Who is Taking Care of You?

Becky O'GuinFeatured News

By Nate Kunzman, D.M.D.
From the Autumn 2023 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

We, as dentists, live extremely busy lives.  Not only are we caregivers for hundreds if not thousands of patients, but we are also business owners, proud parents, community volunteers, coaches and so much more.  With all this responsibility comes a lot of stress and for many of us anxiety as well.  According to ADA’s newly released Dentist Health and Well-Being Survey Report, the number of dentists diagnosed with anxiety has more than tripled since 2003.

As over-achieving caregivers, we tend to focus so much on others that we forget about taking care of ourselves. This is where the CDA’s Member Assistance Program (MAP) comes in.  Many dentists in our state still need to learn about this amazing benefit that CDA members get for free. This benefit not only provides free counseling sessions for you and your household members* but also offers a wide variety of additional wellness benefits.  These benefits include legal and financial resources, wellness coaching, an online resource library known as PersonalAdvantage, live peer-to-peer chats, and a mindfulness app. 

As dentists we are naturally overachievers and hard workers.  We study everything and work on ourselves constantly at a professional level.  We do endless hours of CE, go to far-away places to learn new techniques, and spend hours in study clubs learning how to better our clinical skills.  However, we do not take the time to look at how we could better ourselves.  To do all the things we do, we need to be strong but that does not mean we have to do it alone or that we can’t ask for help from time to time. 

For me this program has been a game changer.  I initially logged on to the program to learn what it was all about.  The process was simple and the portal was easy to use so I signed up for counseling sessions.  I had been helping care for a family member dealing with severe anxiety and depression. Although I did not acknowledge it at the time, it had been really weighing on me as well.  I thought these sessions might help me better help my family.

If it were not for the CDA offering this program, I probably would never have reached out for help. I always felt that I had everything under control and that I “was handling it.”  The truth was that I may have been “handling it” but at what cost.  After my first session a huge weight was lifted off my chest.  It was incredibly freeing.  Going into the session, I thought I would run out of things to talk about in an hour, but by the end I felt like I would need more than just five sessions.  I can honestly say I am a better dentist, a better father, a better husband and a better person because of my counseling sessions. 

The CDA Member Assistance Program gives members five free counseling sessions for every life event.*  After my five  sessions, I decided to continue seeing my counselor once a month.  Some months, I walk in thinking I have nothing to discuss. Life is good. However, by the end of the hour I discover something else about myself or personal relationships that I could improve upon.  Now, my commitment to continuing education isn’t just about dentistry.  It’s about improving myself and my relationships with the ones I love.  I am very grateful to the CDA Member Assistance Program for helping me discover this gift.

Succeeding in life is more than just being great at your job.  It’s about being a great person too.  I have met some extraordinary people in my professional and private life. Individuals who have done incredible things, have overcome immense obstacles, and who have deeply inspired me.  The one thing that I have learned from talking with these individuals is that, remarkably, they are just like anyone else. At times they have felt self doubt or regret.  They have all made mistakes and some would tell me that on occasion they have failed.  However, these individuals never let their negative thoughts or failures define them.  Instead, they found ways to overcome these obstacles, and every single one of them will tell you about the mentors or “therapists” in their lives who helped them do it. 

As professionals, we should take advantage of personal wellness programs like this one. These programs help us become better, more balanced people. When our minds are healthy, we can better focus on all the people around us who need our help.  I am proud that I belong to an organization like the CDA that recognizes the importance of mental health and wellness.  The fact that this no-cost benefit is available to our members makes me proud.  It shows just how much the CDA cares about us and our profession.

*As a member of the CDA, you and each member of your household get up to five counseling sessions per life situation. A life situation is defined as a distinct, separate life event. A MINES case manager will review requests for additional sessions. The CDA has teamed up with Mines & Associates, a leading national psychology firm, to provide the Members Assistance Program.

Learn more at cdaonline.og/wellness.