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  • Writer's pictureTina Chan

Discover Cassandra Chiu, The Inspirational Therapist

"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do." - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

As a parent, finding the right therapist for your child can be a challenging task. When I was in search of a therapist for my daughter, my friend recommended Cassandra Chiu, so I googled her profile and was immediately intrigued. After noticing her positive reviews and numerous articles, what truly impressed me was her inspiring story of overcoming disability with perseverance and determination. Without hesitation, I decided to take a chance and call her. Due to Covid-19, we began with a few therapy phone sessions. After getting to know her better, I asked her to become my daughter's therapist. Following a couple of sessions, my daughter's self-confidence has improved significantly, and she feels better overall.

I believe that Cassandra Chiu deserves a SPOTLIGHT because of the unique perspective she brings to the table as a therapist who has experienced disability firsthand. Her personal experiences and advocacy work have given her invaluable insights into the challenges faced by persons with disabilities and the mental health issues they may encounter. Cassandra's determination to live a fulfilling life despite her visual impairment inspires many. Her counseling practice, The Safe Harbour, provides a safe and inclusive space for individuals from all walks of life. By highlighting her work, she can help guide others through their struggles and empower them to live their best lives.

Can mindfulness and conscious living help with mental health challenges and daily struggles, and how can they be incorporated into daily life for those in need? Additionally, how can conscious living help find purpose and meaning, and what advice can be offered to those struggling in this area?

Mindfulness is a practice that encourages us to be present and focused in the present moment, rather than being consumed by concerns about the past or future. By being mindful, we can develop an awareness of our thoughts and feelings and observe them without judgment, which can help to reduce stress and anxiety. By staying in the present, we can appreciate the small moments and joys of life that might otherwise pass us by.

Quieting the noise in our heads can be a challenge, but it is an essential step in cultivating mindfulness. By training our minds to be still and calm, we can think more clearly and make better decisions for ourselves. With a quieter mind, we can be more receptive to new ideas, insights, and perspectives, and we can approach challenges with greater clarity and confidence.

Learning to identify the voice of worry can be difficult, but with practice, it becomes easier to recognize and manage negative thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness can help us to develop a greater understanding of our thoughts and feelings, and to differentiate between those that are helpful and those that are not. By practicing mindfulness regularly, we can develop greater resilience and self-awareness, and learn to approach life's challenges with greater ease and equanimity.

What is emotional intelligence, how has it evolved over time, and how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted it? In what ways have we seen both positive and negative effects on our collective emotional intelligence during the pandemic, and what can we do to develop greater emotional intelligence in the face of ongoing challenges?

Sometimes we tend to overcomplicate things when really, it can be as simple as understanding and utilizing our intuition. In my opinion, EQ is all about being able to recognize and manage our emotions, while also being aware of how they can affect our interactions with others and ourselves. It's important to avoid letting our insecurities, anxieties, or worries cloud our judgment and decision-making.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to spend more time alone, which has allowed us to become more in tune with our emotions. It has given us an opportunity to listen to our inner voice and reflect on what truly matters in life. However, as we transition back into post-COVID life, it's important to continue to prioritize our emotional well-being. We can do this by finding ways to stay connected with ourselves, whether it's through journaling, meditation, or simply taking the time to check in with our emotions on a regular basis.

As we navigate the challenges of a post-COVID world, let's not forget to honor our inner worlds and emotions. We all have an intuition that can guide us towards making the right decisions for ourselves, but it's up to us to listen to it and trust ourselves. By continuing to cultivate our emotional intelligence and staying connected with our inner selves, we can lead more fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Your memoir, "A Place For Us", has received critical acclaim for its honest and compelling portrayal of disability and identity. What was your motivation for writing this book, and what message do you hope readers take away from it?

My inspiration to write "A Place for Us" was my late guide dog, Esme. She championed the way forward for Guide dogs for the blind to be understood and accepted in Singapore. Through my writing, I hoped to preserve a little of her legacy, and pave the way forward for other writers in the Sing lit (Singapore Literature) genre to add their voices to the tapestry of inclusive and diverse experiences of Singapore. I am heartened to see that a few years on, more literature on disabilities from disabled voices has been published here. I hope that with these authentic voices from people with lived experiences, we can keep a place at the table for persons with disabilities and include each and every one of us in co-creating a brighter future for everyone.

