What is EMDR Therapy? All About the Technique Prince Harry Uses for Anxiety
Oct 20, 2021, 4 min read
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a type of psychotherapy that has been gaining widespread recognition, not least because of its endorsement by Prince Harry. He has openly discussed his experiences with mental health and how EMDR has helped him manage anxiety and traumatic memories (source). So, what exactly is EMDR, and how does it work? Let's delve into this therapeutic approach.
What is EMDR?
EMDR therapy was developed in the late 1980s by American psychologist Francine Shapiro. It's an interactive psychotherapy technique used to relieve psychological stress. EMDR is particularly effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it's also used for a variety of other mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.
“One of the appeals of EMDR is that it can be less invasive than other psychotherapies and does not require the individual to have an in-depth conversation about the event. When someone is unable to process an event, it becomes stuck in a state-specific form. The brain is unable to connect to other memory networks that contain adaptive meanings. Through EMDR, your brain waves become synchronised. This helps you process the memory and allows it to be encoded into existing memory networks.” - Adam Getty, EMDR anxiety and trauma specialist
How does EMDR therapy work?
EMDR therapy involves recalling distressing experiences while receiving side-to-side eye movements, hand tapping, or auditory tones. This process is thought to work by allowing the brain to reprocess traumatic memories, changing the way these memories are stored and reducing distress.
EMDR therapy typically follows an eight-phase protocol:
· History and Treatment Planning: The therapist and client review the client's history and identify potential targets for EMDR processing.
· Preparation: The therapist explains the EMDR process and teaches the client various self-control techniques.
· Assessment: The therapist helps the client select specific images related to the memory, formulate negative beliefs associated with the memory, and develop positive beliefs.
· Desensitization: The therapist guides the client through eye movements, taps, or tones while the client focuses on the memory and disturbing feelings.
· Installation: The therapist reinforces the positive beliefs that the client would like to have.
· Body Scan: The therapist asks the client to bring the target event to mind and note any residual tension.
· Closure: The client is guided back to equilibrium, ensuring they leave each session feeling better than or as good as at the beginning.
· Re-evaluation: At the beginning of subsequent sessions, the therapist checks to ensure that the positive effects of previous sessions have been maintained.
EMDR and anxiety
Anxiety can stem from past distressing experiences that continue to cause discomfort. EMDR can help people with anxiety by changing the way these distressing memories are stored in the brain, making them less impactful.
Prince Harry has been open about his struggles with anxiety, particularly relating to his mother's death. He has described how EMDR helped him manage his anxiety and process the trauma of losing his mother at a young age.
The Benefits of EMDR Therapy
EMDR therapy has been extensively researched and has numerous benefits:
· Effectiveness: numerous studies have shown EMDR to be effective for treating PTSD.
· Speed: EMDR can often achieve results more quickly than traditional talk therapy. This is because it targets the memory directly, which can make it a more efficient approach.
· Non-Invasive: EMDR does not involve drugs or hypnosis. It's a natural process that uses the body's own healing mechanisms.
· Versatility: While originally developed for PTSD, EMDR has also been found to be effective for a range of other mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and panic disorders.
Is EMDR right for you?
While EMDR can be an incredibly beneficial therapy, it's not suitable for everyone. It may not be recommended for those with certain health conditions, such as epilepsy or heart problems. It's also important to remember that, like all therapies, EMDR does not guarantee a cure and results can vary from person to person.
EMDR therapy offers a unique and effective approach to managing anxiety and other mental health conditions. Its ability to directly target and alter the way distressing memories are stored in the brain sets it apart from other types of therapy. As Prince Harry's experience shows, it can be a powerful tool on your journey towards improved mental health and well-being.
If you have a question question about PTSD, EMDR or any other mental health challenges, we’re here to assist on your journey. Our free 15 minute consultation can guide you to the most relevant specialists to answer your questions and discuss next steps. Whether you’re feeling off-kilter or want to shake up your routine, our state-of-the-art mental wellbeing platform gives you quick and seamless access to world-class support on your terms, from private psychiatric assessments and reviews to broader mental health care: join us today.