Applying counselling principles to management to build a harmonious environment for teaching, learning and research

Professor T. Wing Lo
Head and Professor Department of Applied Social Sciences

Prof Lo loves to work on research with his PhD students. He likens them to providers of "food for thought" and enjoys the time spent in their company.

Prof Lo founded Action Therapy and received the Teaching Excellence Award from CityU in 2007.

Prof Lo and the basketball team he founded.

Prof Lo spoke to United Nations delegates in New York in October 2010.

Of the five academic disciplines taught at the Department of Applied Social Sciences, Professor T. Wing LO teaches three: criminology, social work and counselling. He also has responsibilities in administration, management and academic research. Professor Lo seeks to prove that such a range of roles can be shouldered effectively by one individual. He also applies the three principles of counselling, including "identifying the problem, determining the goal and implementing the solution", to department management. He strives to build a harmonious environment for teaching, learning and research.

An impartial, action-oriented scholar

The Department of Applied Social Sciences involves many people and has many sub-units. Professor Lo reports that as the Head of the Department, he must stay impartial at all times, with no bias towards any party. "I like to keep an appropriate distance from my colleagues. We only talk about business in the office, keeping our private lives out of our discussions." To unleash his colleagues' potential, Professor Lo aims to "walk his talk". For example, despite his heavy administrative duties, he insists on engaging actively in research and teaching. His teaching hours rival those of an assistant professor.

Professor Lo's busy teaching schedule has not affected his devotion to research. Under his leadership, the number of research projects undertaken at the department has significantly increased. Since 2010, he has worked as Principal Investigator on three General Research Fund projects and three policy/blueprint research projects commissioned by the Hong Kong and Macau governments. Professor Lo is particularly glad to witness the excellent performance in academic research at the Department of Applied Social Sciences.

Exceptional observation is key to administration and management

The operation of the department is visibly harmonious – something not easy to come by, according to Professor Lo. "I apply the principles of counselling, especially the problem-goal-task framework, to management. For example, when we run into a problem at work, I first identify and assess the root cause, then set goals for handling the problem and finally come up with a workable plan for putting the chosen solution in place." He also delegates power to senior faculty and allocates work based on his colleagues' particular abilities. If individuals are able to work productively, the workplace will be harmonious.

Professor Lo cares about the Department's working ambience and makes a considerable effort to cultivate relationships with his colleagues at CityU. "I have worked here for more than 20 years. I often meet different people, but I hardly know them. Therefore, I organised a basketball tournament two years ago. The response was overwhelming, and colleagues from numerous departments took part, ranging from expatriate professors to local scholars and frontline staff. Everyone had a lot of fun at the match." The basketball teams are formed from different colleges and schools. Five teams were involved in the first tournament, and this number has since increased to six. Two years after the basketball teams were formed, the university established a Staff Social Club. Professor Lo has undeniably played a leading role in fostering the CityU spirit.

From social worker to professor

The breadth and range of Professor Lo's administrative, teaching and academic work are clear. He is also an expert in both the theory and practice of counselling. This has much to do with his experience as a social worker before becoming an academic. "I was an outreach social worker in the 1970s. I had worked in the field for 17 years, specialising in youth counselling. Through my clients, I met members of triad societies, which sparked my research interest in organised crime and juvenile delinquency." In 1986, Professor Lo put his life as a social worker on hold to study for a PhD in Criminology at the University of Cambridge in the UK. In 1990, after graduation, he joined CityU in Hong Kong as a senior lecturer. He became a professor in 2005. He now teaches criminology, social work and counselling. His students comprise undergraduates, Master's degree students and PhD candidates.

“I aim to set an example in teaching, academic research, and administration and management. I want to let everyone know that nothing is impossible or unachievable.”

Students enjoy their lessons and "being counselled"

"I love to teach counselling courses, and students enjoy my counselling lessons just as much." Professor Lo described his classes as having a style of their own. Students are invited to explain their problems, and counselling takes place in the classroom – real counselling is used to teach counselling techniques. "Many students have told me that coming to my classes is like being counselled or having a therapy session. Therefore, my classes have a very high attendance, even when they run late." He recalled a recent note of thanks sent through Facebook by an alumna. The student had intended to end her life after school on a particular day; coincidentally, however, the topic of the day in Professor Lo's class was suicidal counselling, which stopped the student from carrying out her plan.

