‘London is a trigger’: Harry tells trauma therapist of his fears about visiting UK – as he lets cameras film him crossing his arms and closing his eyes in footage from EMDR session that has ‘freed him’
- Duke speaks about therapy in his new Apple TV mental health documentary series with Oprah Winfrey
- Said he has ‘always felt worried’ when flying back to London but only became aware of this after therapy
- He was filmed having a form of therapy known as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing)
- This is a treatment technique using body movements for helping someone come to terms with past trauma
Prince Harry has bared his soul and allowed cameras to film him undergoing an ‘extraordinary’ therapy session, during which he received treatment for anxiety attacks he said are triggered every time he flies into Britain.
The Duke of Sussex closed his eyes and tapped his chest during ‘eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing’ (EMDr) treatment that he told viewers was to cope with the trauma of feeling ‘hunted’ while on UK soil.
Harry said in his new mental health documentary series with Oprah Winfrey that he has ‘always felt worried’ for most of his life when he flies back to London, but only became aware of this after doing therapy.
Appearing on Apple TV’s The Me You Can’t See, Harry told how he remembered ‘everything felt tense’ when he travelled to London ‘because of what happened to my mum, and because of what I experienced and what I saw’.
The Duke, who co-created the documentary, has addressed traumatic memories from his childhood, including the death of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, and the impact of social media on him as well as his wife Meghan.
He was filmed having EMDR therapy, which aims to help someone come to terms with trauma. This saw Harry carry out a series of movements such as closing his eyes and crossing his arms while remembering past events.
But royal biographer Angela Levin, author of Harry: Conversations With The Prince, tweeted: ‘I felt watching Harry during his therapy session was a huge invasion of his privacy. Extraordinary that he allowed that to happen.’
Therapy expert Frank Furedi said: ‘Harry may have few equals as a one-man advertisement for the therapy industry, but he is more than just an enthusiastic convert, or run of the mill celebrity aristocrat, who has seen the light.
Prince Harry carries out movements such as crossing his arms while remembering events in his past during therapy
The Duke of Sussex closes his eyes during a therapy session shown in the new Apple TV documentary series
Harry’s therapy session was filmed and shown on the new Apple TV documentary series The Me You Can’t See
Prince Harry was filmed having a form of therapy known as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing)
Appearing on the Apple TV programme, Harry told how he remembered ‘everything felt tense’ when he travelled to London
The Duke spoke to Sanja Oakley, a UK-based psychotherapist who used to be a trauma specialist for London Underground
Mr Furedi told the Telegraph: ‘Through his recent interviews, he has succeeded in crafting a unique brand for himself, personifying the perfect synthesis of the status of a celebrity with that of a victim.’
The Duke, who now lives in an £11million mansion in Montecito, California, carried out the therapy via videolink with Sanja Oakley, a UK-based psychotherapist who used to be a trauma specialist for London Underground.
How EMDR therapy tries to unblock the impact of a traumatic experience
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy treatment that helps people heal from the symptoms and emotional distress following disturbing life experiences.
The idea is that the mind can heal from trauma by using mental processes that helps to unblock the impact of a traumatic experience so someone can heal from it.
Experts have compared it to the physical practice of removing a foreign object from a wound to help it heal.
Sessions see eye movements used, with the client asked to hold different aspects of a memory in their mind. They are then encouraged to use their eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision.
Studies have connected this with the biological mechanisms involved in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which bring out internal associations and help clients process the memory and disturbing feelings.
This is then meant to help clients conclude that EMDR therapy makes them feel empowered by the experiences, with the wounds closed and transformed.
Over 100,000 clinicians around the world are said to have used the therapy, with millions of people treated with it over the past 25 years.
Prince Harry told the documentary, released today: ‘For most of my life I’ve always felt worried, concerned, a little bit tense and uptight whenever I fly back into the UK, whenever I fly back into London.
‘And I could never understand why. I was aware of it, I wasn’t aware of it at the time when I was younger, but after I started doing therapy stuff I became aware of it.
‘I was like, why do I feel so uncomfortable? And of course for me London is a trigger, unfortunately, because of what happened to my mum, and because of what I experienced and what I saw.’
He told London-based Mrs Oakley: ‘Happens every time. I can’t remember the first time it happened, I can just remember the feeling, anxiety, like a hollow empty feeling almost of nervousness, is it fear? Everything feels tense.
‘It’s being the hunted, and being helpless and knowing that you can’t do anything about it. There is no escape. There is no way out of this.’
Speaking to Oprah in episode three about his work with Mrs Oakley, he added: ‘Wherever I could I wanted to understand more about what was going on and why my nervous system was reacting the way that it was.
‘I quickly established that if this relationship was going to work then I was going to have to deal with my past, because there was anger there, and it wasn’t anger at her, it was just anger, and she recognised it, she saw it.
‘Well, so how do I fix this? And it was a case of needing to go back to the past, go back to the point of trauma, deal with it, process it, and then move forward.
‘Having now done therapy for four and bit years, five years now, for me it’s all about prevention.
