There is social stigma against those who seek professional counselling and for 27-year-old cancer counsellor, Dominica Chua, changing this perception has been her mission since she started her career at Parkway Cancer Centre (PCC) six months ago.
Dominica shared candidly that she was a teenage delinquent growing up. She recounted her disruptive behaviour in the classroom and how a former teacher gave her many chances to improve her behaviour. Turning over a new leaf was not an easy feat.
“Back then, I was both rebellious and also played the role of the class clown. The detentions did nothing for me. I messed up the science lab and often did not complete my homework. Disrupting lessons was a thrill for me – at one point, my teachers called my parents in to discuss my unruly behaviour.”
“Yet, my former teacher-in-charge stood by me,” said a grateful Dominica who added that her teacher played a significant and impactful role as a counsellor during a time when school counsellors were few and far between.
Dominica was inspired by her teacher’s example and desired to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Right after her O-Level, she had dreams of pursuing a diploma or degree in counselling but no polytechnic or university in Singapore offered such courses then.
She decided to major in her second love, music, and had pursued it for four years; however her passion of becoming a counsellor had never ceased.
She later discovered post-graduate courses in counselling and, after obtaining a Diploma in Social Science (Professional Counselling), began working with at-risk-youths and their families. She had managed cases of abuse, trauma and attachment disorders that were referred by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
After the rewarding experience in the social service sector, Dominica became attracted to work with PCC, where she and a team of counsellors provide psycho-social support for cancer patients and their caregivers. She enjoys building relationships with her patients, providing care, support and advice during different stages of their treatment. Although she is their counsellor, Dominica says that she learns more from the patients than they do from her.
“Every day is an interesting journey with them. Bringing healing to other people means learning to put issues into perspective and clear your own personal mess before you help others to resolve their issues.
“You will learn more about yourself by helping others,” concludes Dominica.
Though youths and cancer patients present Dominica with different problems and situations, she strongly believes that revisiting the past to overcome fear and building a positive outlook in life is the essence of her counselling and guidance.
“Each one of us has our own trauma to deal with. For patients, this could even stem from the fear of needle injections – a fear that prevents them from going for further treatments,” Dominica says.
Not all patients are open to talking about their traumas. For this reason, Dominica relies mostly on intuition and friendship.
“In school, we learn about different therapeutic approaches such as person-centred therapy, solution-focused therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive-behavioural therapy with principles of constructive psychotherapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy. However, this is just a framework.
“As a counsellor, I feel that sometimes, I just have to be there holding their hand because they cannot even find the right words to tell you what they are going through,” Dominica says.
She sees her profession as a journey of healing and growing in awareness, one which patients are willing to share with counsellors. “All of us need someone to walk with, regardless of our situation, background or destination. There’s no judgment. We’ll be here,” Dominica says.
Written by Nuraisha Teng