In Conversation with SPD Study Award Recipient – Victor Wong

Our first study award recipient, Victor Wong, tells us why he chose to apply for the SPD Study Award and what motivates him.

Launched in 2017, the SPD Study Award offers the recipient an opportunity to take up a career as a social service professional in SPD. In this article, our first study award recipient, Victor Wong, tells us why he chose to apply for the SPD Study Award and what motivates him.

Victor is currently studying for his Doctor of Psychology (Clinical) at James Cook University Singapore and will be joining SPD as a psychologist when he graduates.

1)     Could you tell us more of your area of study?

The course centres on mental health issues that people face and the therapeutic techniques used to treat them. For instance, using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help people overcome depression or anxiety. I will also conduct a research on understanding how people learn to associate things in different environments, like a bell signifying lunch time, and how that can affect treatment if they struggle with Specific Phobia – a class of anxiety disorder. My research may have implications in augmenting current treatments to better help people struggling with phobias.

2)     Why did you choose clinical psychology?

Before pursuing my postgraduate studies, I worked as a full-time school counsellor under the Ministry of Education. During that time, I had the opportunity to work with many youths, as well as their caregivers. It was an important and poignant experience as it motivated me to pursue further studies. I felt limited in my capacity then and yearned to improve myself. Hence, I took up the course of study to equip myself with the relevant knowledge and skills to understand the human condition better, and to ensure that I have the capability to help individuals make lasting positive changes in their lives. Working in a school also taught me the importance of working with multiple stakeholders with varying goals.

The core reasons for pursuing a doctorate is to ensure that I receive advanced training in helping those with more challenging difficulties and to learn about conducting research in the real environment. Beyond that, I was motivated to attain the highest academic qualification available so that I can become a clinical supervisor.

3)     How do you get to know about the SPD Study Award?

It was purely serendipitous that I found out about the SPD Study Award. The SPD headquarters is situated near my home and I happened to walk by the building which prompted me to visit its website. I was intrigued by the work done by SPD and was contemplating a career in the organisation. SPD’s vision, values and mission are in line with my own. I was convinced that working with SPD would allow me to bring my knowledge and skills to the field, as well as provide me with opportunities to learn and understand the nuances of working with people with disabilities. I was pleasantly surprised that SPD offers a Study Award and I wasted no time in applying.

4)     What made you choose to apply to SPD instead of awards offered by other institutions?

The main reason I chose SPD is because I wanted to be part of an organisation that cares for people with disabilities. I wanted to play a part in empowering them to lead better lives. I am deeply encouraged that SPD’s values are in line with mine in terms of advocacy, building resilience, inclusion and especially, the integration of technology. I want to be part of the SPD family and be of service to the people who benefit from what SPD does. I believe the award from SPD will enable me to focus not only on my passion, but also to provide me with an illuminated path towards my future career goals.

Victor at the Psychology Clinic at James Cook University where he is pursuing his studies
Victor at the Psychology Clinic at James Cook University where he is pursuing his studies

5)     Could you share one or two memorable incidents that prompted you to join the social service sector?

As part of the requirements of the course, we were attached to various clinics and organisations for approximately six months to serve as an intern psychologist. During one of these internships, I was tasked to manage several young patients with cerebral palsy (CP). A young man with CP had developed a fear of travelling alone and required assistance daily to get to school in his wheelchair. However, he was actually capable of walking without assistance. His reluctance was a longstanding issue that involved his level of self-esteem and his family’s notion of his ability to be independent. The organisation I was attached to utilised a multi-disciplinary approach to their cases, which allowed me to discuss and plan his care with his occupational therapist and physiotherapist. With collaborative effort, we were able to motivate him to take his first steps to independent travelling. I remembered distinctively the joy radiating from his face when he was able to walk through his school gate.

That memory remains a precious reminder to me about perseverance and the importance of empowering others towards their goals in life. That was one of the strongest moments that prompted me to consider a career in social service and in working with this population.

6)      What do you hope to achieve in your career?

I hope to be able to learn from SPD and my fellow colleagues on how we can improve the psychological services for people with different challenges. To ensure that everyone gets the best care possible to help them not only to overcome their difficulties, but also to maximise their potential. I also hope to be able to guide the development of other aspiring or trainee clinicians/therapists.

7)        Any advice for potential applicants of this award?

Aspiring applicants may find obtaining some experience helping people with disabilities to be one of the most enriching experiences of their lives. Whether through volunteering at one of the numerous organisations in Singapore or with SPD, the experience may help them understand their passion better. This can guide them in taking relevant actions to achieve their dreams and aspirations.

“Failure is part of the journey, persevere and stay focused. All journeys are meaningful, and they start with the smallest actions!” shared Victor.

About the SPD Study Award

Through the SPD Study Award, we hope to attract passionate individuals who are currently pursuing graduate or post-graduate programmes in Singapore in the areas of occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy, psychology, social work and early childhood education/intervention for infants and children, to serve the sector.

For more information, please visit