I have been writing and thinking about how to create a sense of presence in online counselling sessions but I have not defined presence. I would like to explore the concept with you now.
Defining presence is not easy. It’s an abstract concept. Not easily quantifiable. Yet we know when we experience it. I recently heard someone describe a facilitator. They said, “they were ‘warm’ but it was a fake ‘warm’”. I had to laugh. I’ve been in those courses, seminars, counselling sessions, etc. where presence was not present. Haven’t you?
The dictionary definition of presence is “the state or fact of being present, attendance or company, immediate vicinity”. Others (pulling from a variety of sources) define presence as availability, authenticity, engagement, connection. I could go all existential on you and talk about Buber’s I-Thou relationships [remembering my university days] but I will refrain.
I like this description of presence – “In presence, therapists are fully in the moment in a way that is with and for the client; the meeting of the two for the benefit of the one….Therapeutic presence involves bringing one’s whole self into the encounter with the client, being completely in the moment on a multiplicity of levels, physically, emotionally, cognitively and spiritually. Therapeutic presence is being grounded in one’s self, while receptively taking in the fullness of the client’s in the moment experience”.
How can you make it happen? Part of the process is that “therapists listen deeply to their clients with all of their senses and perceptions. This means more than just listening to the words stated by the client, but receiving what the client is expressing between sentences and beyond words.”2
Can you do this online? You bet. More on that in weeks to come!
I like that phrase – “fully in the moment in a way that is with and for the client”. I think I will post it in my office as a reminder to myself – whether I am doing in-person or online counselling.
The opinions expressed in this post are personal
Dawn Schell, MA, CCC is an affiliate with Therapy Online http://therapyonline.ca/
& 2 Geller, S. M., & Greenberg, L. S. (2002). Therapeutic presence:
Therapists’ experience of presence in the psychotherapeutic encounter. Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies, 1, 71- 86.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA