Mindful presence. A thematic analysis of the effects of mindfulness practice on therapeutic presence

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Milton, Niall
Issue Date
MA in Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Sigmund Freud spoke of therapeutic presence as emerging from an impartial, nonjudgemental, evenly applied attention. Carl Rogers referred to therapeutic presence as the essential underlying process in the therapeutic relationship. It has been shown that therapeutic presence is a crosscutting concern in the therapeutic relationship regardless of modality. The quality of presence of the therapist has been found to have a positive influence on therapeutic outcomes. Emerging research in neurobiology suggests that mindfulness practice can have a positive impact on attentional abilities, working memory, present-centred focus and increased affect tolerance. The aim of this study is to enrich the existing research on therapeutic presence, to provide an investigation into the nature of absence in the therapeutic relationship and finally to support the hypothesis that mindfulness practice may be linked to increased therapeutic presence and therefore have a positive effect on therapeutic outcomes. A thematic analysis was applied to five semi-structured interviews. The findings were discussed under the following themes: Inhabiting the Present, Absence and Integration. This study found consensus among the interviewees that therapeutic presence was a core component to their work with clients and began with their own level of personal integration. The exploration of absence brought a deeper understanding to how mindfulness practice can bring more self-acceptance and less self-judgement to the therapist. Finally, the research strongly suggests that the integration of mindfulness practice may bring secondary benefits to the therapist such as increased attentional ability, an increase in perceived self-care & vitality and a decreased risk of burnout. This study found strong justification for further research on 5 the effects of mindfulness practice on the quality of therapeutic presence, especially in the case of longitudinal studies. Author keywords: Mindfulness, therapeutic presence