compassion parenting curriculum in 2019. He also has consultancy experience for local NGOs on projects related to neurophysiological assessment and training for children with SEN.

Nicolson is also a Registered Horticultural Therapist (RHT). He gained good practical experience through engaging in different horticultural therapy programs. The role of RHT exposed Nicolson to different types of clients, from children, adolescents, parents, working adults, and the elderly.

Being a Master of Counselling graduate from Monash University, Nicolson learnt professional clinical techniques; he has gradually established himself as an empathetic and non-judgemental counsellor. Combining the knowledge, practical experience, and clinical techniques, Nicolson should be able to deliver a safe, respectful, and supportive environment to clients, explore their issues together and address them appropriately.

Nicolson offers counselling and neuropsychological assessment services in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English.

  • A free 20-minute intro consultation is available for new clients. Please email office@amindset.hk for more details
  • Discounted packages of 4 are available via the links below

 

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Bachelor of Social Science in Psychology, CUHK (2011)
  • PhD in Neuropsychology, CUHK (2015)
  • Graduate Member, The Hong Kong Psychological Society
  • Vice President and Research Committee Co-Chair, Hong Kong Association of Therapeutic Horticulture (HKATH)
  • Registered Horticultural Therapist (HKATH)
  • Master of Education in Counselling, Monash University

Find out more here.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact us here

Recent Interview from Prestige:

Dr Nicolson Siu on Healing Through Horticultural Therapy And The Benefits of Gardening

 

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Package of 4 Ind Sessions Package of 4 Couples Sessions

Packages must be used within 12 weeks of the first booking.

Megan Chang

Megan Chang

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Package of 4 Ind Sessions Package of 4 Couples Sessions

Master of Counselling, Monash University, HK.

Languages: English, Mandarin, or Cantonese. 

Megan Chang-

CBT, DBT, ACT and person-centred therapy counsellor

I have been working with clients of all ages facing situations that result in a significant strain on their mental and physical health. For clients who want to find purpose in their lives, make difficult decisions, who suffer from emotional distress, or struggle with coping, my session is a safe space of unconditional support to work on any issues. Regardless of whether the matter may be related to external events like relationship conflicts or internal conditions such as depression, anxiety, grief, or self-esteem, together we can not only move past the issue but move forward in a more positive direction through systematic and solution-focused processes.

My psychotherapy sessions integrated evidence-based approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which are effective for a multitude of mental health concerns. I dedicated myself to supporting clients who struggled with their problems and difficult emotions by empowering them to find strength from within and solve their issues along with self-development. While respecting the client’s culture, background, religion, and values, I conduct psychotherapies via a person-centred approach based on the belief that everyone is capable of finding their own way to live to the fullest.

I am originally from Taiwan but have lived in Hong Kong for over 14 years. Having three children, I am familiar with the stress stemming from family development and different parenting dynamics. So I can relate and provide ample support to clients in various life stages. I worked with students with special needs and aided them in their social-emotional development as well as learning in school. In addition, I’ve been working with local foundations to promote the significance of mental well-being and education for our community. In my leisure time, I enjoy yoga, exploring good food, and immersing myself in the great outdoors.

With a Master’s degree in Counselling from Monash University, Australia, I am practising as a member of the Hong Kong Society of Counselling and Psychology (HKSCP), Hong Kong Professional Counselling Association (HKPCA), and an international member of the Australian Counselling Association (ACA). I also have the Monash University Professional Certificate of Adolescent Counseling and the Professional Certificate of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).

If you feel like talking to me, a free 20-minute intro consultation is available for new clients. Please email for booking information.

 

Megan Chang-

行為認知治療(CBT), 辯證行為治療(DBT), 接納與承諾治療(ACT),人本治療心理諮商師

我們都想成為自己的主宰,生活有時如我們所願,但有時卻挑戰重重,令人感到困頓。其實在人生任何階段都可能遇到脆弱的時刻,當這些低潮干擾到日常生活進行,或是導致人生偏離預想目標時,心理諮商可以提供適切的幫助。

在諮商室裡,我們提供安全放心的空間,諮商師能夠協助你與自己的問題共處,與情緒共處,甚至與創傷共處。運用多年來心理學家於臨床實證有效的方法,透過對自身情緒,認知,及行為的覺察,找到改變的契機,進而解決各種困境,重拾力量與希望。

在從事諮商工作以前,Megan於大中華區金融業服務超過十多年,此外她也參與過許多支持本地青少年及兒童身心健康發展的活動,為社會各界提供適切的資源。曾服務於學校,輔導特別教育需求學生,幫助其適應社交生活,處理各種情緒及學習問題。

Megan諮商的範疇包含憂鬱問題,焦慮及壓力調適,家庭與人際關係困難等,分析每個人不同的背景及需求,整合專長治療模式如行為認知治療(Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, CBT), 辯證行為治療(Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, DBT),及接納與承諾治療 (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, ACT),以人為中心出發,依據不同的問題及目標,擬定個人化的諮商方案。

澳洲蒙納士大學心理諮商碩士

澳洲蒙納士大學專業青少年諮商輔導證書

香港專業輔導協會會員

香港輔導及心理學會會員

澳洲專業輔導協會國際會員

PESI辯證行為治療 (DBT)證書

葛文(Gottman)伴侶療法證書(認證中)

Megan can provide counselling services in English, Mandarin, or Cantonese. Please note your preference when booking.

