The therapeutic relationship is essential to positive outcomes of psychotherapy. In this book, Shari Geller and Leslie Greenberg argue that therapeutic presence is the fundamental underlying quality of the therapeutic relationship and, hence, effective therapy.

Therapeutic presence is the state of having one's whole self in the encounter with a client by being completely in the moment on a multiplicity of levels — physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually. Present therapists become aware of both their own experience and that of their client through bodily sensations and emotions, and this awareness helps them to connect deeply with the client. Therapeutic presence is not a replacement for technique, but rather a foundational therapeutic stance that supports deep listening and understanding of the client in the moment.

Geller and Greenberg present their empirically based model of therapeutic presence that integrates three aspects of the concept:

  • how present therapists prepare for presence both pre-session and in general life
  • what activities therapists engage in when being therapeutically present
  • what in-session presence feels like

The authors also provide a therapeutic presence theory of relationship based on research and clinical wisdom. Importantly, because presence is a learnable state that can be cultivated with practice and commitment, the authors infuse the book with practical, experiential exercises for cultivating presence.

Table of Contents


I. Theoretical and Empirical Basis of the Model

  1. History of Presence Across Theoretical Approaches
  2. Empirical Research on Therapeutic Presence
  3. Therapeutic Presence: A Theory of Relationship

II. The Model of Therapeutic Presence

  1. Preparing the Ground for Therapeutic Presence
  2. The Process of Therapeutic Presence
  3. The Experience of Therapeutic Presence

III. Additional Perspectives on Therapeutic Presence

  1. Levels of Therapeutic Presence
  2. Challenges to Therapeutic Presence
  3. Neurobiology of Therapeutic Presence

IV. The Cultivation of Therapeutic Presence

  1. Buddhist Mindfulness: A Way of Enhancing Therapeutic Presence
  2. Experiential Approaches: Somatic, Emotion-Focused, Creative, and Relational Approaches to Cultivating Therapeutic Presence
  3. Therapeutic Presence Exercises and Practices




About the Authors

Author Bios

Shari M. Geller, PhD, is a registered clinical psychologist with a commitment to mindfulness practices and a passion for rhythm and drumming.

Dr. Geller has a 20-year mindfulness practice and weaves Buddhist philosophy and rhythm-based work into her life and clinical practice.  She has a private practice in Toronto and Grey-Bruce County, where she sees individuals and couples with a variety of issues as well as a desire for personal growth and/or emotional, psychological, and spiritual integration. She is also a contract faculty member at York University and the University of Toronto, where she teaches counseling skills, mindfulness, and therapeutic presence practices.

Dr. Geller developed Therapeutic Rhythm and Mindfulness (TRM), a group program integrating mindfulness and rhythm-based technologies to facilitate emotional healing.  Her research interests include the relationship of therapeutic presence to effective therapy and the health benefits of the TRM program for cancer survivors. 

Leslie S. Greenberg, PhD, is a Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at York University in Toronto, Ontario. He is a leading authority on working with emotion in psychotherapy and the developer of emotion-focused therapy, an evidence-based approach. He has authored the major texts on emotion-focused approaches to treatment of individuals and couples.

He has received the Distinguished Research Career Award of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, the Carl Rogers Award of APA's Society for Humanistic Psychology, the Canadian Council of Professional Psychology Programs' Award for Excellence in Professional Training, and the Canadian Psychological Association's Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology as a Profession.

Dr. Greenberg is a founding member of the Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration and a past president of the Society for Psychotherapy Research. He conducts a private practice for individuals and couples and trains people in emotion-focused therapy.

Reviews & Awards

This book is recommended for therapists of all varieties who are looking for ways to refresh their practice.
British Journal of Guidance and Counselling