The Three Minds

So, what are the KPIs of counselling?”, “How do you know it is successful?”, “How long can it be effective for?” I asked a counsellor friend of mine 10 years ago.

Being a corporate professional that I was back then, it was second nature to me to evaluate things based on return on investments and tangible results, such as profit and loss, market shares etc.

Even so, this particular friend of mine, whom I had already known for 20 years then, smiled and patiently explained that the “Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)”, “successfulness” and “effectiveness” of counselling, perhaps should not be measured with a corporate mindset.

In fact, in some cases, there may even be “no sighted improvement” during a course of counselling service. Yet, the client might suddenly remember what his counsellor had suggested or mentioned to him during counselling. And this could guide this client to gain an insight that might change his perspective on a pressing situation or issue instantly.

With this new realisation, this client might have been able to make an appropriate decision, leading to a more balanced and happier life. If so, then this would be a “success” story for my counsellor friend!

Little did this friend know that he would help launch my career in counselling and psychotherapy shortly after!



When I can accept the fact that I have many deficiencies, many faults, make a lot of mistakes, am often ignorant where I should be knowledgeable, often prejudiced when I should be open-minded, often have feelings which are not justified by the circumstances, then I can be much more real.”, shared by Carl Rogers, a psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach (and person-centred approach) in psychology.

Similarly, I must say that being a professional therapist, I do not know everything. Neither am I immune to feelings, biases or perceptions.

Lao Tzu said “The further one goes, the less one knows.” (其出弥远, 其知弥少), while Albert Einstein mentioned, “The more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know.” I could not agree more with these two wise men.

The journey as a professional therapist is also one of lifelong learning with no visible destination. As I hope to be able to serve my clients more effectively and impactfully, this is also a personal journey of acquiring more knowledge on therapy and keeping my saw sharp. This is why I consider myself as a “work-in-progress”, seeking ways to improve myself as well.

To support my clients to the best of my capacity and capability, I adopt and practice “The Three Minds” during a therapy session.


My First Mind

The first mind is about focusing all my attention on my clients during a therapy session without making assumptions. To do this, clarification is the key.

Sometimes, the therapy location can influence our perceptions, like mine. Take an ex-client of mine when I was volunteering as a therapist at a substance addiction recovery centre. For this ex-client, I only came to realise my presumption at the sixth therapy session that, his addiction issue was not about consuming illegal drugs, but his over-dependence on legally prescribed ones!

With this understanding, I needed to re-formulate my intervention plans on the spot for him, as the legalised access to such prescribed medication imposed another type of challenge in the therapy process.

Another danger is to assume that my clients want validation from me. I was told by a client who had received therapy service at another centre before that, “Have you been trying too hard?” She was referring to my frequent affirmations and recognitions of her efforts in overcoming her stressors. It was simply a wake-up call to me to throw away my vanity to “win her acceptance, as a fellow traveller on her journey of trauma-focused therapy!

I learnt that when clients engage my professional help, my ego has no place in establishing a therapeutic alliance. Instead, stay in the moment to identify counselling issues that have to be addressed properly at the right time, regardless of whether my clients have seen other therapists before.


My Second Mind

The second mind is all about being prepared for the unexpected during a therapy session. In particular, the immediate reactions and responses on the case conceptualisation and intervention plans.

Most of the time, I need to decide and formulate them on my feet, for driving my clients to the most suitable therapy direction. This may include ensuring them to take a sexual health screening for their own self-protection and to others, based on their sexual behaviours and habits.

A therapy centre’s service protocol could be different from other centres’, depending on its own vision and mission. Hence, a therapist may be expected to provide additional support to some clients, as part of the case management extraordinary needs.

For example, at a particular therapy centre which I served, there were a couple of times that I had to bring non-related clients for an anonymous HIV test in another centre nearby, during their respective therapy session. It was because they had unprotected sex with others some months ago. To ease their fear and anxiety, I accompanied them to do the test myself, though I knew I was perfectly safe. Fortunately, all results were negative for these clients too.

