Dr Angela Sex & Relationship Coach

Women At Work is a series where we uncover females making waves in their respective industries, carving out an inspiring career for themselves and for others. 

We all know what sex education in Singapore is like — abstinence, abstinence and abstinence. But looking back as adults now, what we’ve been taught in school is overly idealistic and honestly? Unhelpful. When it comes to doing the real thing, many of us lack the knowledge of what sex is even supposed to be like, and there’s no one to really turn to for help.

Unlike a common flu where you can visit a doctor to get medicine and recover, where should one go when they struggle with issues pertaining to sex? This is where Dr Angela, a sex and relationship coach at the Academy of Relationship and Sex (ARAS), comes in.

Topics surrounding sex are still considered taboo till today, but that doesn’t stop Dr Angela from pursuing her passion to solve these issues. She specialises in sexual wellness and helps individuals and couples work through their intimacy struggles. We spoke to Dr Angela to find out more about her experience as a coach and why it is so important for Singaporean couples to educate themselves.

Deciding to be a sex and relationship coach

Dr Angela Sex Relationship Coach

Can you give us a brief introduction of yourself?

I’m Dr Angela I’m almost 40 years old. I have been a doctor for the past 17 years and graduated in 2007. 

Why did you decide to be a sex and relationship coach?

I first started my career as a doctor when I was just figuring out what speciality I wanted to go into. I ended up in family medicine because it was something that had a lot of scope and breadth, in hopes that it wouldn’t bore me out. 

Eventually, I hit roadblocks — when patients came to me asking about sexual related stuff, I realised that even with a masters in medicine, I couldn’t answer their questions. It was pretty embarrassing. I soon realised there was no one I could refer them to as well. 

That was what got me started in this. I was also training myself as a coach when I first started out in my medical career, so I had a fair bit of relationship coaching experience. Then, I started pursuing further studies in sexual wellness and sexual medicine. 

You’re currently an intimacy coach at the Academy of Relationship and Sex (ARAS). Can you share with us more about your role?

Beyond producing content, I’m also the one who runs workshops when we’re approached. I also do a lot of one-to-one sessions with individuals and couples to help them ease out their challenges. 

I help with the strategising and running of the company, and with my small team, we partake in anything that allows for the company to grow. 

Stereotypes and misconceptions about the job

Dr Angela conducting a workshop

Did you always see yourself in this industry?

Not really. My interest in sex is not just about sex itself, but also how I can bring people to connect to themselves and their loved ones more. My parents divorced when I was 12, which left a huge hole in my belief systems around love and marriage. I became more withdrawn and fearful when it came to relationships, and was reluctant to share intimate details with my friends.

When I started dating, it became an issue because I was constantly suspicious and worried that my partner would be cheating on me. As I worked through my own coaching journey, that was how I discovered that connection is actually not that hard. Connecting with someone is not scary, and falling in love is something natural. 

My job reaffirms the idea that the world needs to hear more truth than sugar-coated stuff. I’m no longer mindful about how people judge me, as long as it is clear to my conscience and I think that it’s something that is going to benefit people at large. 

Is your job related to what you previously studied in school?

What I studied previously provided the basis of anatomy and physiology, but in order to do this work now, I have to go the extra mile. I’m constantly updating myself because there’s always new technologies being invented and new procedures. 

Singapore is very underdeveloped when it comes to topics on sex. In the work I do, I also deal with patients who have recovered from stroke and cancer, and Singaporeans hardly talk about intimacy post-illness. We are very backwards that way. 

Patients don’t ask and doctors don’t talk. Even if you try to look for local online resources, you find nothing. Especially for cancers that are related to the so-called “sexual parts”, such as breast or prostate cancer, there’s a lot of aftermath. But it’s always, “oh, you’re alive, that’s good enough already right?” 

To me, that’s a huge area that needs to be talked about. In America and Europe, there’s a fair bit of emphasis on aftercare for post-cancer survivors. I wish there could be more conversations about this in Singapore too.    

Were your friends and family members surprised by your career choice?

I don’t think so. My husband in particular has always been very supportive. The bulk of my friends are coaches too, so I have a very supportive environment. When I first started appearing on social media and newspapers, some of my husband’s friends would cheekily ask him, “wow, your sex life must be great isn’t it?”

Are there any stereotypes and misconceptions that you wish to address about your job scope and the industry?

You know that meme that goes “what people think I do versus what I actually do”? Many people think that my job is to watch people have sex, or that clients send me clips of them having sex and I’m supposed to give feedback. Some even assume that I’m a sex surrogate and I perform sexual activities on my clients to teach them things in real life. 

But that’s totally not what I do. I actually have very intimate conversations with people to understand their struggles and help them through certain emotional barriers. I help them to rebuild relationships with themselves and their partners and educate my more sexually naive clients on what can happen in the bedroom and what they can explore on their own and with their partners. 

People may think that talking about sex openly is “shameless”. There’s also this fear that if my clients agree with whatever I say, it means that there’s something wrong with their sex life. Everybody thinks that sex is supposed to be “normal” — even animals can do it, and if we can’t, it means there’s something wrong with us. 

That’s one of the myths I have to dispel with a number of my clients. They feel so stressed because they can’t do it “right”. But there’s no right or wrong.

Biggest takeaways from work

Dr Angela (middle) speaking at the Tinder School of Swipe launch

What do you love the most about your job?

To see my clients able to get through their tough points so that they can move forward in their lives. It doesn’t matter if the marriage was saved or not — that’s not the key thing. Well, I mean if it’s saved then it’s good, but it’s the whole process of them being able to find what’s important to them, what does it mean to love themselves and someone else, and how to empower themselves in their journey to embrace their own sexuality. 

