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May 28, 2024
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Why Prince Harry Used EMDR and Why You Should Too

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Sourced Photo

Image commercially licensed from: Unsplash

 

Prince Harry has been very open about his mental health struggles and his journey to healing. He has sought various forms of therapy and shared his experiences to help break down the stigma surrounding mental health. 

One therapy Prince Harry has spoken about using — and even does an exercise from in his most recent show on Apple TV+ “The Me You Can’t See,” — is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR. EMDR was developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Francine Shapiro, and is based on the idea that traumatic memories and emotions can become “stuck” in the brain and continue to cause distress and interfere with daily life.

The basics of EMDR therapy

EMDR is a type of therapy used to treat individuals who have experienced traumatic events or are dealing with overwhelming stress. EMDR therapy believes that many distressing symptoms (i.e., anxiety, panic, depression, flashbacks, etc) are the result of your brain being unable to process an experience. You might say that distressing experience got “stuck” in your nervous system, and is causing you “yuck”. The therapy is designed to help the brain process traumatic memories and emotions in a safe and structured way. EMDR consists of 8 phases or steps, each of which is important for a safe and supportive healing experience. 

EMDR uses bilateral stimulation —– including eye movements, tapping, or sounds — to stimulate both sides of the brain to process and integrate a distressing memory. EMDR includes specific techniques to prepare the client for memory reprocessing, techniques for identifying memories to reprocess, and a structured protocol to activate the target memory. When in the EMDR phases of memory reprocessing, the therapist uses bilateral stimulation to support integration of the experience, which results in a reduction or complete elimination of associated symptoms. 

The goal of EMDR is to help the brain process the traumatic memory in a way that reduces the emotional intensity associated with it, which promotes healing and resolution. EMDR therapy has been shown to be effective for several mental health concerns, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, grief and loss, chronic pain, and addiction. It is effective with children, adolescents, and adults. After a successful EMDR session, clients typically report that a previously difficult experience “no longer bothers” them, and associated symptoms are either reduced or resolved.

Prince Harry and EMDR

Prince Harry has spoken openly about his struggles with mental health, including his experiences with trauma and grief. In a 2017 interview with the Telegraph, Prince Harry shared that he had sought therapy and used EMDR to help him process his traumatic experiences.

Prince Harry served in the British Army for 10 years, during which he was twice deployed to Afghanistan. He has spoken about the mental toll his military service took on him, including the trauma of losing fellow soldiers in combat.

In the same interview with the Telegraph, Prince Harry spoke about the impact of the death of his mother, Princess Diana, when he was just 12 years old. He shared that he had buried his emotions for many years, and that therapy — including EMDR — had helped him to process and release some of the emotional pain.

Prince Harry’s use of EMDR highlights the effectiveness of the therapy for trauma and grief. EMDR allowed Prince Harry to address his traumatic experiences in a safe and supportive environment, leading to a reduction in the intensity of his emotions and symptoms.

Expectations and considerations of EMDR

During an EMDR session, the therapist typically begins by conducting an assessment to gather information about the client’s history, symptoms, and specific goals for therapy. The therapist will also provide information about the EMDR process, and answer any questions the client may have.

The therapist and client then work together, using specific EMDR techniques, to identify target memories that are producing distressing symptoms. Once those memories are identified, the therapist uses a structured protocol to activate the memory, and then provides sets of bilateral stimulation to support the memory integration and reprocess them to a point of resolution. 

The therapist will help the client maintain dual awareness during the session, meaning that the client is aware of both the traumatic memory from the past, while also remaining connected to  the present moment in the therapy room. This helps the client feel safe and grounded during the session, even as they process difficult emotions and memories. Maintaining dual awareness is also a means to prevent the client from reliving the experience in a way that is not helpful and could produce more distress.

As the client works through the target memory, they may experience changes to distressing emotions, thoughts, images, and body sensations. Images typically fade or become fuzzy. Negative emotions and thoughts tend to resolve and the client typically experiences a complete reduction in distressing body sensations when the memory is recalled. The target memory is fully reprocessed once the client thinks of the experience and they feel neutral about it, in that it no longer activates distress.

At the end of the session, the therapist will help the client reorient to the present moment, and to feel safe and grounded before leaving the session. Sometimes, clients end a session feeling on top of the world because they reprocessed a memory. Other sessions may be more tender, requiring some additional grounding and soothing skills to regulate at the end of the session. Your therapist may also make recommendations for skills to practice between sessions to support the healing process. 

It’s important to note that the experience of an EMDR session can vary depending on the individual and their specific needs. The therapist will work collaboratively with the client to tailor the therapy to their unique situation and goals. Some clients work through target memories quickly with EMDR, while others may take weeks to months. 

It’s not a magic bullet, and it may not be effective for everyone. However, with the guidance of a trained EMDR therapist, many people have found relief from their symptoms and reported a reduction in the intensity of their emotions and distress associated with traumatic memories.

EMDR is a powerful tool for healing from trauma, grief, and other mental health concerns. Prince Harry’s use of EMDR has helped raise awareness of this powerful therapy and its effectiveness for trauma and grief. EMDR is an evidence-based therapy that can help you process and integrate difficult memories, reducing their emotional intensity and allowing you to move forward with greater ease. If you are struggling with mental health concerns or have experienced trauma, consider exploring EMDR with a trained therapist. It may be the key to unlocking the power of your nervous system and healing from experiences that haunt you.

Rebecca Kase is a licensed clinical social worker, yoga instructor, EMDR consultant, and basic trainer with over 15 years of experience in the mental health field. She is the owner of Kase & CO, a private practice that specializes in treating trauma, anxiety, depression, and addictions using evidence-based practices such as EMDR therapy. Kase is passionate about helping her clients heal from past experiences and develop the skills and strategies they need to live happy, healthy lives. Rebecca Kase is committed to ongoing learning and professional development and is always seeking new ways to improve her practice and better serve her clients.

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