  • A free 20-minute intro consultation is available for new clients. Please email megan.chang@amindset.hk for more details
  • Discounted packages of 4 are available via the links below

 

Schedule Appointment

Package of 4 Ind Sessions Package of 4 Couples Sessions

Packages must be used within 12 weeks of the first booking.

Read Megan’s Articles:

 

  • Member of Hong Kong Society of Counselling and Psychology (HKSCP)
  • Member of Hong Kong Professional Counselling Association (HKPCA)
  • International Member of Australian Counselling Association (ACA)

Find out more here.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us here

 

Nimishaa Mohinani

Nimishaa Mohinani

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Master of Counselling, Monash University, HK.

Languages: English.

As a counsellor, Nimishaa wants to empower her clients with a greater understanding of themselves as well as tools they may need to enhance their own well-being.

Nimishaa believes counselling sessions are a collaborative and safe space for clients to explore their challenges as well as to learn strategies to enhance their experience of life. She uses an integrative approach that includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), and mindfulness techniques.

Nimishaa has been working in the area of mental health and well-being for several years. She began her career in Industrial-Organizational psychology and specializes in leadership training and resilience coaching. Early on in her career, she realized that she had a passion for supporting people’s self-growth and wanted to further develop as a counsellor. This led Nimishaa to acquire a Masters in Counselling at Monash University.

Education & Qualifications:

  • Monash University, Australia – Masters of Counselling
  • The Chinese University of Hong Kong – Masters of Philosophy in Industrial-Organizational Psychology
  • Tufts University, MA, U.S.A – Bachelors of Psychology
  • Youth Mental First Aid (YMFA) certificate
  • Member: HK Society of Counselling & Psychology (HKSCP)

Find out more about counselling here.      If you have any questions, feel free to contact us here.

A free 20-minute intro consultation is available for new clients. Please email office@amindset.hk for more details.

Schedule Appointment Book a Package of 4 Sessions

Packages must be used within 12 weeks of the first booking.

Nimishaa Mohinani

Nimishaa Mohinani

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Package of 4 Ind Sessions Package of 4 Couples Sessions

Master of Counselling, Monash University, HK.

Languages: English.

As a counsellor, Nimishaa wants to empower her clients with a greater understanding of themselves as well as tools they may need to enhance their own well-being.

Nimishaa believes counselling sessions are a collaborative and safe space for clients to explore their challenges as well as to learn strategies to enhance their experience of life. She uses an integrative approach that includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), and mindfulness techniques.

Nimishaa has been working in the area of mental health and well-being for several years. She began her career in Industrial-Organizational psychology and specializes in leadership training and resilience coaching. Early on in her career, she realized that she had a passion for supporting people’s self-growth and wanted to further develop as a counsellor. This led Nimishaa to acquire a Masters in Counselling at Monash University.

Education & Qualifications:

  • Monash University, Australia – Masters of Counselling
  • The Chinese University of Hong Kong – Masters of Philosophy in Industrial-Organizational Psychology
  • Tufts University, MA, U.S.A – Bachelors of Psychology
  • Youth Mental First Aid (YMFA) certificate
  • Member: HK Society of Counselling & Psychology (HKSCP)

Nimishaa offers counselling sessions in English.

  • A free 20-minute intro consultation is available for new clients. Please email office@amindset.hk for more details
  • Discounted packages of 4 are available via the links below

Find out more about counselling here.      If you have any questions, feel free to contact us here.

 

Book Ind Appointment Book Couples Appointment

Package of 4 Ind Sessions Package of 4 Couples Sessions

Packages must be used within 12 weeks of the first booking.

Karina Elwert

Karina Elwert

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Package of 4 Ind Sessions Package of 4 Couples Sessions

Master of Psychology, University of Gdansk.

Languages: English & Polish. 

Karina is a passionate and empathetic counsellor who deeply understands the importance of providing a safe and supportive environment for people seeking assistance. She believes in offering a holistic and client-centred approach to therapy tailored to meet each individual’s unique needs.

Having completed her master’s degree in psychology at the University of Gdańsk, Karina relocated to Hong Kong, where she obtained a master’s degree in Guidance and Counselling from Hong Kong Polytechnic University. With several years of experience working with clients of all ages, from school-age children to adults, Karina has honed her skills and expertise in addressing a range of mental health difficulties.

Karina has experience working with clients from various backgrounds and walks of life. She has a deep understanding of the challenges that people face when dealing with mental health concerns such as low mood, anxiety, phobias, panic attacks, and perfectionism. Her passion for helping neurodivergent clients, including those with ADHD and autism, makes her an empathetic and reliable ally. Karina also assists individuals experiencing acculturative stress due to relocation to a new country, providing guidance and support as they adjust to their new environment.

