Emlynne Tham: A Journey into Clinical Psychology through IMU and Taylor’s

Published by Afterschool.my on Jul 01, 2024, 02:07 pm

Emlynne Tham’s path to psychology wasn’t linear. Initially drawn to medicine, a gap year spent on the stage as a theatre kid sparked a new direction. This artistic detour led her to discover psychology, a field that combined the scientific rigour she craved with the human-centric approach that resonated with her artistic side.

Emlynne’s decision to become a clinical psychologist was deeply personal. “I knew that I wanted to become a clinical psychologist specifically as my grandmother suffered from dementia in her final years, and that was the end goal,” she says.

Enter IMU University, Malaysia’s pioneering private institution dedicated to medical and health sciences education. IMU has consistently strived to bridge the gap between science and other disciplines including business, technology and social sciences. This focus on fostering well-rounded leaders with diverse perspectives perfectly aligned with Emlynne’s aspirations. The university’s School of Psychology and Social Sciences, with its psychology programme specifically designed to prepare students for postgraduate clinical studies, became the ideal launchpad for her chosen career path.

Finding the Perfect Fit at IMU

Emlynne reflects fondly on her time at IMU. The programme’s small size, with a class of only 30 students, fostered a close-knit environment where lessons were engaging and personalised. The curriculum felt well-structured and prepared her not only for postgraduate studies but also for the workforce.

The faculty, with their diverse backgrounds and expertise, played a crucial role. “It was clear that the majority of them were experts in their field and were great educators as they were generally willing to provide support and engage with us outside of the classroom.”

While Emlynne appreciates all her instructors at IMU, Dr. Sam Jeng Mun holds a special place in her memory. Although Dr. Sam only taught her during her first year, their occasional cafeteria lunches left a lasting impression. Years later, after Emlynne entered the workforce, a former IMU mentor informed her about a new Master of Clinical Psychology programme at Taylor’s University, where Dr. Sam was part of the faculty. Despite the long gap in communication, Emlyne reached out to Dr. Sam and their connection reignited.

“Out of all the guidance she’s given me throughout the years from opening doors to the endless encouragement, the one thing I’m most grateful for is the trust she had in me.”

Emlynne is also the founder and project manager of the Children's Home of Hope (CHH) Project for the Community Service Club in the IMU.

IMU wasn't just about academics for Emlynne. It was a place where she discovered hidden strengths. “Academic skills such as research and writing are a given. But outside of that, the first few things that popped in my mind were confidence, initiative and leadership — all qualities I’ve somewhat had since young, but truly blossomed during my time in IMU.”

Participating in various student activities and spearheading projects from scratch instilled in her a sense of fearlessness and a willingness to take on challenges she once deemed insurmountable. These newfound qualities proved invaluable as she embarked on her Master's degree.

Pioneering the Path at Taylor’s University

Taylor’s University, a top private university in Malaysia and Southeast Asia became Emlynne’s springboard to pursue her master’s studies. Her experience as part of Taylor’s inaugural two-year Master of Clinical Psychology (MCP) cohort was akin to being a guinea pig — there were inevitable bumps on the road as the programme found its footing. Despite these teething issues, Emlynne found the learning environment and content delivery excellent. By the end of the first semester, she felt well-prepared to enter the real world, seeing actual clients who, surprisingly, kept returning for sessions — a testament to the effectiveness of the programme's approach.

Emlynne graduated from Taylor's University with Distinction in a Master of Clinical Psychology.

Taylor’s facilities impressed Emlynne. The beautiful campus offered a variety of dining options, and the on-campus psychology clinic, specifically designed for MCP and Master of Counselling students, provided a fantastic learning environment. The clinic was well-equipped with a wide range of assessment tools, play therapy materials and dedicated therapy rooms for conducting sessions.

Emlynne was particularly fortunate when it came to clinical supervisors. Throughout her two-year programme, she had three supervisors, each with unique supervision styles and therapeutic approaches. This diversity allowed her to learn significantly more than she would have with a single supervisor.

During this demanding programme, Emlynne oversaw more than 40 cases, gaining valuable experience and developing resilience, a quality that would prove invaluable in her chosen career path.

“It’s been almost a year since I’ve completed my masters and to date, I still think that MCP was probably the toughest and most trying thing I’ve done in my life. As rewarding and fulfilling as the career is, the programme demands a lot of time and effort, overcoming hurdles and fighting off urges to quit. Now every time I’m faced with something difficult, I remind myself that if I could finish MCP, I can do anything.”

Apart from her full-time role as a clinical psychologist, Emlynne also serves as a guest lecturer at IMU University.

A Flourishing Career

Today, Emlynne is a registered clinical psychologist under the Malaysian Allied Health Professions Council. She works at a private practice and an international school, where she predominantly works with neurodivergent children.

"My day-to-day generally involves doing consultations and diagnostic interviews with parents, conducting psychological assessments and writing reports. I occasionally conduct 1-1 parent training and psychotherapy sessions.”

That's not all. Emlynne's story took another turn as she returned to IMU, this time as a guest lecturer. Dr. Sam, unable to take on a teaching role due to her commitments, recommended Emlynne for the position. This full-circle moment allowed Emlynne to share her experiences and inspire future generations of psychology students.

Based on her experiences at IMU and Taylor's, Emlynne's advice to aspiring psychologists is simple: Find your ‘why.’ Once you have a clear purpose, approach your studies with an open mind and give it your all.

“Allow yourself to enjoy the process and all the ups and downs that come with it. When the going gets tough, just remember that you’ll most likely only be at this stage of your life once, so make the most out of it.”

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