Our Story
Focusing on “pOTential”
Rachel Chua
Occupational Therapist, TOUCH Community Services
Published on 08/09/23
For Rachel, she believes her dual role of an Occupational Therapist at TOUCH Community Services and as a Social Service Scholar, is all about “pOTential”. Together with her colleagues, they strive to empower their clients, particularly the elderly and their caregivers, with the skills and knowledge to improve their quality of life in the community. 


Runs in the family

A career in the social service sector was a natural choice for Rachel. Since young, she had done volunteering work both in Singapore and overseas with her parents. As she witnessed the impact they had while serving the community, Rachel aspired to help others in the community.  

After obtaining a Diploma in Child Psychology and Early Education, she was awarded the Social Service Scholarship to pursue her Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Therapy (OT). Through her scholarship, she was able to serve in various social services agencies and gain a more holistic understanding of the social service landscape. This motivated her to strengthen her professional expertise. 

The role of an OT

Occupational therapy is a profession that goes beyond merely providing intervention support. A typical day as an Occupational Therapist for Rachel involves home visits with clients, administrative work, and case discussions with her team. She works closely with other therapists, nurses, social workers, senior care associates and community partners. 

Together with her colleagues, they strive to empower their clients with preventive and sustainable solutions for leading dignified lives. The role of an occupational therapist can be immensely rewarding and fulfilling for her. She gets to journey with her clients and empower them to see their own potential and progress, which gives her a sense of purpose.  

She highlighted that one of the crucial qualities needed to work in the social service sector is active listening. This facilitates and strengthens the therapeutic relationship between client and therapist, reducing the power imbalance and allowing clients to co-create solutions to their challenges. 

The key to empowering clients is not to focus on their deficits but rather on their strengths. Beyond meeting their needs, OTs must also look to enable their clients to take ownership of their health and reduce their reliance on services. She does so by looking at the client's qualities and abilities along with the environment that can be developed and facilitating their independence and quality of life as they go through their recovery process, in particular being able to perform basic tasks on their own.

Igniting the spark of life

One of the most memorable cases that Rachel experienced was with an elderly client, who was a very sociable person who enjoyed striking up a conversation with anyone. However, ever since the passing of the client’s spouse, the client became more withdrawn. Her memory started to decline, together with language, recognition of family members and performing basic task. She barely left the house and would only communicate when necessary. Eventually, her family struggled to connect with her. 

She was determined to help her client to regain her spark of life. She made a breakthrough with her client during her therapy sessions through engaging in childhood games and listening to life stories. Slowly but surely, Rachel made progress with her client and gradually, she ventured downstairs to purchase small items from the provision shop, and even exercised at the void deck. 

The highlight of Rachel’s diligence and hard work was witnessing her client request to hold her daughter’s hand during one of the sessions. At that moment, she recognised her daughter, touched her daughter’s face and said “I love you” which she had not said before. It may seem insignificant, but for someone who had been so reclusive, it was a pivotal breakthrough moment for the family. Since then, her family has found new ways to engage with her, reconnecting with her in ways she finds meaningful as well. 

Endless potential with NCSS Scholarship programme

Rachel hopes to continuously learn and grow in her profession. Through constant upskilling and training with the latest developments in the industry, Rachel strives to enhance the quality of life of her clients and provide a community that cares for them and supports their well-being.

The Social Service Scholarship programme epitomises this mindset of lifelong learning, as the learning continues beyond the classroom and does not conclude when one graduates. It is an opportunity to welcome like-minded individuals to join this journey with Rachel. Her advice to those considering the programme is to be open-minded and passionate about serving the community. As a scholar, you can look forward to being supported in your journey with opportunities to deepen your skills and knowledge in the social service sector. 

Rachel aims to continue deepening her skills in the geriatrics and community care sector and believes that the occupational therapy profession has various career progression paths, such as clinical specialisation, management, research, and education. Together with the support of her family and friends who have shown continuous inspiration and encouragement, she aims to be a better advocate for her work and her clients. 

A role in therapy is one of many in Social Service. To find out more, read about a career in therapy at https://www.ncss.gov.sg/Social-Service-Tribe/careerdetail/therapy.
Rachel smiling together with her client.