Throughout her professional journey, Karina has enriched her skill set through numerous courses and trainings, drawing from evidence-based therapeutic techniques such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). She is committed to ongoing professional development. 

When you choose to work with Karina, you can expect a warm and nurturing environment where your well-being is her utmost priority. She believes a solid therapeutic relationship built on trust and empathy is essential for initiating positive change. Karina is here to listen, support, and empower you on your journey towards healing and growth.

Qualifications

Hong Kong Polytechnic University – Master of Arts in Guidance and Counselling

University of Gdansk, Poland – Master’s Degree in Psychology (5-Year Long-Cycle Studies)

Memberships

Hong Kong Professional Counselling Association

Hong Kong Psychotherapy Society 

​Karina offers counselling sessions in English and Polish.

  • A free 20-minute intro consultation is available for new clients. Please email office@amindset.hk for more details
  • Discounted packages of 4 are available via the links below

Find out more here.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us here.

Schedule Appointment

   Package of 4 Ind Sessions Package of 4 Couples Sessions

Packages must be used within 12 weeks of the first appointment

Melody Funk

Melody Funk

Make a Booking Package of 4 Ind Session Package of 4 Couples Session

Master of Counselling, Monash University, HK.

Languages: English & Cantonese. 

Melody started her career as a counsellor when her two children left for university education in North America. Prior to motherhood, she worked in senior managerial roles at several corporations in both banking and fashion industry. She is also a Mentor to young women in Hong Kong for over 18 years. A dedicated and compassionate counsellor / psychotherapist, Melody is committed to promoting mental well-being and helping individuals navigate life’s challenges.

Melody believes that everyone deserves to live a fulfilling and balanced life, and her mission is to provide a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals to explore their thoughts, emotions, and personal experiences. Through empathy, active listening, and a collaborative approach, she strives to create a therapeutic relationship based on trust and mutual respect.

She has worked with clients from diverse backgrounds and have experience in addressing various mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, stress management, relationship issues, self-esteem, and trauma. Whether it is individual therapy or couples counselling, she tailors her interventions to meet the unique needs and goals of each client.

In her practice, Melody integrates different therapeutic modalities, including cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), solution-focused therapy, psychodynamic approaches, internal family system (IFS), mindfulness, and psychoeducation. By drawing on these approaches, she could empower individuals to develop effective coping strategies, gain self-awareness, and make positive changes in their lives.

Melody firmly believes in the resilience and capacity for growth within each individual. Her role as a counsellor / psychotherapist is to provide support, guidance, and a compassionate ear as clients navigate their unique journeys toward healing and self-discovery. Melody is committed to fostering a therapeutic environment that promotes self-reflection, empowerment, and positive change.

If you are seeking support for your emotional well-being or facing challenging life circumstances, Melody is here to accompany you on your journey toward healing and personal growth. With the support and interventions provided by this counsellor, you can embark on a transformative process to enhance your mental health and overall well-being.

Education & Qualifications:

  • Master of Counselling – Monash University, Australia
  • BSc in Psychology and BA in Criminology – University of Toronto,  Canada
  • “Prepare and Enrich” Premarital & Marital Assessment Facilitator for Building Strong Marriages
  • Member of the Australian Counselling Association (ACA)
  • Member of the Hong Kong Professional Counselling Association (HKPCA)
  • Member of the Hong Kong Society of Counselling and Psychology (HKSCP)

​Melody is available for Low-Cost Counselling (LCC) sessions in English and Cantonese.

Find out more here.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us here.

Scroll down for Melody’s bio in Chinese

 

Schedule Appointment Package of 4 Ind Session Package of 4 Couples Session

Packages must be used within 12 weeks of the first appointment

 

TESTIMONIALS for Melody:

Michelle Wong (Hong Kong)

Melody’s Mentee since 2008

Melody is a very patient and intelligent listener. I am often stuck in my own perspective and get “lost” in my world when I run into issues. Melody will empathise with me and share views from different angles which are easily missed when my judgement is clouded by emotions. I am always able to feel better and relieved after speaking to Melody. Melody is also great with her practical advice. She offers step-by-step, achievable suggestions that suit my personality. I have nothing else but praise for Melody’s mentoring, and for years she has certainly played a key role in my mental growth!

___________________________

Gladys Ng (Hong Kong)

Melody’s Mentee since 2007

Melody has been mentoring me for over 15 years.  She literally witnessed and provided unconditional support throughout my transition from an adolescent to an adult.  She was able to lift me up when I was going through tough times by sharing a clear and objective view on various situations.  Her affirmative words had assured me of my potential, while her patience and calmness had always put me at ease, so I would be more willing to seek help.  Her encouragement and positivity had inspired and empowered me to pursue my dreams.  Her mentorship throughout the years had definitely contributed to the success in my career and adulthood in general thus far.  In sum, Melody’s mentorship and guidance were truly enjoyable and fruitful to my personal growth.