What are your biggest challenges?

Public education and awareness. The people who come to us didn’t just experience the problem yesterday and come to us immediately for help. Sometimes, they have been suffering with their problems for as long as 20 to 30 years. 

I do wish that with more public education, people can come to us for help earlier. Keeping it in damages their relationship and builds up a lot of resentment and unhappiness. Many are on the verge of a divorce before they look for help. That’s way too late. 

At what stage of a relationship breakdown should couples seek therapy or help?

I won’t even say to wait until a “breakdown”. I would seriously encourage most couples, before they get married, to include marriage pre-counseling as part of something they should do. There are a lot of programmes out there already, but one of the things they don’t talk about much is sexual compatibility and finance expectations. 

I do have a small number of couples who come to me pre-marriage to say that they have a sense that it might not work out, so they want to be prepared beforehand. I think those people are awesome. I normally run through a few questions such as what are their concerns, what have they tried on their own, and if there is anything they are worried about when it comes to sex. This actually gives couples the confidence to work it out. 

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How work has affected her personal life

Dr Angela at a podcast appearance

Does your career in love and sex affect your own personal life?

I guess it does. It gives me, unfortunately, more time to reflect on my own relationships. It makes me feel like I have to be a role model somehow. So I’m more reflective about who I am as a partner, daughter, sister, and mother.

I also find myself asking, “how do I educate my kids about what this world is about?” I think about how I want to tell my kids what a healthy relationship with their sexuality is, how to express themselves and body consent. 

What are some important skills that you need to approach your clients? 

The ability to provide a safe and non-judgmental space is very important, because they’re literally pouring their deepest, darkest secrets to me. Over the years I’ve kept so many secrets that I think I can probably write a few drama series. I don’t go around sharing other people’s stories, so that’s the professional boundary.

Communication skills are important too. All of us have different personalities and our ability to receive and perceive languages is different. 

I wouldn’t say that I struggle to get people to open up, but rather, the struggle is to have them being totally open with themselves and to face their issues head on. It’s not the easiest task because there are many people who are self-conscious.

Dr Angela Sex Relationship CoachDr Angela conducting a workshop

Are there any memorable moments with your clients that left a lasting impression on you?

Recently, I had a couple who were struggling with sex for a long time. One day they came back and said, “we had the best sex of our lives even though we didn’t finish yet.” They understood that intimacy and connection is not about a KPI or reaching an end point, it’s simply about enjoying the time with themselves.

I had another couple who were dealing with cheating, so intimacy was a struggle for them since the discovery of the affair about five years ago. After a number of sessions, they managed to have their first intercourse. To me, these are big breakthroughs for everyone.

Have you ever thought of leaving the industry to pursue something else?

Not really. Over the last 15 years, I’ve been accumulating different things, for example, I’m also studying Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). One thing that I really want to pursue is TCM and sexual health coming together more internally.

In TCM, we always talk about how food is the first medicine. I want to learn about how our diet influences our daily lives, how it brings better health, and then, of course, how it helps to improve sexual health. There’s still a lot of knowledge out there for me to pursue.

Advice for couples

Dr Angela Sex Relationship CoachDr Angela speaking at the Mekong Capital workshop

What do you hope to see for the general public?

I hope that they can be more open to these topics and less resistant to stereotypes. The reason why we want to produce a lot of social media content is so that we can do public education.

Recent studies have found that Gen Zs are not so ready to jump into sex right away. They’re more cautious and are trying to figure things out. Of course, we can’t rule out negative traits such as porn addiction — it can still happen. Just because Gen Zs are more open-minded doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. 

Any advice for couples who are dealing with issues in their relationship and sex life but are too afraid to seek help? 

You can always drop us an email, call or text and take the little baby step to realise that things are not as scary as you think it is. In our client journey, we do a discovery call first — these are complementary and it’s a chance for me to better understand what kind of struggles they may be having. 

From the call, I’ll be able to distil down to a few things that we can work on and provide solutions. It’s not exactly actionable steps, but more of the direction that we are heading.

Once the couple is more assured or they understand the process, they can hop on the journey with us. There’s always room for negotiation and I’m not going to shove my ideas down their throat. It’s really to understand where they are at and where they want to head to, then come up with some strategies that’s going to help make progress in that.

Dr Angela Sex Relationship Coach

What is one quote you live by?

“Life is short and there is no time for regrets.”

This quote motivates me to try new things. Even though there are challenging things out there, I’d rather be scared than to look back and say, “why didn’t I do that?”

On the day I die, I want to say I’ve done all the things, no matter how crazy, scary or stupid they are. I want to not just be someone watching a movie, but I’m actually in the movie as the main character, directing my own life.

Being A Sex & Relationships Coach Taught Dr Angela That Singapore Still Has A Long Way To Go

As a sex and relationships coach, Dr Angela has shared that Singapore still has a long way to go when it comes to opening up more conversations on sex. Many of us perceive the intimate act as something “normal”, without realising that it creates a stereotype for those who are unable to do it, making them feel ashamed and outcast. 

Leaving us with a few words of advice, Dr Angela emphasises that “sex is not something that is totally instinctual — it’s actually a learned process. It’s normal to seek help and it’s not something to be shameful about.”

Find out more about the Academy of Relationship and Sex, and you might just begin your journey of sexual wellness to create a fulfilling relationship with your partner. 

All images courtesy of Dr Angela.
Some quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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