The spontaneous movement towards connection, health an aliveness is the driving force in all of us. No matter how withdrawn and isolated we have become, or how serious the trauma we have experienced, on the deepest level, just as a plant spontaneously moves towards sunlight, there is in each of us an impulse moving towards connection and healing. This organismic impulse is the fuel of the NARM approach.
Laurence Heller, PhD & Aline LaPierre, Psych.D.
The Neuroaffective Relationship Model (NARM™) is a psychotherapeutic approach specifically designed to treat attachment, relationship, and developmental trauma, also referred to as “complex trauma” (Complex-PTSD or C-PTSD). This developmentally oriented, neuroscience-based method emerged from psychotherapeutic orientations such as psychodynamic psychotherapy, attachment theory, Gestalt therapy, and somatic psychotherapy. NARM™ integrates top-down psychotherapy with bottom-up somatics approaches in a relational context.
NARM™ was developed by Dr. Laurence Heller over the course of his 45-year clinical career and first introduced in his 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 their long-term consequences as revealed in the ACEs study.
NARM™ assumes that while biography matters, it is not what happened in the past that causes the symptoms people experience as adults. It is the persistence of survival strategies that were once appropriate that distort the present experience and produce symptoms. These survival strategies have lost their usefulness and lead to a constant disconnection from our authentic self and from others.
For example, dissociation and isolation are the primary coping mechanisms for dealing with early trauma. Dissociation and isolation have literally saved people’s lives, but when these mechanisms continue into adulthood, they cause persistent symptoms.
It is the distortion of identity that develops in response to early trauma that causes ongoing suffering. Example: When children grow up with unloving parents, they are not able to realize that this is their parents’ failure. Children always experience the failures of the environment as their own failures and develop the feeling that they themselves are not lovable. A core element of the NARM™ model is working with the unconscious need of the child, and later the adult, to protect the attachment and love relationship. By compartmentalizing developmental needs and emotions, the image of the caregiver is protected at the expense of one’s own positive sense of self. This has profound implications on a psychobiological level.
The NARM™ clinical model has precise and effective techniques for working with the core issues of identity distortion and physiological dysregulation. Within the NARM™ approach, we work simultaneously with the psychology and physiology of people who have experienced developmental trauma, focusing on the interplay between identity issues and the capacity for connection and regulation.