Overcoming Barriers to Therapeutic Presence with Self-Compassion with Dr. Shari Geller

The Annual Memorial Melissa Harte Lecture stands as a testament to Dr. Harte’s exceptional contributions...

Last updated 3 May 2024

The Annual Memorial Melissa Harte Lecture stands as a testament to Dr. Harte’s exceptional contributions to the world of Person-Centered Experiential and Emotion-Focused Therapy. As we come together to celebrate her work, this lecture series aims to illuminate the impactful insights she brought to the field, fostering a continued exploration of her transformative influence on therapeutic practices.

About this talk:

Therapeutic presence (TP) is an essential factor in effective therapeutic and clinical relationships. Therapeutic presence is a way of being that optimises the doing and techniques of therapy and is backed by two decades of research on the art and science of presence. TP provides clients with a sense of safety, allowing them to be seen, heard, understood, and “feel felt,” while also strengthening the therapeutic alliance. TP invites therapists to work on their own balance of presence and compassion with self and clients, ensuring they remain centered and effective even in the face of difficult emotions. This type of relationship helps regulate clients’ emotions and supports their movement towards emotional health and neurophysiological integration. Practicing TP also sustains clinicians’ vitality, connection, and effectiveness.

Self-compassion (SC) is also a key resource for clinicians, allowing them to be with difficulties that keep them present and to support themselves as therapists. Research shows that SC is strongly associated with therapists’ emotional well-being, healthy habits, and more fulfilling relationships. Together, therapeutic presence and self-compassion are powerful resources for counsellors to maintain emotional balance in the midst of challenging clinical work, to enjoy their work and their clients more fully, and to prevent caregiver fatigue and burn-out.

In this lecture, we will explore an empirically validated model of TP and how to create safety using neurophysiological principles based on concepts such as co-regulation and neuroception of safety stemming from Polyvagal Theory (Geller & Porges, 2014). We will incorporate evidenced based practices from Dr. Geller’s books, ‘A Practical Guide for Cultivating Therapeutic Presence’ and ‘Therapeutic Presence: A Mindful Approach to Effective Therapeutic Relationships (co-authored with Leslie Greenberg), including mindfulness, self-compassion, and experiential/creative practices. SC will be explored as a powerful tool for overcoming barriers such as self-doubt, navigating through difficult emotions, and addressing therapeutic ruptures. This talk will be didactic and experiential to allow for take-home practices and techniques for cultivating therapists’ presence and self-compassion.

Course Content

Overcoming Barriers to Therapeutic Presence with Self-Compassion with Dr. Shari Geller


Dr Shari Geller, PhD.

Dr. Shari Geller is an author, clinical psychologist, and certified Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) teacher, offering training modules in therapeutic presence internationally as part of a longer-term vision of having presence be a foundational training across psychotherapy approaches.

Shari co-authored the book, Therapeutic Presence: A Mindful Approach to Effective Therapeutic Relationships – 2nd Edition (2022) with Dr. Leslie S. Greenberg. Shari’s book: A Practical Guide For Cultivating Therapeutic Presence (2017), offers hands on tools and guidance for cultivating and strengthening presence in therapy. Shari is a co-editor on a new book: Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy: A Clinical Handbook (manuscript in preparation).

Shari is part of the core faculty of the Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy (SCIP) certificate program and is Membership and Networking Committee Chair for the International Society for Emotion Focused Therapy (isEFT).

Shari is the co-director of the Centre for MindBody Health, in Toronto, where she offers training, supervision and therapy in Emotion-Focused therapy (EFT) and Mindfulness and Self-Compassion modalities for individuals and couples.

Dr. Melissa Harte

(1959 – 2021)

Counselling and Clinical Psychologist, trainer, supervisor and therapist, Melissa’s vibrancy and commitment made her a treasured and esteemed member of the Person-Centred Experiential and Emotion Focused Therapeutic international community. Melissa developed the Expanded Focusing model for working with traumatic pain, outlined in her book Processing Emotional Pain Using Emotion Focused Therapy (2019). She founded the Australian Institute of Emotion Focused Therapy in Melbourne where her influence lives on. We honour Melissa as a much loved colleague, mentor and friend.