I also recognise that regardless of how pressed for time, I must conduct a proper therapy session closure for my clients.

In one of my sessions with a client with Bipolar Disorder, we had overrun on time and the next therapist was waiting to use the scheduled therapy room. Thus, I quickly summed up the session and vacated the room in a rush. A few days later, I got to know that she had experienced an emotional breakdown after the session.

Through this incident, I realised that if a therapy space is an issue, having a backup plan to conduct an appropriate session closure in a public location that allows short and confidential conversation, is the next best thing to do. This helps clients to feel that they are important to me and I genuinely care for their mental well-being.


My Third Mind

The third mind is one of the hardest yet the most important of “The Three Minds”. This is where I have to leave out my own set of values and perceptions, to have self-awareness and be non-judgemental during a therapy session.

In counselling speak, countertransference refers to a situation when a therapist transfers some emotions to a client during a therapy process. It means the client reminds the therapist of someone, some events or incidents or even objects. When such a situation occurs, a therapist needs to be conscious and mindful of the therapy process, as it may generate negativity to the psychotherapy outcomes.

My clients’ concerns can also sometimes affect me, as their therapist. In one particular couple therapy session, I noticed that I experienced countertransference on the taxing marriage relationship described to me. It reminded me of my parents’ marriage. At a suitable moment, I asked for a biological break. After taking a moment to compose myself through some emotional self-regulation techniques, I returned to the therapy room and continued the session, with a more balanced and objective mind.

I have learnt that when topics trigger my unhappy memories, I must be quick to recognise them, take immediate actions to observe and process my own emotions, while re-focusing my attention on my clients.

And when I lack that experience, I will need to have genuine empathy and compassion for my clients, no matter what are their issues.

A client was confiding in me about his deep grief and loss of his two pet cats which passed on not far apart in time. Being single, they were his “children”.

During the therapy session, I noticed that my empathy and compassion were somehow insufficient. After the client left, I sat on his chair and mentalised what he had gone through and what the two cats meant to him. Slowly, I started to comprehend why he used the words “fur kids”, “this family of three”, “dear babies” etc.

The act of changing seats helped me see things from my client’s perspective. It let me fully feel the loss of two “family members” within months, even if they were cats!

As mentioned, a professional therapist’s learning journey has no end. By applying “The Three Minds” approach for each therapy session, I am cultivating myself to be in a better position to assist my clients with their concerns. And by doing so, helping me gain more experiences to better support them in future too.


Now, back to my counsellor friend. Though I am not a “client” to him, I believe when he reads this article, he will be pleasantly surprised how his “casual” comments on counselling about 10 years ago, had unexpectedly made so much positive impact on me and my career direction!

I am grateful for his insight that inspired me to contribute in a small way, for transforming the lives of some of my clients! Isn’t this an exact reflection of his insight about counselling that had happened to me as well?


If you can’t do great things,

do small things in a great way.


Napoleon Hill


Note: As this article is mainly catered to general members of the public, the case conceptualisation, intervention formulation, discussion and terminologies used are deliberately simplified and presented for an easy reading, comprehension and relevancy.



This article is written based on Krish Phua’s greatest aspiration to be a mind healer, facilitating his clients to cultivate and explore “Inside Mind Insights” for improving their Wellness, Wholeness and Wiseness.

This article was originally published on on 15 Mar 2022.

Mapmakers and Travellers

Some of my clients told me that our relationship is much more intimate and special than with their life partners, family members and even close friends.

What they meant was their willingness and unreserved sharing with me about their deepest and innermost desires, secrets, fears, regrets, pains, woes and other things they have not disclosed, or ever will, with others.

This unique relationship is indeed possible. Especially so, when both of us have already established a strong sense of therapeutic alliance, which is intensive, trustful, respectful and professional!

