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"There is in each of us a spontaneous movement towards connection, health and vitality. Whatever the degree of withdrawal and isolation we have achieved and the severity of the trauma we have suffered, there is in each of us, at a very deep level, a force that pushes us towards connection and healing. This force found in each of us can be compared to that which is at work in a plant and which directs it towards the sun. This organic impulse is the essence of NARM's approach."
(Dr Larry Heller, 2012)
The NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM) is a cutting edge model. It addresses attachment, relational and developmental trauma, otherwise referred to as “Complex Trauma” (Complex-PTSD or C-PTSD). This developmentally-oriented, neuroscientifically-informed model emerged out of earlier psychotherapeutic orientations including Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Attachment Theory, Gestalt Therapy, and diverse Somatic Psychotherapy approaches. It integrates top-down psychotherapy with bottom-up somatic approaches within a relational context.
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, currently available in over ten languages.
The NARM model is a powerful approach to addressing adverse childhood experiences and its long-term consequences, which highlighted in the Adverse Childhood Events study. NARM's basis is that whilst what has happened in the past is significant, it's not this that creates the symptoms that people experience as adults. It is the persistence of survival styles appropriate to the past that distort present experience and create 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. Whilst dissociation and isolation have literally saved people’s lives, as this pattern continues into adulthood, they create 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 delivers 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 NeuroAffective Relational Model™ focuses on the fundamental tasks and functional unity of psychological and biological development. It is non-regressive, non-cathartic, and non-pathologising.
“Larry Heller’s approach was a revelation to me. Larry teaches us in an in-depth and practical way how to help our patients in depth and it’s exciting. He proposes a scientifically-grounded, theoretical understanding of the primary needs of the child and the inner conflict that he experiences in a situation of paradox or emotional insecurity. Larry then introduces us to the potential for resilience that the presence of the therapist brings at every moment. An original, powerful and innovative approach.”
(Dr. Eric Dachy, psychiatrist and NARM practitioner, 2018)
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