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From Distress to Progress: How Katrine Cheng Guides Individuals & Couples

Katrine Cheng: Cultivating Resilience in Relationships Through Counseling

Katrine is a Registered Clinical Counsellor, Marriage and Family Therapist. Before completing her post-graduation, she had been studying in the United Kingdom and worked for different multinational corporations in corporate wellness and people development in Hong Kong. Katrine is passionate about her work. Katrine meets her clients with unconditional positive regard to join them, using a humanistic and experiential approach. She helps them see the processes in which they are caught in with their emotions and with other people. Katrine’s work helps committed couples gain an understanding of their relationship dynamics, strengths, and growth areas. She fosters resilience and enriches their relationships. She also offers mental health counseling for individuals to reorganize their inner world and make sense of their lives. Katrine is also experienced in helping individuals with attachment issues and different kinds of trauma. She worked with international schools in providing counseling to children, adolescents, and families; and corporations in providing training in managing mental health in the workplace. Katrine conducts therapies in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin.

Katrine Cheng’s Official Site and Instagram

What led you to become a registered clinical counsellor, marriage and family therapist?

When I was completing my health coaching qualification, there were three areas being covered in the course – Nutrition, Fitness and Mental Health. I found that I was particularly interested in the Mental Health modules, so I decided to receive training at The Samaritans to be a volunteer to provide emotional support to people who were suicidal or were in general distress. During the training, I found it was so life-affirming to be able to help others for a living and thrive, so I pursued further study in mental health counselling after the training.

From studies to practice, what were the biggest challenges in the beginning?

What I studied in the master degree mainly equipped us with counselling skills, a certain type of therapy and ethics; however, when I was actually handling cases in a clinical setting, I realised that each client has their own preference for how a counsellor should work with them, e.g. preference for the therapist’s directiveness; preference for emotional intensity; preference for past orientation; preference for warm support, etc. Also, the presenting problems of each case is different, so I have been studying different kinds of psychotherapies after graduation from my master’s programme to help my clients with different mental health issues and use different approaches to work with them.

Is there any particular area you specialised in? Can you tell us more about your work?

I am particularly interested in pre-marital and relationship counselling – helping committed couples to gain understanding of their relationship dynamics, strength and growth areas; helping couples in treating affairs and trauma; facilitating couples to cope with issues that arise in healthy ways; fostering resilience and enriching their relationships.

I also help individuals with attachment issues, family conflicts and relationship issues, life transitions, stress, procrastination, perfectionism behaviours, low self-esteem, sleeping problems, depression, anger management issues, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety and phobias, management roles readiness, workplace relationships, people communication and management skills, grief and loss, trauma.

Have you ever encountered resistance from clients receiving therapy? If so, how did you address it?

Yes, some clients would feel scared to take risks to connect with their difficult emotions when they are about to start their counselling journey.

I meet my clients with unconditional positive regard to join them at where they are in a genuine, supportive and nonjudgmental way in their healing journey. I hold and soothe them with relentless empathy in a secure-base therapeutic alliance where clients can feel comfortable to take risks with me as their companion to go into what is foreign, strange, dangerous, scary, sad, unbearably stressful, painful or unacceptable in their inner lives and face their vulnerabilities together. I help them see the processes in which they are caught in with their emotions and with other people; reorganise their inner world that makes sense of their lives; find their emotional balance and redirect those processes into new directions.

How do you work with couples? How do you approach therapy with couples who have unhelpful communication styles?

When a couple comes to receive relationship counselling, they should have the same relationship goal. In the first session, we discuss the history of their relationship including what had made them feel attracted to their partner at the beginning of their relationship to remind them of what brought them together before the problems arose in their relationship. I also ask couples to discuss their unresolved problems for me to observe their communication patterns and how they deal with conflicts. Towards the end of the session, I discuss the unhelpful communication styles which can be identified from their conflict discussions. Based on research findings, I explain to them about what are the communication patterns that can predict the end of a relationship, how they can eliminate them and replace them with healthy, productive communication patterns. After the first session, I ask each couple to complete a research-based assessment to analyse their satisfactions in different areas of their relationship.

After the first session, there are individual sessions (within the couple’s relationship context) for each client to see me to talk about his/ her perspective in their relationship’s issues, his/her concerns or worries in the relationship before we come back to the couple’s setting. Then we discuss the results of the assessment and help them to gain understanding of their relationship dynamics. Not just their relationship’s growth areas, but their strength areas as well. Based on the research-based assessment results and information I have collected from each couple, I use interventions based on attachment science and evidence-based approaches to resolve conflicts in a constructive way and help couples strengthen their relationships.

Do you need to stay up-to-date with current research and practices in the field of counselling?

As a therapist and clinical member of professional counselling and psychotherapy bodies, I need to pursue continuous education related to counselling and psychotherapy each year. I pursue continuous education through different professional development activities, such as completing training courses or programs for additional qualifications in counselling and psychotherapy; engaging in professional reading and research; participating in professional peer supervision; participating in regularly scheduled supervision with a qualified supervisor; attending counselling and psychotherapy conferences and workshops to stay up-to-date with current research and practices in the field.

In couples therapy, Katrine Cheng aims to remind individuals of the relationship’s onset and the initial spark that attracted them to each other before any
issues arose

What do you do outside of work to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle? How do you manage stress?

Besides exercising, I am mindful of what I eat to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I follow dietary tips that are drawn from the teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine – how each flavour corresponds to a particular organ of the body. According to TCM philosophies – “nourishing yang in spring and summer time, and nourishing yin in autumn and winter time”, I consume food that is suitable for my own body condition and those that help my body correspond better physiologically and pathologically to the changes in weather and seasons in order to stay healthy.

I love arts, culture and history. I travel; visit galleries and museums; see ballet shows and watch movies when I have free time to maintain a balanced lifestyle and manage stress.

What role does self-care play in helping your work as a therapist?

Practicing self-care helps me as a therapist to reduce stress, avoid burnout and enhance my capacity to provide support to my clients. As a therapist, I monitor my own emotional and physical fitness, practice wellness and seek physical or mental health support when needed to ensure my professional competence.

Photo courtesy of Katrine Cheng

Last Updated on 2024/03/21

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