by Sister Wong Chung Heong

A Referral Procedure Workshop was conducted on 27 July 2019 by our registered counselor, Sis Siew Yin Heng. This was the 4th workshop in the 2019 series of our Continuous Professional Development (CPD) training for Para-Counselors (PCs). The response for the training was overwhelming as almost all of our PCs signed up signifying their eagerness to learn the correct way to do referrals.

As customary for all our CPD programs, participants were required to do some preparatory work before attending the training. They were asked to share their experiences of case referrals and their expectation for the workshop. Participants were then divided into groups and assigned to search for information in 5 key referral categories, namely mental health problems, addiction, suicidal/crisis, general issues and problems with minors. With the information gathered, each team was given the task of building a referral network which would be discussed and further fine-tuned during the workshop. The referral lists were confined to services provided by community mental health NGOs, agencies, hospitals and clinics.

The workshop started with a 1 hour theory session to remind participants of common misconceptions and the reasons for referrals. Knowing when to refer is crucial as everyone needed to be aware of the boundaries and the limitations of PCs. Resources of referral centers must be updated from time to time and at the fingertips of PCs. Before initiating any referrals, PCs must establish the need and explain the rationale taking into consideration various sensitivities. At the same time, they are to continue supporting the Person In Need (PIN) emotionally and discuss follow-up plans whether or not the proposed referral is accepted.

The workshop continued with group discussions to review and finetune the pre-planned referral lists. These lists were put to test to see if any improvements were required during roleplay sessions. The roleplays in the afternoon were a fun way to learn despite creating some stress in the participants who had to take active part in the sessions. Roleplays enhance learning whereby participants can immediately apply the concepts in relevant or real-life situations. The 5 groups of participants each had to roleplay the scenarios given by the trainer to bring out the concept of referral and to demonstrate the process of referring using the printed referral lists done by other groups. The follow-up after referrals was emphasized to ensure there was continuity of support for the PIN.

Finally, each group was able to present their final referral list formats which were debated upon in regard to their feasibility, completeness and user friendliness. At the end of the training, everyone agreed to compile all the lists into one master list and the format will be used as the standardized template for our PCs.

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