Yet, I have to emphasize that this rapport and understanding between a client and therapist is a long journey.

Just like how author, research professor and lecturer, Dr Brené Brown, wrote in her number one New York Times bestseller book, “Atlas of the Heart”, we are “Mapmakers and Travellers”.

And one particular quote in the book resonated with me, “Even when we have no idea where we are or where we’re going, with the right map, we can find our way back to our heart and to our truest self.

To me, this quote depicts vividly and reflectively one of the therapy goals, based on a profound yet professional connection that I have developed with most of my clients.

In many situations, my clients and I need to play the difficult but rewarding role of a Mapmaker and Traveller together, co-creating and journeying side-by-side on the personalised path of discovery, recovery, mastery, bravery and victory – for themselves or their loved ones.


The First Listener

At the end of the first therapy session with my clients, many would comment that they felt heard, understood, relieved and accepted. Such an experience was rare to them, as not many people in their lives had “listened” to them before.

As a professional therapist, I am humbled and honoured to be likely the first person in my clients’ lives, who could genuinely and actively listen to them with empathic understanding, unconditional positive regard, and without judgement.

Of course, the therapy services are not just only about listening to my clients. It is just a first step for case conceptualisation and formulating the individualised intervention and/or treatment plan for their respective issues and concerns.

These are the key factors for me to nurture and cultivate a strong therapeutic alliance with them. With such a sturdy bond, they will likely feel safe enough to trust and be comfortable with me. Thus, facilitating a sense of common goals or purposes, as a “fellow traveller” in therapy.


A Goody-Stuffed Haversack

Empathy and compassion from therapists continue to be integral factors in not only forming the therapeutic relationship but also increasing clients’ ability to feel validated and understood.

This is important because based on more than four decades of research on psychotherapy outcomes, the theories and techniques of professional therapy have very little to do with therapeutic success (

Instead, many research studies support that therapeutic alliance remains a key component of creating successful outcomes in psychotherapy (

The findings also concur that clients’ level of personal motivation, personality characteristics, and symptomatology do play a role in their therapeutic outcomes.

So, what exactly contributes to the psychotherapy outcomes?

According to a classic study by Lambert, M.J. (1992), “Implications of Outcome Research for Psychotherapy Integration”, these are the factors and their importance:

  • 40% – client and extratherapeutic factors (such as ego strength, social support, etc.)

  • 30% – therapeutic relationship (such as empathy, warmth, and encouragement of risk-taking)

  • 15% – expectancy and placebo effects

  • 15% – techniques unique to specific therapies

What does this mean?

A therapist might have, or could have 60% of “sense of control” over the psychotherapy outcomes, while a client has the remaining 40%.

A trained and caring therapist should be familiar with the social support networks and community resources available to his/her clients, for helping them in identifying and using these resources as well.

However, all these are made possible, only when clients feel secure and accept the therapists’ approach, which are contributed by the attitudes, authenticity, characteristics and personhood of the therapists.

With a well-built therapeutic alliance, I am in a better position to facilitate my clients to conduct a future-self visualisation. This exercise allows them to immerse themselves to maximise their potential in various aspects of life. I will also need to lead and guide them to make their owwn life map together with me. This life map is to open up all the possibilities, based on the direction they aim to explore, may it be short, middle or long term.

Then, my other vital tasks are to ensure that they are empowered to throw away all their life baggage, and replace them with a travelling haversack that is full of purpose, hope, courage, energy and positivity!


If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse. 

If I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming,

I will help you become that.


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Note: As this article is mainly catered to general members of the public, the case conceptualisation, intervention formulation, discussion and terminologies used are deliberately simplified and presented for an easy reading, comprehension and relevancy.



This article is written based on Krish Phua’s greatest aspiration to be a mind healer, facilitating his clients to cultivate and explore “Inside Mind Insights” for improving their Wellness, Wholeness and Wiseness.