‘That doesn’t mean we have to speak to them every single day, but to have someone that can help guide us and create that awareness in our own life to when we might be feeling pain and how to get out of that and what the tools are available to us on any given day to make sure that it doesn’t snowball into something bigger.
‘EMDR is always something that I’ve wanted to try and that was one of the varieties of different forms of healing or curing that I was willing to experiment with.
Prince Harry walks in the procession at Windsor Castle during the funeral of his grandfather Prince Philip on April 17
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle carry out their final engagement as senior royals at Westminster Abbey in March 2020
Diana, Princess of Wales with her younger son Prince Harry in May 1995. She died in Paris two years later in August 1997
‘And I never would have been open to that had I not put in the work and the therapy that I’ve done over the years.’
Kate Garraway reveals she has had the same EMDR therapy as Harry after ‘traumatic’ year
Kate Garraway today revealed she has had the same EMDR therapy that Prince Harry has had.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain today, she said she too had tried the therapy, which provides bilateral stimulation by tapping the hands or moving eyes rapidly, to help overcome the effects of psychological trauma.
Ranvir Singh & Kate Garraway on Good Morning Britain today
Garraway, 54, turned to therapy amid her harrowing year, which saw her husband Derek Draper, 53, remain critically ill in intensive care after contracting Covid-19.
Explaining the therapy, Garraway said: ‘It’s called Eye Movement Desentisiation Reprocessing, a bit of a mouthful, I have actually had a little bit of this.
‘It’s not a million miles away from from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, processes like this. Less to do with therapy where you talk about your childhood, it’s more practical.’
Garraway, 54, turned to therapy after a yer that saw her husband Derek Draper, 53, remain critically ill in intensive care
The duke also told Oprah that his family did not speak about Diana’s death and expected him to just deal with the resulting press attention and mental distress.
Referring to his attempts to get assistance from his family with the attacks levelled at the Sussexes online, he also said: ‘Every single ask, request, warning, whatever it is, to stop just got met with total silence or total neglect.
‘We spent four years trying to make it work. We did everything that we possibly could to stay there and carry on doing the role and doing the job.’
The series comes after Harry earlier in May appeared to suggest his father, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had failed as parents.
Speaking on the Armchair Expert podcast, the duke said he wanted to ‘break the cycle’ of ‘genetic pain and suffering’ for the sake of his own children.
He said of Charles: ‘He’s treated me the way he was treated, so how can I change that for my own kids?’
He picked up the theme with Oprah, telling her: ‘My father used to say to me when I was younger, he used to say to both William and I, ‘Well it was like that for me so it’s going to be like that for you.”
‘That doesn’t make sense. Just because you suffered doesn’t mean that your kids have to suffer, in fact quite the opposite – if you suffered, do everything you can to make sure that whatever negative experiences you had, that you can make it right for your kids,’ he said.
The now 36-year-old said his family told him to ‘play the game’ and life would improve. But he objected, telling Oprah: ‘I’ve got a hell of a lot of my mum in me. The only way to free yourself and break out is to tell the truth.’
Harry told Oprah he would ‘never be bullied into silence’ in the future.
He said he did not go to his family when Meghan felt suicidal because he was ashamed the situation had got ‘that bad’ and also suspected the royals would not have been able to help.
The duke said: ‘That was one of the biggest reasons to leave, feeling trapped and feeling controlled through fear, both by the media and by the system itself which never encouraged the talking about this kind of trauma. Certainly now I will never be bullied into silence.’
Pop superstar Lady Gaga and actress Glenn Close also featured in the documentaries, with the singer discussing her serious mental health struggles after she was raped as a teenager.
The documentary series will focus on mental illness and mental wellness and aims to inspire viewers to have an honest conversation about the challenges people face and how to equip themselves with the tools to thrive.
Hours before it aired, Harry joined his brother William in criticising the BBC following an inquiry which found the broadcaster covered up ‘deceitful behaviour’ used by journalist Martin Bashir to secure his headline-making 1995 interview with their mother.
Who is Sanja Oakley? How Prince Harry’s therapist used to work for London Underground as a trauma specialist
Sanja Oakley, 56, is a psychotherapist based in London
Sanja Oakley is a psychotherapist based in London who has 20 years’ experience in both private practice and the public sector across Britain, Europe and the US.
The 56-year-old, who is British but was born in Zagreb, Croatia, began her career in sales and marketing in consumer software, publishing and media.
She then moved into psychotherapy and executive coaching, saying that her practice clients ‘include CEOs, home-makers and young people starting out in life’.
Mrs Oakley is best known for being a consultant and practitioner of eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR), which is a psychotherapeutic technique for treatment of previous trauma, used by Prince Harry.
She previously worked as a coaching and trauma specialist at London Underground, and has also been involved with the Center for Victims of Torture in St Paul, Minnesota.
Mrs Oakley offers therapy both at her office on Regents Street in Central London and via Skype, and is registered with the UK Council for Psychotherapy.
The psychotherapist was most recently listed as living in a five-bedroom house in North London worth £1.7million. She is married to 54-year-old Adam Oakley, who is believed to be her second husband.