_________________________

Chloe (Hong Kong)

At a crossroads of numerous paths, all fogged with uncertainty, Melody was like a warm guiding light that supported me in finding a path best suited for myself. I started sessions with her when I felt the most unhappy about my job and unresolved issues with my family, I was stuck. With her patience and sympathy, she provided me with a comfortable space to open up to great detail while she listened and responded with candour; like how she introduced me to a new perspective that helped explain the core issue of my work problem, and how to adjust my mindset to comfortably adapt. While it was only for a little over a month, Melody provided me with useful tools for my toolbox that has equipped me for the future. Thank you, Melody!

_________________________

Natalie – Hong Kong

I cannot thank Melody Funk enough for the counselling services she provided. I was dealing with issues related to a lack of self-love, self-awareness and self-confidence building, and she enabled me to understand the root cause of the matter is being traced back to my childhood (how parents raise me up and related parenting skills), which shapes the current me. Melody helped me to understand that a lot of anxieties/depressions that I have been experiencing along were hypothetical worries/ideas that are self-created in my mind, which are unlikely to be happening in real life. She shared with me some quick fix methods that could help lessen my frequency of overthinking, such as introducing me to meditation music and breathing exercise which helps to ease my stress away. Melody is a patient and caring therapist, throughout the past 4 months, she is able to capture a lot of the little details related to my upbringing/issues being shared with her in each session and is able to walk through the challenge with me in a new perspective and way of thinking and handling. I observe there is a distinct improvement in my mental health and I am now able to think in a more positive way through the guidance of Melody. A big thanks to Melody for her commitment. And the most fantastic thing, it was at a price I could afford. If you need help, AMindset offers excellent and affordable counselling services with professional counsellors.

 

洪慧思 (Melody Funk)

  • 輔導學碩士澳洲 Monash University
  • 心理學學士和犯罪學學士多倫多大學
  • 「準備與豐盛」認證專家,致力於建立穩固的婚姻關係與婚前輔導
  • 澳洲輔導協會 (ACA) 會員
  • 香港專業輔導協會 (HKPCA) 會員
  • 香港輔導及心理學會 (HKSCP) 會員

正當我兩個孩子去了北美上大學後, 我才開始當輔導員幫助別人。在成為母親之前,我曾在銀行和名品牌時尚各種行業的大機構擔任高級管理職位。作為一位敬業且富有同情心的心理治療師,我致力於促進心理健康,幫助個人應對生活中的挑戰。

我相信每個人都應該過上充實和平衡的生活。我的使命是為個人提供一個安全和無偏見的空間,讓他們探索自己的思想、情感和個人經歷。通過同理心、積極傾聽和合作的方式,我努力建立一種基於信任和相互尊重的治療關係。

我曾與來自不同背景的客戶輔導,並具有處理各種心理健康問題的經驗,如焦慮、抑鬱、壓力管理、關係問題、自尊和創傷。無論是個人治療還是夫妻或情侶輔導,我都會根據每個客戶的獨特需求和目標量身定制治療方法。

在輔導過程中,我融合不同的治療模式,包括認知行為療法(CBT)、接受與承諾療法(ACT)、解決問題療法、心理動力學方法、內部家庭系統(IFS)、正念和心理教育。通過利用這些方法,可讓個人培養有效的應對策略,增強自我意識,並在生活中做出積極的改變。

我堅信每個人都具有韌性和成長能力。作為一名心理治療師,我的角色是在客戶走向痊愈和自我發現的獨特旅程中提供支持、指導和同理的耳朵。我致力於營造一個促進自我反思、賦權和積極改變的治療環境。

如果您希望獲得情緒健康方面的支持,或者現在面臨著具有挑戰性的生活環境,我將陪伴您踏上療癒和個人成長的旅程, 走向痊愈和個人成長的新體驗。通過輔導提供支持和治療方法, 您會開啟一個改善心理健康和整體福祉的轉化過程。請預約咨詢,開始您的心理成長之旅吧。

Laurence Munoz – UK

Laurence Munoz – UK

ONLINE ONLY Master of Counselling, Monash University HK.

– AVAILABLE ONLY FOR UK OR EU RESIDENTS

Languages: English. 
 

I have lived and worked in Hong Kong for over 18 years and am currently based in the UK.

An ex-lawyer, I have worked in executive search for over 20 years, predominately within the legal and financial sectors.  I understand the challenges of working within a high-stress, corporate environment and believe in mentoring and helping people build their careers alongside exploring productivity, empowerment, and confidence in the workplace.

Studying and working as a counsellor means I can now work with clients in a more holistic way.    I want to help my clients achieve their full potential, by understanding their goals in life and assisting them in finding the right tools and techniques to reach those goals.  Life has a habit of throwing all sorts of unexpected challenges our way.  I am particularly interested in working with clients navigating significant life changes – often, we are not equipped to tackle the obstacles and challenges of everyday life – big or small.

