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A passion for the mind

Published on Thursday, 23 Sep 2010
Kathleen Kwok says psychologists must be caring.
Photo: Dickson Lee

After working for the MTR Corporation (MTRC) as a management trainee, Kathleen Kwok Pik-san entered the profession where her passion lies - clinical psychology. She works for Chinese University's Hong Kong Eating Disorders Centre and Hong Kong Mood Disorders Centre.  She has been providing psychotherapy for nearly 10 years and says she benefits from interaction with patients. “I have learned to cherish what I have,” she says.

You first studied medicine. Why did you switch to clinical psychology?
I was attracted to medicine for the high social and economic status associated with doctors. However, after spending several months at medical school, I realised that I lacked interest in practising medicine. I made up my mind at mid-year to switch to psychology, which was my childhood aspiration. This experience reinforced my belief that you will never know the outcome unless you give it a try.

Why did you resign from MTRC and study for a master's degree in clinical psychology?
My original plan was to enrol in a master's programme after obtaining an undergraduate degree. But a professor advised me to gain some working experience before studying psychology at an advanced level. I joined the management-trainee programme at MTRC in 1995. Working in the human resources department gave me the opportunity to interact with employees of various levels and helped me gain an understanding of the challenges that other people encountered. Although I had recently been promoted, I decided to quit in 1998. It would have been more difficult for me to make up my mind if I had stayed on and been promoted again.

What challenges do you encounter as a clinical psychologist?
When a client’s motivation is fluctuating or at a low level, it’s difficult to help them take the first step in addressing the issue, such as anorexia nervosa.

What have you learned from your job?
There is a Chinese saying that “when one is in the company of others, one must be able to learn something useful from them”.  I have learned from [patients'] mistakes. Some have shared the unhappy experiences and distresses that led to their disorders. I tell myself to avoid their mistakes. 

What motivates you at work? 
It’s rewarding when I see positive transformation in my clients and when they begin to make a clean break from their distress. Gradually they will turn over a new leaf and be able to realise their potential.

What are your goals?
I want to help as many people as possible. I will continue to devote myself to raising awareness of [mood and eating] disorders through the mass media. I will also enhance my professional knowledge. 

What's your advice for young people entering the profession?
Some people want to become a clinical psychologist because they think they will have a lot of free time to pursue hobbies. However, this profession calls for care for others and a strong commitment.  Psychologists should have a genuine interest in a cross-section of individuals and tailor their treatment to each patient.   


Academic honours

  • Graduated with a first-class honours degree in clinical psychology  
  • Placed on the dean's list for her outstanding performance in a master's programme in clinical psychology
  • Promoted to practising clinical psychologist in 2005


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