Professional Distance

Mike W. Martin

in Meaningful Work

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780195133257
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199848706 | DOI:

Series: Practical and Professional Ethics

Professional Distance

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Professionals are criticized for being too detached and also for being insufficiently distanced. On the one hand, physicians are denounced when their clinical detachment leads them to become impersonal toward patients, and engineers are blamed when they grow indifferent to the public affected by their work. On the other hand, partisan journalists are reproached for lacking critical detachment, and therapists are reviled for losing therapeutic distance when they become romantically involved with their clients. Professional responsibilities do call for some forms of distance that limit the expression of personal values in professional life. Distance does not, however, imply the absence of caring and personal involvement. On the contrary, limited detachment often promotes ideals of caring that are simultaneously personal and professional. After clarifying the concept of distance, this chapter discusses three functions of distance in professional life: coping with difficulties in helping clients, respecting clients' autonomy, and maintaining objectivity. These functions suffice to illustrate the importance of professional distance and its basic compatibility with personal ideals of caring in professional life.

Keywords: professional distance; detachment; personal ideals; caring; professional life; autonomy; objectivity

Chapter.  8464 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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