I work with clients facing depression, anxiety and transitional issues arising from life changes – divorce, redundancy, ageing, menopause, relocation, parenthood, death and grief – and understand the impact of past trauma.  I work with clients to build self-awareness, improve self-esteem and self-worth, and take an active problem-solving approach.  I believe in building a therapeutic relationship through empathy and trust. I will tailor solutions and therapy to fit individual clients using a person-centred approach, incorporating CBT, problem-solving, positive psychology and mindfulness.  

Mostly, I’ll be there to listen and support you through your life journey.

I am a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).  I am a mother of two teenagers and an energetic cocker spaniel, and am often hiking the coastal paths of Devon where I live.   I am French-Australian with a love of beaches, travelling, reading and learning.

Recent training:  I have undertaken Positive Psychology, Mindfulness and Trauma courses.

Laurence is available in the UK for ONLINE Low-Cost Counselling (LCC) sessions in English.

Find out more about LCC here

BOOKINGS AVAILABLE ONLY FOR UK OR EU RESIDENTS and are charged in GBP.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us here.

Testimonials:

BCP UK Client – Oct 22

‘I have had quite a few counselling sessions over the years, and what stood out about Laurence was her gentle way of pushing me forward and looking to think about the future, to set realistic goals and, importantly, to get me to think of some of the steps of how to get there.  I really felt the sessions moved me forward instead of just dwelling on the past.  I always felt upbeat after our sessions, even more emotionally challenging ones, as I felt I had a workable plan to achieve a more positive future.  When I couldn’t think of answers, Laurence managed to get me to work out the answers for myself with her gentle but persistent style.  I really enjoyed our sessions as I found Laurence very easy to open up to.’

Thank you, Laurence. UK, aged 48

‘Working with Laurence had a significant impact on my life over a short period of time. I had engaged in other types of psychotherapy before, but Laurence’s proactive, solution-focused approaches resulted in big shifts for me. As a mid-life woman of colour with all the usual challenges of parenting, work, caring for elderly parents, menopause, making sense of developmental trauma, and making space for my husband, having Laurence alongside me helped me to make so much sense of my experience. I felt seen, understood and celebrated. I have a sense of empowerment moving forward.’

From A.W. in the UK – Mar 23

‘It’s really hard to express how much Laurence has helped me throughout our sessions. Her kind and empathetic attitude, her support and understanding and her knowledge have made our sessions a truly great experience. I was in a really dark place when we started and she helped me understand, accept and work towards changing what could be changed. She has given me the tools to deal with the issues I was struggling with. Every week I was looking forward to our session knowing that at the end of it I will have been a bit more confident and empowered than before. Seeing the growth in myself and managing my emotions has made a real difference in my life.’

Life Transitions: Relocations

Life Transitions: Relocations

Exploring the challenges of moving from one country to another.

Following on from last month’s focus on life transitions, this month we turn our attention to a particular transition undertaken by many Hong Kong and expat families in increasing numbers over the past 5 years. Various issues have contributed to an unprecedented number of families relocating out of Asia – with a significant number going from Hong Kong to the UK.  Many of these families have deep ties and connections with where they’ve been living and the transition, for many, involved challenging and unsettling emotions. These intense emotions have been described as a grieving process, as we close one chapter of our life and transition into the next chapter.

Having relocated to the UK with my family after almost 20 years in Hong Kong, I have experienced my share of homesickness for the country I had called home for so long and grieved for a chapter in my life that was now closing. It is an experience I have seen replicated in many others, both friends and clients. We can find ourselves grieving for our former lifestyles, for a persona of ourselves, career and all the myriad reasons we fell in love with  Asia in the first place.  For some of us, our lives in  Asia allowed us to ‘reinvent’ ourselves: either in our careers, friendships, hobbies etc. With domestic help, endless international travel and lower tax, life can be pretty glamorous in Asia. Places like Hong Kong offer a diversity of food, restaurants, convenience and experiences which are hard to match elsewhere in the world.  

Relocating back to our country of origin, or moving to a new country can stir up all manner of feelings; reintegrating into old social circles can be more difficult than expected, friends and family may not seem as welcoming as you hoped or you might be moving to an entirely new area and need to create a social framework from scratch. In the short term, we lose our sense of ‘belonging’ which can make us feel sad, alone and isolated. 

For some, the grief they feel in leaving their old lives compounds issues that may have been ‘bubbling’ under the surface. Isolation and loneliness can trigger anxieties and depression. Marriages and relationships can be tested with the new reality of life in a different country. The cost-of-living crisis, the fallout from Covid and the war in Ukraine can make the reality of life feel pretty hard.  

So what can help? 

