Prince Harry raises awareness of EMDR

11 August, 2021

Prince Harry was filmed during part of a therapy session with EMDR UK member Sanja Oakley for his Apple TV series on mental health The Me You Can’t See. He says: “One of the biggest lessons that I’ve ever learned in life is you’ve sometimes got to go back and to deal with really uncomfortable situations and be able to process it in order to be able to heal.”

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is you’ve got to go back and deal with really uncomfortable situation to be able to process and heal

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex

The image of the Prince with his eyes closed, hands crossed in the ‘butterfly tap’ – the bilateral stimulation part of EMDR therapy* – has been broadcast around the world, catapulting EMDR into the headlines. Has a therapy ever received such a surge of focused and intense global publicity? Here’s a snapshot of some of the UK and other English language press coverage.

The Telegraph headlined how Prince Harry used EMDR to process childhood trauma and then features the story of a head teacher who had an emotionally neglectful upbringing which led to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR UK President Mike O’Connor and board member Sandi Richman were quoted, explaining that EMDR is mainstream, available on the NHS and endorsed by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence; it can be used to treat common mental health issues including anxiety and depression; and emerging research evidence shows it’s as effective as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for PTSD, but EMDR takes fewer sessions.

Channel 4’s Steph’s Packed Lunch interviewed EMDR UK member Claire van der Bosch, and her client Louise Graham, who described how EMDR changed her life after her mother’s death. Claire gave a crash course in the butterfly hug to studio guests Alastair Campbell, Marcus Brigstocke and Denise van Outen. Louise’s story was also featured in the Independent.

Teacher Christina Wyman wrote in The Guardian about how EMDR saved her life and was the only therapy which allowed her to overcome generational trauma. She hoped Prince Harry realised how many people he had helped by sharing his story.

The Prince Harry programme led to more well-known people sharing that they have had EMDR. Good Morning Britain presenter Kate Garraway said it helped her deal with the trauma of her husband’s hospitalisation due to Covid-19 and Paris Jackson opened up to Willow Smith about how she had used the therapy to manage her PTSD developed after years of bombardment by the paparazzi. Palm Beach Post refers to other celebrities who credit EMDR with helping them, including actor Evan Rachel Wood and comedienne Whitney Cummings

There was widespread coverage across the US including Good Morning America and USA Today. And here are just a couple of examples from Australia and India – Australian 7 News and India Express.

It’s not often that publications as diverse as Glamour magazine and Mental Health Today cover the same topic, but they both focused on EMDR, the latter featuring an in-depth interview with EMDR UK’s Justin Havens.

Prince Harry’s exploration of EMDR has raised awareness of its benefits in an extraordinary way which will have far reaching consequences. Many people around the world who have suffered from trauma have now discovered the therapy could be an option for them. We have Prince Harry to thank of course, but also EMDR UK member Sanja Oakley who generously took part in the programme, giving freely of her time to help bring attention to the therapy.

*The butterfly tap is one of the forms of Bilateral Stimulation used in EMDR therapy. Others include left to right eye movements (the original form) or alternating sounds or combinations of all these three.