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DR MAX PEMBERTON: William and Harry should go to therapy together

The whole country held its breath recently as Princes William and Harry took a joint stroll with their wives to view the floral tributes at Windsor Castle.

It had been rumored that they were no longer on speaking terms and had not been pictured together since the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral last April. Surely this is what the Queen would have wanted – to bring the warring brothers together in their time of grief?

The princes have been on a united front during the events surrounding their grandmother’s lie-in-state and will be together again at her funeral today.

But what we all want to know is: will the ceasefire last?

Prince William and Prince Harry have been on a united front at the events surrounding their grandmother's lying-in-state and will be together again at her funeral
Prince William and Prince Harry have been on a united front at the events surrounding their grandmother's lying-in-state and will be together again at her funeral

Prince William and Prince Harry have been on a united front at the events surrounding their grandmother’s lying-in-state and will be together again at her funeral

Fallout with relatives is always complicated. I’ve sat in many family therapy sessions over the years, and these kinds of rifts always have incredibly deep, complex roots.

Even in cases where one person appears to be in the wrong, the goal of any group therapy is to try to help everyone understand what has happened and reach a resolution.

While a schism can be triggered by a specific event, it is usually the culmination of ancient wounds that have not healed.

Family members may be confused about what is really going on until they begin therapy together.

Harry has behaved unreasonably – at least on the face of it. He wants to escape royal life but still have its privileges.

And Meghan has made some incredibly hurtful and damaging claims in public that must have been extraordinarily painful for the royals.

Dr.  Max Pemberton (pictured) explains that family rifts have deep, complex roots.  He argues that Prince William and his brother should attend therapy together
Dr.  Max Pemberton (pictured) explains that family rifts have deep, complex roots.  He argues that Prince William and his brother should attend therapy together

Dr. Max Pemberton (pictured) explains that family rifts have deep, complex roots. He argues that Prince William and his brother should attend therapy together

On paper, they seem like a couple that would be hard to reconcile.

But I have no doubt that this feud runs deeper than just recent events. We cannot know what is really behind the fallout – the deep wounds on both sides that caused the split.

The display of unity we’ve seen over the past week or so — while a huge gesture — is just the beginning. A lasting reconciliation will, I suspect, require the brothers to meet privately to try to understand each other’s pain.

I would encourage them to do this with a family therapist so they can truly understand what happened to their once heartwarming bond.

At a later stage, their wives and fathers may also be invited to attend. This is the only way central issues can be resolved.

Harry has talked about having therapy himself, which is to be commended, but there is sometimes a risk that too much introspection can lead to self-pity where the patient gets stuck.

In order to move forward, it is helpful to sit down and try to understand what is going on between the individuals, rather than just focusing on one person’s feelings. This involves getting both parties in the same room.

I have often had patients who are surprised by what their relatives tell them. They had no idea that certain things that happened years ago were played out over and over again in the family.

But family therapy is not about assigning blame. It is about trying to help the various parties understand how a situation has developed; it is a study in deep interpersonal understanding and empathy.

A therapist may focus on analyzing a past complaint or review a past incident and suggest alternative ways family members might have responded to each other at that time.

They can also address the sources of conflict at a more abstract level, such as pointing out patterns of interaction that the family may not have noticed. Family therapists tend to be more interested in maintaining or resolving problems, rather than trying to identify a single cause. They are focused on finding a way forward rather than simply looking back.

The reality of reconciliation is that regardless of the circumstances, there are only a certain number of ways it can end.

The ideal solution is for everyone to listen to each other, understand the roots of each other’s pain, be able to put aside pride and apologize, even if what they did was unconscious or unintentional.

They come to an understanding of how a situation has developed and how it can be prevented in the future. They do this in the spirit of moving forward with the understanding that they will reflect on the patterns that have emerged and actively engage in addressing them in a constructive way.

Sometimes they have to agree that the past is in the past and put it behind them. The relationship will never be as cordial as it once was, as the wounds are still there.

But sometimes it’s clear that at least one party isn’t ready to address their behavior. I have had therapy sessions where family members have simply refused to participate and an empty chair is placed where they wanted to sit.

In this case, it is accepted that the relationship is unlikely to be saved. Instead, individuals work on their own to try to understand what has happened and hopefully no longer feel offended. They accept that they cannot change the person and then they move on.

More often than not, while some individuals dread the prospect of family therapy, once they attend, they are amazed at how helpful it is.

In 20 years I can count on one hand the number of people who have told me it didn’t help. The most frequent feedback is that they wish they had done it sooner.

At 19, Lila is a growing (role) model

Dr.  Max Pemberton applauds Lila Grace Moss (pictured) for her courage to show off her insulin pump at Tom Ford's New York Fashion Week presentation
Dr.  Max Pemberton applauds Lila Grace Moss (pictured) for her courage to show off her insulin pump at Tom Ford's New York Fashion Week presentation

Dr. Max Pemberton applauds Lila Grace Moss (pictured) for her courage to show off her insulin pump at Tom Ford’s New York Fashion Week presentation

Lila Moss was photographed at Tom Ford’s New York Fashion Week presentation with her insulin pump proudly on display.

Good for her. Regardless of whether she is a successful model and the daughter of Kate Moss, it takes guts for a 19-year-old to do that.

I have had a number of young patients with type I diabetes over the years, and although insulin pumps have revolutionized the way the condition is treated, people are often self-conscious about them.

I remember a young woman who had never been to the beach because she was so worried that people would see her insulin pump.

She felt it marked her as ‘different’ from her friends when all she wanted to be was the same as them. Sometimes it takes a celebrity in the public eye to show that there is no reason to be ashamed.

Although I understand that the Queen’s funeral today is to be marked with a public holiday, I feel sympathy for those who had been waiting to see doctors or had an operation cancelled. I had my clinic shut down, but insisted that all patients be admitted next week. It means we’re working late while we play catch-up, but I think her majesty would approve.

  • Details have emerged about the HRT now available over the counter, and unfortunately it’s not quite the game changer we were hoping for. It is not conventional HRT, and crucially, it does not help with some symptoms of menopause (such as hot flashes) or protect against heart disease. This is because it is a pessary that contains a low level of estrogen which is not absorbed by the body. Although it helps with vaginal atrophy (that’s uncomfortable thinning, drying and inflammation), it doesn’t have the systemic effects of a tablet or gel. Women still have difficulty getting the right menopause diagnosis, and supply chain issues still cause a shortage of HRT for all the women who need it.

DR MAX PRESCRIBE…

THE QUEEN’S BEST QUOTES

You Look Awfully Like The Queen is packed with wit and anecdotes from Her Majesty and the Royal Family
You Look Awfully Like The Queen is packed with wit and anecdotes from Her Majesty and the Royal Family

You Look Awfully Like The Queen is packed with wit and anecdotes from Her Majesty and the Royal Family

This book was published a while ago but I picked it off my shelf after the sad news of the Queen’s death and it lifted my spirits. You Look Awfully Like The Queen is packed with wit and anecdotes from Her Majesty and the Royal Family. It reminds us how, despite all the pomp and ceremony that came with her title, she was only human and had a pretty wicked sense of humor at times.

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