Firstly, acknowledging that you might be going through a grieving process will help bring an awareness of your feelings. As with anyone grieving, give yourself the space and understanding to deal with your emotions. Grief is a deeply personal and complex emotion. It doesn’t have a set timeframe and can come and go, sometimes triggered by an unexpected event or memory.  You may even find yourself experiencing the different stages of grief such as denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and finally acceptance.  Awareness and understanding are key, being kind to yourself and taking some action can help. The good news is that, with time, grief and homesickness can and will fade. That journey may be smooth or rocky but there are certain attitudes and behaviours that may help:

Let’s take a look at some of the key issues which may have the biggest impact when relocating and how you might employ some basic psychology (problem solving, reframing and addressing unhelpful negative thoughts) to make the situation a little smoother: 

  • Change of lifestyle:  Does the impact of losing the domestic help enjoyed by so many families in  Asia mean that you find yourself struggling with housework, childcare and work/life balance?  This is probably the most consistent life adjustment I have heard from friends and clients.  Whether you are a stay-at-home parent, trailing spouse or working parent, the transition to life without all the help most of us enjoyed in Asia is a tough one. It can represent a curtailment of ‘freedom’ for families with younger children and a change in the dynamics in most couples. Add on a longer work commute and dull weather and the stage is set for resentment and fireworks (no, not the fun type!)

Try practical problem solving:  sit down with your spouse and children and explain how the adjustment is affecting you.  Allocate a fair split of housework with everyone in the house, including the children (a friend of mine made sure she negotiated these terms with her family before their move!). Relax your expectations of cleanliness/ tidiness around the house.  Can your resources stretch to a cleaner a few hours a week? Set times for the whole family to help clean on the weekends; cut corners with food preparation and ironing (i.e. don’t).  Allocate set times and limits for housework so that you can get a break. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a break and try and check in with someone who can understand.  You will not be alone!

  • Losing your sense of belonging.   This is a key issue.  Losing the familiarity of your surroundings and the sense of ‘belonging’ can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.  You may begin to feel disconnected, adrift from your old life and not yet settled into your new reality.   This can lead to sadness and low mood.   You might become fixated on the past, looking backwards and unable to move on with your new life.  Take action and engage:  it is vital that you make the effort in your new circumstances to make friends and establish a new social network. Get to know your neighbours, volunteer at your children’s school, sign up for an exercise class at the local community centre. Many community centres provide a wide range of accessible fitness and leisure courses.  Join a walking club, take up a new hobby. 

Use technology to your advantage – remain in regular contact with your old  Asia friends – wherever they might find themselves, set up regular Zoom calls and stay connected and interested in each other’s lives. Hunt out your local Hong Kong or  expat groups – either in person or on Facebook. I guarantee there is someone nearby who would love to catch up for a coffee!  

 

  • Friendships and relationships – revisiting old friendships can be an interesting exercise.  Hopefully, it’s a positive experience, but many people report that it can be tough to ‘reintegrate’ into their old lives and social circles. This isn’t so surprising – just as your life experiences have no doubt changed you, your old friends and family will have settled into a new way of life.  Logistics of socialising with young children can simply make  regular contact too hard. It’s important to accept that ‘slotting’ back into your old life might not happen and that’s ok – don’t take it personally.  Try not to fall into a negative thought pattern of “I don’t belong here” or “no one will like me”.   Challenge these unhelpful negative assumptions and give people a chance.  Ultimately, you will find your new tribe in this transition and that can be part of the adventure.
  • Culture shock: settling into a new culture or re-integrating can be challenging. Conversations can be nuanced and misinterpreted. Be aware of what is culturally important to you and your immediate family. Your values and traditions are important and you will find it comforting to take time to recreate the rituals and traditions you enjoyed in your previous life. We still adore celebrating Chinese New Year and putting up all the decorations up in our house!

 

Practice elements of Positive Psychology:

Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes humans happy and creates a sense of wellbeing.
Try some of these proven mood boosters:  

  • Be in the moment – avoid spiralling and thinking excessively about what you have left behind (or perhaps limit your focus on your old life to one hour a day).  Mindfulness and mediation can help ground you in the ‘here and now’.  There are many free resources online to get you started. 
  • Practice gratitude – list all the things about your life that you are grateful for.  Get into the habit of writing down three new things a day. 
  • Connect with your community – volunteering and joining clubs is a great way to give back while growing your social network.
  • Exercise and get out into nature:  I know that sunlight is limited in Europe but try to expose yourself to natural sunshine at every opportunity. Gather the kids and explore the many trails, coastal paths and National Trust properties that are within reach of you. 
  • Stay connected with your friends and family: Even though you might feel down, staying connected will always help the tough moments pass. 
  • Limit mindless scrolling on social media: Flicking through endless photos of junks, hikes and plates of steaming dim sum will not make you feel better.  Limit these to a set time daily or weekly.  
  • Positive thinking:  Look at this transition as a new chapter of your life and make it an adventure! Reframe your thinking into a more positive mindset. Instead of thinking about what was different back home – focus on all the great things at your disposal now.  
  • Humour!  If all else fails – remember to laugh.

