This Course Carries 1 unstructured CPD hour per session as defined by the

Peer Support Groups for Dentists


“My name is Philip Christie and I am a practising dentist for close to 40 years.  I hold a Master’s degree in Dental Science as well as a Master’s degree in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.  My career has been about bringing about a kind of synthesis between Dental Science and Human Science, the Objective and the Subjective, Science and Art.  I have designed this course to provide a stress reduction/resilience protocol for dentists based on the well documented effects of a method known as Mindfulness and a Psychotherapeutic modality called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

It aims to enhance mental, emotional and physical wellbeing as well as reducing stress and anxiety which can lead to burnout. It also has benefits in enhancing inter-personal relationships, communication and conflict resolution which are invaluable in reducing the risk of litigation. I look forward to working with you.”

Philip Christie
B.Dent.Sc., M.Dent.Sc (Perio), M.A. (CBT)


The idea behind this project is to address the human needs of clinical dentists and provide support in the loneliness and isolation of a clinical life of heavy responsibility and expectation.
We have many aspects of the clinical dentist’s life that are not acknowledged and supported, and these omissions leave the clinical dentist isolated and vulnerable. These areas include the personal, the interpersonal, the ethical and the clinical and also areas where all of the overlap to varying degrees.

As clinicians we can encounter real isolation and loneliness in the relationship between:

  • Ourselves and the patient
  • Ourselves as the sole performer
  • Ourselves and the weight of responsibility we bear
  • Ourselves and burden of legal requirement and threat
  • Ourselves and the notion of clinical judgement
  • Ourselves and profitability
  • Ourselves and the business responsibility
  • Issues of poor training in communication and the problem of what are termed ‘difficult patients’
  • Issues of when to refer in clinical situations
  • Issues of when to refer in interpersonal lack of competence (communication)
  • The reality of enoughness. This might be called the ‘I can do my best and a horse can do no better ‘principle’,i9.

As clinicians we do not include ourselves as our fundamental resource. Even if we come to this, what do we know about how to nurture and grow this resource? What skill have I in communicating to people the understanding of the limitations and the difficulties and risks of clinical work? What skill is there that I can use to communicate this so they can ‘get it’?

All of these issues account for the larger part of working at clinical dentistry but get the least attention. The area is so big and all consuming that it must be considered as an educational gap (chasm). But how do we fill that gap?

It is from this understanding that we get the rationale for Peer Support Groups for Dentists. We might summarise this rationale as follows:

Rationale: To supply the missing aspects of dental education in human behaviour and communication and to promote and nurture human fellowship among the individuals providing this professional care and the introduction of this aspect of care to those we serve.

The Psychotherapeutic Profession, understanding the enormous burden on individual practitioners and the value of support for individual health and wellbeing, makes peer support (called supervision) a requirement for its therapists and counsellors to practice. Our noble profession, in valuing the health and wellbeing of its members, should consider moving along these lines as well.

The Principles of Peer Support groups.

There are several key principles that underpin the peer support group. These principles and their value speak for themselves.

  1. The first is Belonging. The creation of a family in fellowship where each is welcomed.
  2. The second is Connection. The group models human contact and the shared experience of being in practice. The experience of another or others creates fellowship, understanding and learning.
  3. The third is Group power. This refer to the principle of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts and is experienced as strong support and fellowship. Community as opposed to isolation and death (? current model)

These principles are often seen in societal structures but in medicine and dentistry tend to revolve around the ‘science’ or objectivity of the profession. Fellowships elevate people to higher and ‘special’ levels of the profession as though fellowship is only merited by extra academic achievement. Fellowship or collegiality is not for the ordinary clinical dentist but for the academic elite. Even there its about elevation beyond the ‘ordinary’ and away from the natural humanness of humanity to a scientific academic stature. Fellowship and collegiality belong to the essential humanity of us all as humans first and foremost.

This is because science and objectivity come from art and subjectivity. Life is experienced as subjective by definition and all human beings are, by definition, subjective. We cannot avoid this. The objective is a heroic effort by subjective beings to find a more accurate view and understanding but must always come from subjectivity.

Therefore, we must work with our fundamental subjectivity and understand it with care and compassion to better support our attempts at objectivity.

The Solution

So how do we support and nurture our subjective nature as our support for our attempt at objectivity? Peer support is a good way to do this. We have many aspects available within the group which can be enumerated in the following way:


  • Support
  • Cohesion
  • Understanding
  • Pooling of experience
  • Mistakes as learning/tyranny of perfection
  • Fellowship and collegiality
  • Bonding with like minds


Beyond academic learning (learning based in the mind) there are many other ways of learning. In a profession like dentistry, we learn by doing. This is experiential learning. But we must not confine our experiential learning to the doing of procedures. We need to apply our experiential learning to our relationship with patients and communication.


So what do we hope to foster in a group?

  1. Curiosity – The essential tool of new information.
  2. Calm – A place from which to take good action
  3. Confidence – In self and others
  4. Compassion – for self and others
  5. Clarity
  6. Courage (moral)
  7. Connectedness
  8. Creativity

As these are fostered with a collegiate think tank around us, we can:


  • Show up as ourselves, warts and all
  • Feel safety – the group is on our side (not attack/defence)
  • Feel supported
  • Be given attention


Clinical expertise is a very important component of our profession and allows us insight into when to refer. Yet do we ever ask whether there are other skills which we require that might affect our decision to refer. Many individual dentists feel that everybody else is fine but that they are somehow lacking. This is dismantled by peer support groups where all are free to show vulnerability and well as strength.

While I always want to focus on the positive, It worth noting what are the effects of not having this kind of support and learning. The list will surely speak to the importance of the change that is needed:


  • Stress
  • Lack of self-care
  • Fear
  • Mental fatigue
  • Physical fatigue
  • Emotional fatigue
  • Alcohol/drugs
  • Suicide

Overall the benefits are:


  1. Creation of better more rounded clinicians
  2. Creation of calmer clinicians
  3. Creation of healthier/wealthier clinician
  4. Creation of clinicians who achieve the best results
  5. Creation of clinicians who are in harmony with patients and staff.

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Participant Cost Per Session €100  

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