What Is Prince Harry's EMDR Therapy?

This article contains mentions of mental health issues and substance abuse.

In his new Apple TV+ series about mental health, Prince Harry opened up about the trauma that drove him to heavy drinking and drugs, per the BBC, and revealed the specific form of therapy that helped him recover: EMDR.

Prince Harry spoke to Oprah Winfrey, the show's co-creator, about one specific memory that EMDR helped him resolve.

The royal opened up about his mother's death in 1997 and how the world watched as he walked behind her coffin at the funeral in London, according to the outlet. 

"For me the thing I remember the most was the sound of the horses' hooves going along the Mall," he said, describing the vivid memory of following the procession with his brother William, father Charles, grandfather Philip, and Diana's brother. "It was like I was outside of my body and just walking along doing what was expected of me. Showing one-tenth of the emotion that everybody else was showing: this was my mum — you never even met her."

Even London itself brought up emotions around Diana and her death, as USA Today reported. Harry revealed how flying back to the city made him feel "hunted" and "helpless," as if there was "no escape" from those memories. 

But EMDR has helped him deal with these thoughts and traumatic memories effectively. This is how it works.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

EMDR helped Harry with memories of his mother's funeral

According to the EMDR Institute, the acronym stands for "Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing." This treatment, which consists of eight stages, has been approved by the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, and the Department of Defense. It tackles the "symptoms and emotional distress" that are caused by disturbing life experiences.

And as Harry shared on "The Me You Can't See," it involves a client bringing up a traumatic memory and focusing on the physical or visual details in order to reframe it. Per the EMDR Institute, the therapist aims to replace the negative associations through "bilateral stimulation" like tapping or eye movement, putting the memory into a different context. The Institute reports that adults with trauma from a single event can "generally" see successful results in less than five hours.

According to OK magazine, his psychotherapist Sanja Oakley is an expert in helping people overcome trauma. Her methods are shown in the show, as Harry taps alternately on each shoulder while exploring a negative memory. Eventually the royal says that he has found "calmness" and "strength" in the process, per USA Today.

As the royal told Oprah Winfrey, EMDR forced him to address his most painful memories. "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," he said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.