 

Helping your children with the integration: 

Part of the anxiety in moving for parents is the impact on their children.   Asia might have been all they knew – other than trips back during the holidays,  Asia represents their friends, school, identity, and social structure. A relocation can be every bit as tough on them as it is on us.  Integrating into the local school environment can be an exhilarating experience (more sports facilities; new friends; new adventures) but it can also be a scary and isolating experience for others. Children (and teenagers, in particular), may feel that they have had little say in the move and feel a sense of powerlessness.  Try and include them in the decision making and involve them when making choices. Help them cultivate new friends, interests and gently steer them towards joining clubs that will interest them and help broaden their social network. We found that engaging with the Duke of Edinburgh Awards soon took care of any spare time on the weekends for our teens. Technology has made it easier than ever to keep in touch after a move – encourage weekly or monthly Zoom calls with their friends ‘back home’ or get together with other ‘returnees’ who can empathise with their situation. Ultimately, children can be extremely resilient but look out for signs of homesickness and an unwillingness to integrate into their new surroundings. Keep the lines of communication open!

Finally, and above all, be kind to yourself and allow yourself to grieve for your past life. Time is a healer, and the pangs of homesickness will eventually fade and you will look back on your previous life with affection and pride. Take control of the narrative for your latest adventure!

If you find that you or a member of your family is finding it hard with this transition, talking to a professional may help. Always take depression and anxiety seriously and seek help.  

Laurence Munoz

MoC

Laurence is our counsellor in the UK team. Find out more about Laurence here.

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Executive Functions and Child Development

Executive Functions and Child Development

Executive Functions and Child Development

Why is it so Important for Academic Achievement & Good Health

Executive functions are a set of high-level cognitive processes that allow us to plan, initiate, monitor, and adjust our behaviour in order to achieve our goals. These functions are often referred to as frontal lobe functions because many of the brain regions involved in executive functions are located in the frontal lobes of the brain. The prefrontal cortex, which is located at the front of the frontal lobes, is particularly important for executive functions (Figure 1). It is involved in many aspects of executive functions, including planning, decision-making, working memory, and inhibitory control. Other brain regions, such as the anterior cingulate cortex and the basal ganglia, are also involved in executive functions and are located in or near the frontal lobes (Figure 2). These processes include working memory, cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control, and planning ability. While important for people of all ages, executive functions are particularly critical for children’s development.

 

Figure 1. Frontal lobe and its components.

 

Figure 2. Basal Ganglia and Anterior Cingulate Cortex.

Why are Executive Functions Important for Children’s Development?

Executive functions play a critical role in children’s development, particularly in their ability to learn, solve problems, and regulate their emotions and behaviour. Here are some of the key reasons why executive functions are so important for children’s development:

  1. Learning and Academic Achievement: Research has shown executive functions are closely linked to academic achievement, particularly in domains such as reading, writing, and math. Children with strong executive functions are better able to focus their attention, process information efficiently, and use cognitive strategies to solve problems. As a result, they are more likely to perform well in school and achieve academic success.
  2. Social and Emotional Development: Executive functions also play a crucial role in children’s social and emotional development. For example, children with strong inhibitory control are better able to regulate their emotions and behaviour, which can help them form positive relationships with others. Similarly, children with strong cognitive flexibility are better able to show empathy, e.g., understand others from their perspectives and adapt to new situations, which it can help them navigate social interactions more effectively.
  3. Health and Well-Being: Executive functions are also linked to children’s physical health and well-being. For example, children with strong attentional control are better able to focus on health-promoting behaviours, such as exercise and healthy eating. Similarly, children with strong inhibitory control are better able to resist unhealthy temptations, such as smoking and drug use.

Given the importance of executive functions for children’s development, it is not surprising that many researchers and educators are interested in finding ways to train and enhance these processes.

How Can Training Benefit Children’s Executive Functions?

Here are some of the ways in which training can benefit children’s executive functions:

  1. Cognitive Training: Cognitive training involves engaging in structured exercises that are designed to enhance specific executive functions, such as working memory or inhibitory control. These exercises may involve tasks such as remembering sequences of numbers or resisting distractions. Research has shown that cognitive training can lead to improvements in executive functions, particularly in children with weaker initial abilities.
  2. Mindfulness Training: Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental way. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve executive functions in both children and adults. For example, studies have found that children participating in mindfulness training led to improvements in working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility in children.
  3. Play-Based Interventions: Play-based interventions involve engaging children in games and activities that are designed to promote executive functions. These interventions may involve games such as Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light, which require children to inhibit their behaviour and follow instructions. Research has shown that play-based interventions can lead to improvements in executive functions, particularly in younger children.

In conclusion, executive functions are critical for children’s development in a wide range of domains, including academic achievement, social and emotional development, and health and well-being. Given their importance, it is not surprising that many researchers and educators are interested in finding ways to train and enhance these processes. Whether through cognitive training, mindfulness, or play-based interventions, there are many opportunities to promote the development of these critical cognitive processes. By investing in these training opportunities, we can help to ensure that all children have the cognitive skills they need to succeed in life.

If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

Find out more about Nicolson here.

