Transforming Trauma Episode 001:
Complex Trauma, Post-Traumatic Growth, and the NeuroAffective Relational Model with Brad Kammer
A podcast brought to you by the NARM® Training Institute
In understanding how effective the NeuroAffective Relational Model® (NARM®) can be in support of Transforming Trauma, we must broaden the conversation around trauma to recognize Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) and a new understanding of Post-Traumatic Growth. As Dr. Laurence Heller, creator of NARM®, states in his book Healing Developmental Trauma, “No matter how withdrawn or isolated we have become on the deepest level, just as a plant spontaneously moves towards sunlight, there is in each of us an impulse toward connection and healing.”
Sarah is joined by Brad Kammer, psychotherapist, educator, and the NARM® training director and senior trainer, to discuss the roots of developmental trauma, our current understanding of complex trauma, where NARM® fits in the current trauma field, and the transformative power of NARM®.
C-PTSD isn’t a new concept. In her 1992 book Trauma and Recovery, Dr. Judith Herman introduced the new understanding of complex trauma and differentiated it from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And yet, nearly 30 years later, C-PTSD still isn’t officially recognized as an official diagnosis.
While PTSD has been central in moving the trauma field forward over the past forty years, it is beyond time to acknowledge the impacts of adverse childhood experiences and other traumatic experiences that are not captured by the PTSD diagnosis. As Sarah says, “I think we’re under-using the term trauma. I think we just need to define it better as a society.”
The diagnosis of PTSD essentially has three components: a sense of life threat; an avoidance of the threat; a re-experiencing of that threat through intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares or compulsive overthinking. C-PTSD has those same three components plus an additional three: interpersonal disturbances; negative self-concept; and affect dysregulation. Complex Trauma captures the significant impact of attachment, developmental, relational, cultural and intergenerational trauma.
NARM is a model specifically designed to resolve the impacts of Complex Trauma: including attachment, developmental, relational, cultural and intergenerational trauma. NARM is a top-down, bottom-up approach that integrates psychodynamic and somatic psychotherapy, within a mindful, interpersonal process, in order to provide an unparalleled full-spectrum of care. Sarah and Brad agree: “Trauma is the underlying cause of most, if not all, psychological disorders.”
For anyone that is interested in the trauma-informed movement – and how it can support psychotherapy, healthcare, education, public policy, and social justice – it is important to unpack the nuances of complex trauma. Sarah informs podcast listeners that they do not need to hold degrees in mental health in order to engage with NARM work. What is required is an open, inquisitive mind, with a basic understanding of complex trauma and a desire to help people with resources to move through their trauma. Brad shares that Oprah Winfrey is a fierce advocate for helping put C-PTSD and the trauma-informed movement on the map.
Brad says that even though it’s still early in the trauma field movement, there are models that are aimed at resolving complex trauma. “NARM is designed for working with people that have experienced and are still dealing and living with unresolved complex trauma,” says Brad. “That’s where NARM fits in.” His vision is that at-risk individuals — especially children — will get the assistance they deserve to thrive beyond the confines of their trauma.
Accessibility is key. Through this podcast and with its global training initiatives, NARM is expanding its reach. Brad hopes to not only help individuals who are focusing on healing from complex trauma, but also to extend the program’s influence to families and communities plagued by violence, conflict and social injustice. As he says, “NARM can be a vehicle for both personal and social transformation.”
The NARM Training Institute provides tools for transforming complex trauma through: in-person and online trainings for mental health care professionals; in-person and online workshops on complex trauma and how it interplays with areas like addiction, parenting, and cultural trauma; an online self-paced learning program, the NARM Inner Circle; and other trauma-informed learning resources.
Misattunement: the experience of a child not feeling seen, recognized, validated and/or heard by caregivers or adults in their early lives; a lack of rapport between infant and parent/caregiver such that the infant's efforts at communication and expression are not responded to in a way that allows the infant to develop a secure sense of self
Interpersonal disturbances: for children, relational distress stemming from attachment and relational misattunement; and as adults, relational distress which manifests within couples, families and friends
Negative self-concept: a negative belief in or experience of the self; origins of shame at the root of the personality/identity
Affect (emotional) dysregulation: emotional responses that are disrupted and poorly modulated; amplification of or decrease in certain emotions
Physiological (bodily) dysregulation: somatic responses that are disrupted and poorly modulated; impairment of physiological (bodily) regulatory mechanisms leading to hyper- and hypo-arousal
Hyper-arousal: an internal sense of being on high alert; often experienced as anxious, restless, fidgety, unsettled, distracted, reactive; activation of the sympathetic nervous system
Hypo-arousal: an internal sense of under-responsiveness; often experienced as numb, shut-down, dissociated, frozen, depressed, hopeless; activation of the parasympathetic nervous system
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