This article was originally published on on 18 Jan 2022.

As It Is

If we can change one thing about us, what will it be?

Would it be our appearance, personality, ability, physical health, mental wellness, emotional well-being, family, relationship, finance, career, education or environment?

Sadly, each one of us is always unhappy with ourselves in one way or another. It is our human nature to always look for something better and better, from time to time.

While there may be nothing wrong with wanting a better Quality of Life, the key question to ask is, when is enough is enough?


Making Peace with Myself

Sometimes, in the pursuit of a better Quality of Life, and at one’s height of career success and financial independence, people may turn to substance abuse to cope with their stress and past traumas.

Let’s take the example of an ex-client of mine.

Ms C (name changed for confidentiality) was a young and successful finance executive in the Financial Services Industry. Some would even call her a high-flyer who is not even at her peak of success yet, especially when she still had a promising career ahead of her.

Yet, her personal life was the opposite of her career success. She was living alone, estranged from her family, while in a toxic romantic relationship for many years. Unfortunately, she took to substance abuse as a coping mechanism to life stressors in an attempt to escape from her struggles and sufferings.

Due to her substance abuse, she had to resign from her promising job with her then employer because of her dysfunctional lifestyle, caused by her serious addiction issues.

After three years of unemployment and continued substance abuse, with her savings depleting, she decided to take the first step to recovery. Ms C sought professional therapy from the Counselling Centre that I was with. And I was assigned to be her therapist.

Ms C and I spent some time, energy and resources together processing various dimensions of her life milestones, such as her childhood, family, growing years, education, relationships and employment. It was not an easy process for her as she had to be aware of and recognise how some of the unfavourable elements and incidents in life had shaped and moulded her into what she was.

Even so, an insightful moment came about during one important session. After some memory processing works were conducted on her and some deep contemplation in her, she uttered to me: “I want to accept myself first.


Let It Go vs Let It Be

To me, there are five basic directions for a therapist to guide a client with challenges. I call this my “5RsModel: Reflect, Reduce, Resolve, Remove and Recognise.

Here’s how it helped Ms C.

(A) Reflect

As Ms C was suffering deeply, it was crucial for me to empathise and support her in a non-judgemental disposition. This also laid the foundation of a strong therapeutic alliance between us.

During the process, the acknowledgement and validation rendered to her were a form of reflection for her to see her situation clearer. Just being heard, understood and affirmed were effective relief for Ms C to process her grief and loss of the past few years.

(B) Reduce

The immediate goal was to facilitate Ms C to stop self-harm.

This was not only in terms of the substance abuse in frequency, duration, intensity and severity, but her victim-mentality of self-blaming, self-criticism and self-judging as well.

(C) Resolve

Leading Ms C to review her unfulfilling relationship with her life partner was another important goal.

After much evaluation and introspection, she decided to start her life without this toxic relationship anymore.

(D) Remove

Ms C was guided to examine and analyse her career direction, re-employability and stop living on her dwindling savings.

For this direction, we were also looking at the various preventive measures for Ms C to return to substance abuse.

(E) Recognise

This is the hardest direction to move forward for, as it is a long mental process.

What’s important to know about “recognise”, as an acceptance, is this. Don’t “Let It Go” because this stance implies that we still have some

· sense of control over it

· ability in making decisions on it

· power on how much to let go

· capacity on when to release it

Let It Be”, on the other hand, demands for

· a complete surrender to it

· not posing any questions to it anymore

· a state of no negative emotions and feelings to be stirred up by it totally

· reckoning that no efforts are needed to change it further

Yes, it sounds scary, demoralising and even defeatist!

Here’s the thing. If we do not take this disposition of a full recognition, in acceptance to some irreversible and unamendable misfortunes that had happened to us, what else could we do about them? These mishaps in life could be a traumatic incident, a sudden death, a forced separation, a terminal illness, a deliberate humiliation, a deep hurt, a wrongful decision, etc.

