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Guardians of Our Home: Busting Myths About Being a Home Team Psychologist

Tham Yining gives us the low-down on the multifaceted work of a Home Team Psychologist.
PHOTOS: Soo Jun Xiang

Guardians of Our Home is a series that features civilian careers in the Home Team. Check out the MHA Merit Scholarship to learn how you can pursue a fulfilling career and jumpstart your leadership journey as a Home Team Psychologist.

Lead Psychologist, Police Psychological Services Division, Manpower Department, Singapore Police Force (SPF)

Fascinated by the workings of the human mind, Tham Yining found herself devouring books on Psychology during her Junior College days. This led her to undertake a Major in Psychology at Singapore Management University. Driven by an equally keen interest in Policing, Yining decided to embark on a civilian career with the Home Team in 2012.

According to Yining, here are four common misconceptions that people have about her work as a Home Team Psychologist.  

Myth #1: All They Do is Profile Criminals 
Not true! At SPF, Yining manages a diverse portfolio, with her core work being in the area of Organisational Psychology, a domain that covers topics such as leadership assessment; training; and organisational diagnostics and research. 

“An effective law enforcement system is one of the pillars of a stable and harmonious society,” explained Yining. “At SPF, I get to work alongside fellow officers who are directly involved in law enforcement, and to support them through Organisational Psychology, so that they can be more effective.”


One way that Yining supports SPF’s organisational development is through the assessment and selection of police officers. “It’s very important that we consider candidates properly,” she explained. “During the recruitment process for potential Inspectors, for example, we’ll evaluate their suitability through interviews, psychometric assessments and so on.” 

Myth #2: Their Daily Duty is to Provide Counselling Services
There often isn’t a typical day for Home Team Psychologists; at SPF, some may work closely with their uniformed counterparts on law enforcement efforts (as part of the Crisis Negotiation Unit, for example) while others are focused on supporting victims of crime and other members of the public. To fulfil these roles, Home Team Psychologists are often also on standby, so that they can respond quickly to an emergency. 

Yining is also in charge of implementing employee engagement surveys for officers. “These help to pinpoint our areas of strength and improvement at the organisational and unit levels,” she said. “Such initiatives help us to understand how our officers feel about key issues and enable us to move the organisation in the correct direction.”

Myth #3: It’s Only About Research
While conducting research is indeed an important aspect of their work, Home Team Psychologists have many other opportunities to develop their professional skills. 

As a recipient of the Ministry of Home Affairs Postgraduate Scholarship for serving officers, Yining undertook a year-long Masters in Organisational Psychology at the University of Manchester

“It was challenging to go back to being a student,” shared Yining on her postgraduate studies, “but I was well-supported by my supervisors and colleagues. There was also a ready pool of research participants for my dissertation, which gave me an edge over my peers.”  

Studying in Manchester also helped Yining to learn a vital lesson in societal resilience. “I was in the city when the Manchester Arena was bombed in May 2017, and I saw how the community response was very positive,” she recalled. “I gathered local news reports and other resources as part of my resilience portfolio on being psychologically prepared for terror attacks, and shared my findings with fellow Home Team’s Psychologists and officers upon my return to Singapore.”


Yining is part of the Home Team Leaders-in-Development Programme, which seeks to help young talents develop their potential. As part of the programme, she had the opportunity to attend a milestone course in public policy. “What was most beneficial about attending this course was that it exposed us to policymaking considerations at a national level,” said Yining. “This gives me a broader perspective on issues when it comes to policymaking.”

Myth #4: All Psychologists Need to Do is to Listen 😛
While having a keen listening ear is important, Yining finds that other qualities are equally vital for Home Team Psychologists. These include: 

Integrity: Home Team Psychologists are trusted for their professional opinions and sense of ethics. One key reason that Yining chose to join the Home Team was because its values were aligned with hers. “It’s about doing what’s right under every circumstance,” she said. “This basic commitment helps all the other essential values to fall into place.”

Compassion: For Yining, having a heart for fellow officers and members of the public allows her to find a deeper meaning in her work.

Openness: Home Team Psychologists support operations across multiple Home Team domains, so having an open mind definitely helps in taking on new – and often unexpected – challenges.


As for those who are considering a career in the Home Team, Yining’s advice is simple: “Know your purpose. It’s natural for things to change with time, so we should always be prepared to grow and learn. But if you approach matters with a purpose-driven mindset, you’ll find a rewarding career in the Home Team!”

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Merit Scholarship
The MHA Merit Scholarship is awarded to outstanding individuals who are passionate about strengthening Singapore’s security and public safety. 

Recipients of the MHA Merit Scholarship may choose from a variety of exciting and rewarding Home Team careers according to their interests and aspirations. This civilian scholarship offers six career tracks: a generalist track as a Home Affairs Senior Executive and five specialist tracks in Intelligence; Psychology; Commercial Affairs; Science and Technology; and Internal Security. 

Applications now open! Click here to learn more about the MHA Merit Scholarship.

Guardians of Our Home
- Home Affairs Senior Executive career track: An Eye on the Future 
- Intelligence career track: A Police Analyst at Work
- Commercial Affairs career track: Taking a Global View of Fighting Crime
- Science and Technology career track: At Work with a Crime Scene SpecialistRecovering Digital Evidence to Fight Crime
- Internal Security career track: Internal Security, from the Inside

Written by

Ashley Tuen


22 January 2021

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