NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM)
What is NARM?
Adapted from www.drlaurenceheller.com
NARM is a method of psychotherapy specifically aimed at treating attachment, relational and
developmental trauma, otherwise referred to as “Complex Trauma”.
This developmentally-oriented, neuroscientifically-informed model emerged out of earlier
psychotherapeutic orientations including Somatic Experiencing, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy,
Attachment Theory, Gestalt Therapy, and diverse Somatic Psychotherapy approaches.
Developed by Dr. Laurence Heller over the course of his 45 year clinical career, it was first
introduced in his widely selling book Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Affects
Self-Regulation, Self-Image and the Capacity for Relationship.
The NARM model is a powerful approach to addressing adverse childhood experiences and its
long-term consequences, as highlighted in the ACEs study.
NARM holds that while what happened in the past is significant, it is not what happened in the
past that creates the symptoms that people experience as adults. It is the persistence of survival
styles appropriate to the past that distorts present experience and creates symptoms.
These survival patterns, having outlived their usefulness, create ongoing disconnection from our
authentic self and from others.
For example, dissociation and isolation are the primary coping mechanisms for dealing with the
earliest trauma. While dissociation and isolation have literally saved people’s lives, as this pattern
continues into adulthood, it creates endless symptoms.
It is also the distortions of identity that develop in response to early trauma which create ongoing suffering. For example, children always experience environmental failure as their own failure. A simple example: if a child grows up with unloving parents, he or she is unable to see that this is their parents’ failure. Children tend to develop the sense of self that they are unlovable.
A core element in the NARM model is working with the child’s and then the adult’s unconscious need to protect the attachment relationship. They do this in a process called splitting, which protects the image of the caregiver at the expense of their own positive sense of self. This has profound repercussions for all of us on a psychobiological level.
The NARM Clinical model has precise and effective techniques for working with the core themes of identity distortion and physiological dysregulation. In the NARM approach, we work simultaneously with the
psychology and the physiology of individuals who have experienced developmental trauma, and focus on the interplay between issues of identity and the capacity for connection and regulation.
The NARM focuses on the fundamental tasks and functional unity of psychological and biological development. It is non-regressive, non-cathartic, and non-pathologizing.