 

Removing the Mask

Removing the Mask

I arrived at my gym for an appointment with my trainer.  “Are you going to Lan Kwai Fong tonight?” he asked enthusiastically.  As a busy (and middle-aged) professional who’d been up since 5 am and still had several work obligations after this gym session, I figured the probability of hanging out in LKF on a school night was pretty low.  “Why on Earth would I do that?” I asked.  He responded, “Everyone’s going there at midnight to burn all their masks!  Can’t wait to see the bonfire!”.  While the thought of such a sight was pretty attractive after 945 days of mask-wearing, I immediately thought of the toxic fumes that would soon travel through central Hong Kong – fumes we could avoid breathing through a mask.  The irony was not lost on me.

I do not know if the LKF mask-burning event occurred, but the sentiment resonated.  It also prompted me to wonder how the people of Hong Kong would feel as they prepared for this change.  No doubt everyone considered what it meant for them and their loved ones.  And as I’ve been listening to friends and colleagues over the last 48 hours, I’ve come to the view that regardless of whether removing the mask mandate is “good” or ‘bad”,  it allows for personal choice, which empowers us all.

Let’s consider kids, for example.  As of Wednesday, millions of five-to-eight-year-olds will (strangely, after showing a negative RAT test to attend school in the first place) be seeing their teachers’ full faces, perhaps for the first time.  Children three years old or under do not know the world without masks.  It will be interesting to see how they interact with their friends now that they can see their whole faces.  It’s difficult enough as an adult to recognize people when they see them without a mask for the first time.  How we look at people and recognize their faces is different with masks on than with masks off.  Also, these little children have learned to read people’s emotions just by looking at their eyes.  What will it be like for them to see a full facial expression?  How will they interpret what they see? Ongoing research at places like the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London links facial expression to healthy social interactions. Within a social context decoding facial expressions is an essential foundation for stable emotional relationships. It is a skill that helps to reduce anxiety.

And just as kids are not used to seeing their teachers’ full faces, the same is valid for teachers with their students.  One teacher shared a story of playing “guess the child” with her peers:  When the kids took their masks off to eat, the teachers tried to figure out who they were.  It wasn’t easy to recognize them, as the teachers had a mental image of the children’s faces, which was inaccurate.  They almost had to re-learn who Nancy, Tom, Millie, or James were, as they were unrecognizable without the masks.  Imagine the child who bounds up to her teacher with a big “HELLO!” and the teacher isn’t sure who she is.  This experience could result in children losing identity or sense of place, as the teachers they’ve become comfortable with don’t seem to know who they are anymore. How disempowering would that appear to the child that a person who is essential in their lives fails to recognize them?

And what about vulnerable people or those in hospital environments?  Most medical clinics allow their staff to choose whether or not to wear masks at work.  Patients with respiratory illness symptoms are still requested to wear masks. 

The mask mandate may have been removed, but does this mean we should no longer consider the needs of others?  A diverse city of 7.6 million people like ours does not thrive without the goodwill and tolerance of its people.  It’s worth remembering that Hong Kong people commonly wore masks when sick – well before any mandate and well before the rest of the world – out of consideration for others.  Perhaps there’s no need to burn all our masks, and we might instead choose to keep a few around for the greater good. As mentioned earlier, it is a choice, and being able to make choices is positive for our mental health.

Today, I also heard another example of two brothers – the younger one thrilled to see his friends’ faces, and the older one worried about his facial acne.   Female colleagues are talking about needing to spend money on makeup now that their whole faces are “on display” again.  Jokes about teeth whitening products selling like hotcakes and dentists being completely booked out.  For the last three years, the beauty ‘playing field’ was somewhat even, and the eyes were all that mattered.  Now our whole faces are back in the limelight. Face masks eased the anxiety of people with body dysmorphia or those anxious about their appearance. This anxiety will have to be dealt with by many people.

And another friend told me she was thrilled to see the mandate go for the simple reason that she’d be able toread lips again – a helpful skill when seeking assistance at various customer service counters around the city.  It was hard enough before trying to understand what the customer service agent was saying behind the plate glass window with tiny holes and poor quality intercom – add mask-wearing into the equation. This friend has said, “sorry, can you please repeat that?” about 17,000 times over the last three years.  These are six words that she’s delighted to remove from her vocabulary.

 

There are so many stories about the effect of mask-wearing, but that is enough for now. Hong Kong is finally free from HAVING to wear a mask, now is the time for people to appreciate they have choices, and it is up to them what they choose to do.

Perhaps the take-home point is that we in HK must celebrate our adaptability and resilience – we kept masks on for 945 days, the most extended period of mask-wearing in the world.   Now they are no longer mandatory, and we can decide for ourselves.  I can choose to wear it or not, just as I can decide to go to Lan Kwai Fong on a Tuesday at midnight or go home to bed.  Free will and choice are empowering, and as you read this, make a choice for yourself and be empowered in the process of having that choice.

By the Team at AMindset

If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

Other Articles by AMindset Counsellors:

The Mental Health Impact of Hong Kong’s Mask-Free Policy on Children, Anoush Davies

Re-entering the Outside World, Kelly Hutchison

Christmas Alone, Elise Phillipson 

Talking About Eating Disorders, Megan Chang