Professor Lo explained that there is a secret "box" in everyone's heart that resembles the recycling bin on a computer screen: it collects lots of unpleasant "trash". One of the goals of counselling is to clear this trash. "In the past, I focused on four objectives in my counselling: assisting ventilation, gaining insight, providing support and promoting new behaviour. After counselling my students, I discovered a fifth objective: helping counsellees to recharge. Counselling may not solve counsellees' core problems, but it certainly offers them power as they move forward."

Grooming PhD candidates as successors

Professor Lo is an expert in counselling, but does he need counselling himself? "I have my own issues, but there is no channel for me to receive counselling. Perhaps age has helped me to work through my issues, as I no longer consider them a big deal." He admitted that he is most happy when he meets with his PhD students. "I am a mentor and a friend to a dozen PhD students. We spend much time together working on our research. The decorative accessories on the coffee table in my room are theirs." Although students "occupy" a whole corner of his room, Professor Lo is more than glad to have them around.

Professor Lo is three years away from retirement. He believes that he has reached his peak in terms of knowledge and wisdom, but that it is time to prepare to appoint a successor. "I have already begun grooming my PhD students to succeed me. They now help me with my teaching. They also specialise in various areas of research, such as juvenile delinquency, the treatment of social deviants through spiritual and sports intervention, prison theatre, action therapy, triad societies, anti-corruption and the securitisation of China-Hong Kong." Professor Lo discussed these topics with excitement, revealing a clear passion for research. "I am not a workaholic. I am simply putting work therapy into practice," he commented with a smile.

Professor T. Wing Lo

Head and Professor Department of Applied Social Sciences

Professor T. Wing Lo joined CityU in Hong Kong (at that t ime known as the City Polytechnic of Hong Kong) as a senior lecturer in 1990, respons ible mainly for teaching social work. He has been a professor in the Depar tment of Applied Social Sciences since 2005. Professor Lo is passionate about counselling and is an expert in youth problems, anti-corruption and triad societies. In addition to teaching, he has responsibilities i n a dminis t rat ion and management, academic research and professional counselling. He has spoken worldwide as a specialist on triad societies and youth justice.

Academic disciplines Department of Applied Social Sciences

  • Criminology
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Social work
  • Counselling

Research Interests

  • Chinese triad societies
  • Anti-corruption
  • Group counselling and therapy
  • Offender correction and rehabilitation

Total Amount of External Research Fund in 2006-2016: HK$10,486,906

  • 2016-18 Triads, Social Capital and Organised Crime in Hong Kong
  • 2014-16 Research on the Development of a 10-Year Rehabilitation Programme for Macau
  • 2013-16 The Fact-finding Ability of Potential Jurors and Public Attitudes towards the Jury System in Hong Kong
  • 2011-13 Youth Problems and Youth Services in Macau SAR: A Blueprint for the New Millennium – A Follow-up Study
  • 2010-12 Volunteer Motives, Role Identities and Sustained Volunteerism: An Intergenerational Comparison
  • 2010-11 Focus-group Study on Mandatory Provident Fund Youth Educational Programme
  • 2010 Review of Rehabilitation Centres run by the Correctional Services Department
  • 2008-10 Review of the System of Education and Supervision of Young Offenders in Macau
  • 2008 Review of Juvenile Homes in Singapore
  • 2007 Research Study on Performance Measurement for Correctional Services Department Programmes and Services
  • 2006-08 Study on Violence at Work in Hong Kong
  • 2006-08 Supportive Service for Police-cautioned Youth in Macau
  • 2006-07 Residential Care Services for Children and Youth in Macau: Policies and Strategies

Award and Achievement

  • 2007 Teaching Excellence Award 2007, City University of Hong Kong
  • 2001 Applied Research Excellence Award (Certificate of Merit) 2001, City University of Hong Kong

Professional Activity

  • Member, International Advisory Board, The British Journal of Criminology
  • Founding Editor, Routledge Studies in Asian Behavioural Sciences
  • Founding Associate Editor, International Journal of Criminology and Sociology
  • Founding Editor, Caring for Youth Series, and Social Work and Counselling Series, City University of Hong Kong Press
  • Invited to address foreign-affairs officials at the US Department of Defence in Washington, DC in 2015 on topics related to Asian organised crime
  • Invited to speak at the National Conference on At-risk Youths, Singapore, 2015
  • Presented a keynote speech at the first national anti-corruption conference at the Universidad del Rosario in Columbia, South America, 2012
  • Invited to visit New York to address United Nations delegates at the Palermo Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in 2010
  • Appointed as a Visiting Fellow at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, managed by the Australian National University and Griffith University in 2010