I'm thrilled to hear that my work has inspired others to create similar books. By recognizing a need and taking action to fill that gap, I hope I have made a small contribution to my community, and hope my work in Esme’s memory and our impact on the Singlit community will be able to hold a candle to her legacy.

How do you balance your work as a disability advocate with your personal life and self-care, and what advice would you give to others who are passionate about advocacy work but struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance?

I don't take myself too seriously. It's easy to get caught up in the importance of our work, but sometimes we need to take a step back and remind ourselves that we're only human and can only do so much. If I can nudge the needle forward by a little, that's something to be proud of.

Remember, change takes time and effort, and we can't expect to make an impact overnight. Daily small daily actions add up over time and create a lasting impact. We need to be patient with ourselves and the process and trust that our efforts will make a difference in the long run.

Sometimes, when advocacy work becomes too overwhelming, taking a break can be the best thing we can do for ourselves. It's important to prioritize self-care and recognize when we need to step back and recharge. In my own experience, taking time away has actually made me stronger and more motivated to continue my efforts. It's all about finding the right balance between pushing forward and taking care of ourselves along the way.

How do you believe we can overcome the stigma and shame surrounding mental health in cultures or societies where it is still misunderstood or stigmatized, and what strategies have you found to be most effective in creating safe and supportive environments for individuals seeking counselling or therapy? Additionally, how can we ensure that these services are accessible and equitable for everyone?

When it comes to disabilities and mental health, it's so important to approach each person with an open mind and heart. We all have unique challenges and needs, and it's unfair to judge someone for what they need to thrive. Just because one person may need a certain accommodation or therapy to manage their mental health, for example, doesn't mean everyone will require the same thing.

By being inclusive and non-judgmental, we create a more supportive and accepting community for those who may be struggling with disabilities or mental health issues. This means being willing to listen to someone's needs and working together to find solutions that work for them. It also means recognizing that everyone's experiences are valid, and that there is no one "right" way to navigate these challenges.

Personally, I have learned a lot about the importance of inclusivity and non-judgment through my own experiences with mental health challenges. When I was going through a difficult time, I found that having people around me who were supportive and understanding made all the difference in my journey towards healing. Now, I strive to bring that same level of compassion and empathy to my interactions with others, and I believe we can all do our part to create a more inclusive and accepting world.

Remember that what works for one person may not work for another is important, so we must approach each situation with empathy and understanding. Treating others how we want to be treated is always a good rule of thumb, especially regarding sensitive topics like mental health.

As for making mental health services more accessible, it's definitely a complex issue. While I don't have all the answers, I believe every little bit helps. In my practice, I do what I can to help those who may not have the means to pay for services. Sometimes this means adjusting my fees or taking on pro bono clients. But, of course, I recognize that I can't do this for everyone, and that's where other stakeholders like governments and employers need to step up and make mental health resources more accessible to all.

It's a challenging issue, but with continued effort and collaboration, we can make mental health services more accessible and inclusive for everyone who needs them.


Elke and Cassandra Chiu
Elke and Cassandra Chiu

Cassandra Chiu ( is not only a psychotherapist, social advocate, and equal opportunity consultant, but also a mother and founder of her own counseling practice. Her inspiring story began when she became visually impaired at the age of 8 due to an inherited degenerative eye condition called Stargardt disease. Despite this challenge, Cassandra never lost her sense of purpose and determination in life. Her personal experience with disabilities fueled her passion for advocating for equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Through her work as a psychotherapist and social advocate, Cassandra has spoken on numerous platforms both locally and in the region to educate people, private and public sectors about disabilities. Her writing on disabilities has been published in various platforms such as The Straits Times Opinion page, Today, CNA and featured in 50 Years of ASEAN by Singapore World Scientific and The World Economic Forum’s Agenda. Cassandra's first book, "A Place for Us," explores Asian attitudes towards disabilities and was published in March 2019.

Cassandra Chiu being interviewed by Eunice Olsen (WomanTalk TV Channel) Cassandra Chiu: Determined visually impared counsellor


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