Melissa Harte Memorial Lecture – February 2024 – Online

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.

Dr. Shari Geller, Ph.D., C. Psych

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.

Dr. Shari Geller, Ph.D., C. Psych

Shari is an author, clinical psychologist, certified Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) teacher and leader in the field of therapeutic presence. Among numerous appointments, Shari is the co-director of the Centre for MindBody Health, where she offers training, supervision and therapy in Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) and Mindfulness and Self-Compassion. Shari co-authored the book Therapeutic Presence: A Mindful Approach to Effective Therapy (2012) with Dr Leslie S. Greenberg, and more recently, A Practical Guide For Cultivating Therapeutic Presence (2017).

Dr. Melissa Harte (1959-2021)

Dr Melissa Harte (1959-2021), Clinical and Counselling Psychologist, was an extraordinary human with an enormous heart and boundless energy for her work. She dedicated her professional life to improving psychological services in Australia through founding the Australian Institute of Emotion Focused Therapy, research in Emotion Focused Therapy, and her involvement with the Australian Psychological Society. Melissa developed her model, the Extended Focusing Task, for resolving emotional injuries and trauma which is detailed in her book Processing Emotional Pain using Emotion Focused Therapy (published 8th November 2019).

Melissa has left a significant legacy having transformed the lives of many through her therapeutic work, supervision, and training, and having established and inspired a community of Emotion Focused Practitioners in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Melissa will also be remembered for her enthusiastic participation in the international arena of Person Centred Therapy.
The Annual Memorial Melissa Harte Lecture was established to honour Dr Melissa Harte’s work and pay tribute to her contribution to the world of Person Centred Experiential and Emotion Focused Therapy.

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