A Vision of Holistic Counseling: Applying Humanistic-Existential
Principles in the Therapeutic Relationship
by Andrew M. Bland, PhD
"Defined as “bringing one’s whole self to the encounter with the client,
being completely in the moment on a multiplicity of levels” (Geller & Greenberg, 2012, p. 7), therapeutic presence serves as a tool to help clients explore their options for thinking, feeling, and experiencing differently. It involves not so much what to do but rather how to be in the counseling relationship, and it entails a strong degree of reflective, empathetic listening, attending, and responding (Welwood, 2000a). “In moments of emotional exposure and vulnerability it is not advice, solutions, skills training, or Prozac that is needed, but an interested human being” (Graybar & Leonard, 2005, p. 4). In addition, presence necessitates that I: (a) let go of expectations and assumptions about clients and allow them to set the tone and the pace for change (Geller & Greenberg, 2012; La Torre, 2002; S. Robbins, 1998; Welwood, 2000a); (b) attend to my inner experiences of clients and to their responses (both explicit and subtle) to our relationship and the therapy process without attachment or self-consciousness (Geller & Greenberg, 2012; Kahn, 1997; Krug, 2009; Phelon, 2004; Wegela, 2009; Welwood, 2000a); (c) transparently reach out to clients to uncover layers of ambivalence and resistance to change (Geller & Greenberg, 2012; A. Robbins, 1998; Schneider & Krug, 2010); and (d) maintain and model centeredness, equanimity, commitment to personal and spiritual growth, and the courage to be wrong and to flexibly change course as necessary (Geller & Greenberg, 2012; Koser, 2010; La Torre, 2002; Phelon, 2004; Tannen & Daniels, 2010; Wegela, 2009)."