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Using EMDR Therapy to Heal 

Written by Roberta Phillips-Copeland on in Health & Wellness

Prince Harry’s recent discussion of using EMDR to improve his mental health has drawn attention to this therapy.

Prince Harry’s recent discussion of using EMDR to improve his mental health has drawn attention to this therapy.

In a new docuseries called “The Me You Can’t See,” England’s Prince Harry speaks to media mogul Oprah Winfrey about his mental health struggles. In their informative discussion, the new Montecito resident talked about using EMDR therapy to help him with the psychological trauma of losing his mother, Princess Diana.

EMDR has been used by therapists since the 1980s and is one of the many treatment options available at Lompoc Health – Counseling Center.

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is an eight-phase treatment designed to help patients transform the meaning of a painful event on an emotional level, allowing them to feel empowered by the experiences or events that once caused such trauma.

EMDR therapy may employ the use of tapping techniques, which Prince Harry uses to calm himself. Alternating bilateral stimulation is alternating tapping motions on your knees, legs, or shoulders, for example. The Duke of Sussex crosses his arms across his chest and taps each of his shoulders to ease the distress and anguish associated with his traumatic memories. 

As he is shown conducting his tapping, Prince Harry indicates he feels stronger and has a sense of calmness.

Eye movements are also used after a therapist determines which memory to target. The patient holds aspects of the memory in mind and uses their eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the patient’s field of vision.

The successes of EMDR over decades of use show us that the mind, and not just the body, can recover from psychological trauma. EMDR can also be used with children who have suffered trauma.

Prince Harry said that he had undergone therapy for about four years and said therapists are people who can “help guide us, create that awareness in our own life to when we might be feeling pain and how to get out of that.”

Practitioners such as myself and fellow therapists acknowledge that by the end of EMDR therapy, a patient should find that memories and situations that were previously disturbing or troublesome are no longer problematic. New, healthy responses to the “triggers” should be more normal. In the docuseries, Prince Harry speaks about previously having great distress every time he was in London, which was a “trigger” for his experiences around his mother’s death and the emotions he experienced.

EMDR is a useful therapy for those suffering from flashbacks or people having bad dreams, frightening thoughts, angry outbursts, negative thoughts about themselves or the world, or distorted feelings of guilt and blame.   

Lompoc Valley Medical Center: Counseling Center offers EMDR as one treatment among many others, all individually tailored to the specific patient. For more information or an appointment, call 805-875-8850. 

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Author: Roberta Phillips-Copeland, Licensed Marriage Family Therapist

Roberta “Bobbie” Phillips-Copeland has been a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist since 2009, working with children, adolescents, couples, families, and individuals. She has been trained in a variety of mental health, relationship, and life issues, including anxiety, depression, grief, and trauma (both developmental trauma and PTSD). Bobbie has also been trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or “EMDR” and a powerful trauma-informed treatment known as “Ego State Therapy.”