I must stress that “Let It Beis not an excuse for some self-indulgence that harm ourselves and others. Instead, we sometimes should just accept things “As It Is”, wisely.


Back to Ms C, the traumas that happened in her childhood and family of origin are some unfortunate events that were unalterable and impacted her greatly and negatively. It took a lot for Ms C to perceive such adversities in a new interpretation, and finally forgive those people involved. Most importantly, she had ultimately forgiven herself fully as well, and moved on with her own life.

I am happy to be informed that Ms C has returned to the Financial Services Industry and leading a substance-free life, not long after the full therapy service was over.

The first step toward change is awareness.

The second step is acceptance.

Dr. Nathaniel Branden

Note: As this article is mainly catered to general members of the public, the case conceptualisation, intervention formulation, discussion and terminologies used are deliberately simplified and presented for an easy reading, comprehension and relevancy.



This article is written based on Krish Phua’s greatest aspiration to be a mind healer, facilitating his clients to cultivate and explore “Inside Mind Insights” for improving their Wellness, Wholeness and Wiseness.

This article was originally published on on 19 Dec 2021.

Sow a Seed

I want to get out of this room, I feel uncomfortable.” Mr. A (name changed for confidentiality) said to me three times during our second counselling session. Yet, he stayed, not just for the current session but subsequent sessions as well.

Mr. A’s anxiety and hesitation are understandable as counselling (used interchangeably as psychotherapy or therapy, though there are some differences among them) do sound scary to the uninitiated.

Why is this so? According to Professor Chong Siow Ann, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental Health, it is a process where “during our consultations, patients disclose their innermost concerns, their disconcerting fantasies and fears, their unfulfilled loves and abject failures – things they have not shared, or ever will, with another.


Discovery to Recovery

While counselling can be described as mind surgery, it is not as traumatic as it sounds. On the contrary, it is a journey of guided self-healing.

To me, under an established therapeutic alliance, counselling is a process where a therapist facilitates a client in a safe and confidential environment, uncovering the true causes of the client’s real or perceived sufferings, along with his triggers. Here, the client learns to make his own options, choices and resources on how to reflect about himself, reduce the harm, resolve or remove his issues, or even recognise the challenges with a new interpretation.

The client is also led and guided on how to take responsibility for the consequences of his informed decisions. This is an important step as the client learns to re-calibrate himself and more importantly, prepare himself to address similar challenging issues that he may face in the future.


The End Result

My ultimate goal for my clients is always for them to be their own counsellors for the similar struggles and obstacles they may have when formal counselling service is over.

Take Mr. A for example, today, he is doing very well. After his counselling sessions, he has gained vital insights about himself and his stressors and troubles. As such, he has been able to take right actions to manage his issues more effectively.

I truly believe that we can fulfil this demanding yet possible goal. How? Simply by allowing ourselves to have an opportunity to unlearn, learn and relearn those unwholesome conditions.

We believe what we believe, as we are conditioned in certain ways, since the day when we were born, growing up in a particular family, community, society and country, having certain experiences, norms and people influenced us. These shaped and moulded our beliefs, values, attitude and behaviours.

During this process of “unconditioning”, we learn how to evolve from Dependence, Co-dependence, Independence to Interdependence, in the conditions or situations of unwholesomeness to wholesomeness.

This is why, I salute and admire my clients’ courage and determination in taking the first step to discovery and recovery, when they show up in the therapy room, sharing their vulnerability and struggles unreservedly with me.

It is not easy, but it is doable. Would you like to give yourself an opportunity to sow such a seed first?

The secret is committing to that journey

and taking those first steps

with hope and belief in yourself.

Deepak Chopra




This article is written based on Krish Phua’s greatest aspiration to be a mind healer, facilitating his clients to cultivate and explore “Inside Mind Insights” for improving their Wellness, Wholeness and Wiseness.

This article was originally published on on 17 Oct 2021.