NeuroAffective Relational Model

The spontaneous movement in all of us is towards connection, health and aliveness. No matter how withdrawn and isolated we have become, or how serious the trauma we have experienced, on the deepest level, just as a plant spontaneously moves towards sunlight, there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. - Dr. Laurence Heller, founder of NeuroAffective Relational Model

NARM is a psychodynamic, body-centred approach to the healing of developmental and relational trauma. In this approach, we address identity and relationship issues as well as imbalances in the nervous system meaning that we work with the complex interrelationship of biological and psychological themes.

NARM helps us become aware of our survival styles. Survival styles are cognitive, emotional and physiological patterns of reaction which we develop during childhood and adolescence in reaction to situations where our core needs were not met. Our early experiences of relationships meaningfully shape our development and our attitudes towards ourselves, others and the world around us.

The five survival styles are rooted in the works of Freud, Reich and Lowen. The styles encompass the core life themes of:

  • connection, a sense of belonging
  • being in tune with our physical and emotional needs and the ability to fulfil those needs
  • trusting ourselves and others, the feeling of safety and healthy dependence and healthy interdependence
  • autonomy, the ability to set limits and to express ourselves without fear or guilt
  • the capacity to integrate love and sexuality and self-esteem not dependant on appearance and performance

The more we operate from these adaptive survival styles developed in childhood, the more our self-esteem and healthy relationships with others is distorted. Satisfying these needs is necessary for a good self-image and healthy relationships with others. Many physical and emotional symptoms originate in basic needs that remained unsatisfied early on in our lives. In the past, survival styles helped humans survive difficult circumstances, but they have since lost their functionality.

NARM healing addresses the functional and organised parts of an individual and gradually increases the capacity for biological self-regulation, as well as the quality of interpersonal connections. It also addresses identity distortions such toxic shame, guilt and biological self-regulation.


Laurence Heller & Aline LaPierre, (2012) “Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship”, North Atlantic Books.

Laurence Heller & Diane Poole Heller, (2001) “Crash Course: A Self-Healing Guide to Auto Accident Trauma and Recovery”, North Atlantic Books

NARM,  Laurence Heller Ph.D.