what is narm?

The NeuroAffective Relational Model™ is a therapeutic approach to healing developmental trauma that helps establish a healthy connection between body and mind. It explores an individual’s emotional connection and functional organization, their identity and sense of self, puts the focus on the present, and teaches clients regulation of their nervous system.

Many traditional models of psychology are regressive. They focus on the past by bringing awareness to the client’s disorganized and dysfunctional characteristics. The NeuroAffective Relational Model™ (NARM™) is non-regressive and focuses on the present parts of self that are organized, functional, and coherent. The ultimate aim of NARM™ therapy is to improve the client’s emotional self-regulation while strengthening interpersonal connections.

The goal of the NeuroAffective Relational Model™ at Family First Adolescent Services is to improve our client’s emotional self-regulation and strengthen their interpersonal connections.

Our experience helping teens has shown that the best way to heal developmental trauma is to give clients the ability to respond to the ongoing demands of everyday interactions by using a range of emotions that are both socially acceptable and emotionally sustainable.

In other words, NARM can help a teen understand his emotions and the appropriate context for emotional expression, and to create healthy connections with the most important people in his life.

NARM helps teens learn to set healthy emotional boundaries and to self-regulate on a daily basis.

Our role as a leading treatment center for teens is to help them learn how to find fulfillment in the present and build a better future.

Healing Developmental Trauma

In his book, Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship, Dr. Laurence Heller lays out the core principles of the NeuroAffective Relational Model™ (NARM™). He focuses on the importance of integrating biological and psychological development.

In order to experience emotional self-regulation and connection, these developmental themes must be met. Healing developmental trauma means fostering feelings of safety and trust in one’s environment, as well as establishing healthy internal and external connections. Healthy emotional self-regulation and growth must be nurtured. When the developmental themes are not met, people develop survival styles in an effort to manage disconnection and dysregulation. If this type of behavior goes unchecked, a Developmental Trauma Disorder or C-PTSD can emerge.

    • Integrate relational orientation with nervous system-based therapy
    • Use somatic mindfulness to anchor self-regulation in the nervous system.
    • Acknowledge psychological effects on the body by accessing the body’s self-regulatory capacities – retrain nervous system responses.
    • Inquire into deep identifications and counter-identifications that we understand as our identity.

    Dr. Heller goes on to outline the way that the NARM™ approach uses physiology and psychology to treat individuals who have experienced developmental trauma. Treatment acknowledges the interaction between self-identification and an individual’s capacity for connection and emotional self-regulation.

    • Emotional connection and functional organization
    • Exploring identity
    • Focusing on the present
    • Nervous system regulation

    The NeuroAffective Relational Model™ lays out five developmental life themes that are necessary for healthy emotional self-regulation. These themes affect our ability to be present to ourselves and to others.

    • Connection: In order to feel a sense of connection and belonging in the world, we must be in touch with our bodies and emotions. This strengthens our connection with others.
    • Attunement: Knowing, understanding, and recognizing our needs is necessary in order to accept the abundance that life offers.
      Trust: We must develop an inherent trust in ourselves and in others. This paves the way for healthy, interdependent relationships.
    • Autonomy: It is important to establish healthy boundaries for ourselves and for those around us. We must be able to say no when necessary. Learn to be honest without guilt or fear.
    • Love & Sexuality: In order to foster healthy relationships our hearts must be open. Only then will we be able to truly integrate a loving relationship with a vital sexuality.

developmental trauma disorder

Developmental Trauma Disorder occurs with exposure to chronic, multiple traumas in early life. It can happen from neglect, abuse, an accident, the death of a parent, etc. The cumulative effects of these traumatic experiences leave emotional scars on the psyche of the afflicted. When this happens, mental health issues such as Complex Post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) can occur.

When a person develops C-PTSD or a similar developmental health disorder, it becomes the lens through which they experience their world. Everyday interactions and occurrences can lead to episodic symptoms related to their disorder. Because of this, the afflicted often create unhealthy barriers, such as the development of unhealthy emotional self-regulation disconnected interpersonal relationships.

Over time, the vicious cycle of trauma experienced during childhood leads to a developmental trauma disorder that requires the intervention of trained mental health professionals to be corrected. This concept is called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and it stemmed from an in-depth study that demonstrated the correlation between early childhood trauma and health and social problems as an adult. In recent years, new treatment philosophies (such as trauma-informed care) and new modes of therapy (such as NARM™) have proven to be superior methods of treating addiction and mental health disorders. They address the source of the problem, not the symptom.

Trauma can occur in many ways. People often suffer through traumatic events unbeknownst to those around them. These events can cause great emotional pain if left untreated. The following list contains the variety traumatizing events that can negatively impact the behavioral health of individuals, families, and communities.

Types of Trauma

When people experience various types of trauma (especially at an early age), they can develop unhealthy barriers and coping mechanisms that, if left untreated, can permanently wound healthy emotional self-regulation. Furthermore, it can make it difficult to have positive interactions and relationships with others. The NeuroAffective Relational Model™ (NARM™) is a revolutionary therapeutic approach that specifically addresses the complexities of attachment, relational, and developmental trauma.

By integrating the mental, emotional, and physical responses to trauma in the here-and-now, NARM™ therapy can help clients live fuller and more connected lives.

  • Sexual abuse or assault
  • Emotional abuse
  • Serious accident, illness, or medical procedure
  • Victim or witness to domestic violence
  • Historical & Intergenerational trauma
  • Bullying
  • Forced displacement
  • Neglect
  • Victim or witness to extreme personal or interpersonal violence
  • System-induced trauma and retraumatization
  • Physical abuse or assault
  • Early childhood trauma
  • Victim or witness to community violence
  • School violence
  • Natural or man-made disasters
  • War, terrorism, or political violence
  • Military trauma
  • Traumatic grief or separation

Source: SAMHSA

Integrating the NeuroAffective Relational Model™ (NARM™) into our theoretical approach to mental health treatment has shown amazing results. For this reason, Family First Adolescent Services (Palm Beach Gardens, FL) is partnering with Brad Kammer of the NARM Training Institute to offer NARM™ Training Sessions and other workshops and events that introduce the NARM™ approach to healing complex trauma.


Mike Giresi and Brad Kammer talk about one of their favorite topics – healing attachment, relational, and developmental trauma. They discuss how to apply the NeuroAffective Relational Model™ (NARM™) in supporting youth and families.

Mike Giresi is the Lead Counselor at Family First Adolescent Services, a residential and outpatient treatment center for adolescents and their families who struggle with addiction and trauma located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Brad Kammer is a Somatic Psychotherapist, NARM™ Master Practitioner and NARM™Faculty Trainer from Northern California who is passionate about how trauma healing can be a catalyst for personal and collective transformation.

The NeuroAffective Relational Model™ (NARM™) is a powerful approach for addressing complex trauma: the attachment, developmental, and relational wounds that we experienced in childhood and that have led to life-long symptoms, relational patterns, and personal challenges.

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