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What is EMDR? The ‘bizarre’ therapy helping Prince Harry heal

SMH - Samantha Selinger-Morris

kates Schwager 0 29

When Prince Harry spoke earlier this week about how he has undergone a controversial type of psychotherapy to heal from longstanding trauma and anxiety, the world took notice.

What exactly, we all wondered, is Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)? What happened when he closed his eyes, crossed his arms, and tapped his own shoulders while thinking of traumatic memories – as we saw in a scene from one of his therapy sessions in the documentary series, The Me You Can’t See? The Duke of Sussex said he has turned to therapy to resolve fears and anxiety he’s suffered since his mother’s death in a car accident in 1997 when he was 12. (“London is a trigger, unfortunately,” he says, in one episode. “Because of what happened to my mum, and because of what I experienced and what I saw.“)

But what does EMDR, which was once called “yet another of the crazes that have always plagued psychiatry” (by trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk) – and which has in the last couple of years been labelled everything from “strange” to “funny” and “sounding like witchcraft” – accomplish? And why is it growing in popularity?

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