top of page


What Is Professionalism?

What does it mean to be professional?

Lately, the word has come my way in the context of the business that I have founded, managed and run for 18 years. The business is going through great change as it moves from a small family business to an Institute for Higher Education. As it makes these changes, more ‘professionals’ have become involved.

The Institute strives to act with ethical integrity while educating with a Holistic approach in the classroom, in the management of the business, and in interpersonal relationships. This means seeing the person as a human being with emotions and skills, and with an understanding of both personal and situational rank.

Different ways in which the term has been used in relation to me are “I can’t speak with you individually as I am keeping it professional”; “just maintain a professional relationship”; “To make the business professional, these are the changes that need to happen…”; “to talk about a personal issue you have with someone, is not professional”.

So as I consider these comments it seems to me that ‘professional’ means keep any personal opinion and emotion out of the conversation, stay only with the ‘facts’ and maintain an emotional and objective distance.

It appears to be a mask behind which to hide your personal feelings and opinions, a way to pull rank and a way to deflect honest, full-bodied discussion. So it becomes a tool for an abuse of power.

It reminds me of the experiences I had as a young Social Worker going to court supporting often less privileged people to defend against various charges. ‘Don’t show your emotions. It is seen as weakness’ was a frequent instruction.

One of the tools for excluding women from positions of authority, and power is judging them as being too emotional and lacking in objectivity. This is a long standing technique for keeping women out of some “professional’ positions and undermining confidence.

So the contamination of professionalism with rank and power and the exclusion of subjectivity is one of the symptoms of the current times. I would go so far as to say it is a contributor to our abuse of the environment and it’s degradation.

What then does it mean to be ‘professional’ in the profession of Counselling and Psychotherapy? There is a code of conduct that requires ethical behavior, and it requires a level of education and skill development in Counselling and Psychotherapy without doubt. But it also requires more. At Metavision where we strive to educate and behave from a holistic perspective, it means to have an awareness of issues of rank and power, both personal and situations, to be inclusive of the whole person including emotions and to have the skills to work both.

As Gregory Bateson so famously said

It’s the difference that makes the difference

-Gregory Bateson

Christina Nielsen, June 2021.


bottom of page