Associate Professor Dr Alvin Ng Lai Oon, Head of the Department of Psychology under the School of Science and Technology, was recently invited to visit Clinical Education, Development and Research (CEDAR) at the University of Exeter, UK. This visit was hosted by Professor Kenneth Laidlaw, Director of Postgraduate Programmes, and Professor Eugene Mullan, Director of Clinical Training at CEDAR. This visit was a follow up to the previous visit by Profs Laidlaw and Mullen (see link: https://university.sunway.edu.my/blog/directors-university-exeter%E2%80%...), with the intention to deepen discussions on research and training collaborations with regards to mental health development in Malaysia. Dr Ng was in Exeter from 14-16 May 2019.
Dr Alvin Ng at the main entrance of the University of Exeter, with the Washington Singer Building in the background.
CEDAR is a leading centre for excellence for clinical psychology training in the UK with over 40 years of experience providing clinical training, where the Doctorate of Clinical Psychology is their flagship programme. It also has other mental health-related programmes such as the MSc, PGDip and PGCert in Psychological Therapies and Research with various specialisations for mental health professional training at different levels of therapy modalities including mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. Part of CEDAR’s expertise is in its contribution to the Improved Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) which was a national programme by the National Health Services (NHS) in the UK that began in 2008. CEDAR is currently the sole commissioned provider of IAPT training in the South West of England. The University of Exeter is also a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive universities in the UK.
Dr Alvin Ng with the banner of CEDAR’s flagship programme, the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology.
Dr Ng’s visit intended to tap into CEDAR’s resources on mental health research and training as part of the continued initiative to develop working collaborations between Sunway University and the University of Exeter towards globalising clinical research and also transforming mental health practices at an international level. He had meetings with the directors of CEDAR to learn about their portfolios and research areas, as well as to share how Sunway University could be a partner in carrying out cross-cultural investigations, as well as global applications of clinical modalities that can be developed as part of a collaborative partnership. Apart from Professors Laidlaw and Mullan, these directors were Prof Edward Watkins, Director of the Mood Disorder Centre, Professor Paul Farrand, Director of the Low Intensity Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (LICBT) Training, and Associate Professor Catherine Gallop, Director of Postgraduate Training of the Children and Young Persons Improved Access to Psychological Therapies (CYP-IAPT).
Dr Alvin Ng with Professors Kenneth Laidlaw, Edward Watkins and Eugene Mullan of CEDAR.
These meetings proved very successful as outcomes included an effort to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two universities with regards to research collaboration and training developments. Dr Ng obtained many learning points on research outcomes, how IAPT works in the UK and how it could be adapted for the mental health services in Malaysia. Discussions included developing research strategies on mental health management, such as improving mental health literacy, and developing transdiagnostic management of mental illnesses. There were also discussions on developing collaborative research projects that would provide postgraduate study opportunities and potentials for research grant applications.
While at CEDAR, Prof Mullan brought Dr Ng around to visit its clinical training facilities at the Sir Henry Wellcome Building for Mood Disorders Research. It was a very impressive building with complete clinical services for the public that also double as training facilities for postgraduate programmes at CEDAR. Overall, the amount of research output generated from CEDAR has significantly impacted the mental health services in the UK, so collaborations with them would be a very good way forward in learning efficacious methods that can be adapted globally.
With Samantha Yong, current DClinPsy trainee and former research assistant for Ms Woo Pei Jun of the Sunway Baby Lab.
Dr Ng also had the chance to meet with Samantha Yong, a brilliant Malaysian postgraduate trainee currently enrolled in the Doctor of Clinical Psychology Programme at the University of Exeter, under CEDAR. Samantha was previously a research assistant at the Sunway Baby Lab, under Woo Pei Jun of the Department of Psychology at Sunway University. This experience led her to be better qualified for the DClinPsy Programme at CEDAR. What Ms Woo had to say about Samantha is a testament to her success in getting into Exeter: “Samantha helped managed the lab and conducted infant studies at Sunway Baby Lab. She was an excellent research assistant who is quick in learning infant testing methods and has great problem solving and organisational skills. Samantha made many valuable contributions to the lab and would be an excellent addition to any organisation that is lucky to have her”. True enough, meeting up with Samantha was very valuable as she is very keen to return to Malaysia to contribute as a mental health professional and she would like to begin contributing as soon as she can. Her offer to provide talks to students and network with the other mental health professionals would be something that both Sunway and Exeter can benefit from. We look forward to her qualifying as a clinical psychologist and development as a leader in the mental health field.
All in all, the whole visit was very fruitful. The few days of meetings produced a wealth of ideas for collaborations and outcomes in terms of an initiative for an MOU to cement mutual commitments for research and training partnerships.