The Spiritual Elements of Trauma Healing with Drs. Dick Schwartz and Laurence Heller


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“You don’t have to build up the muscle of compassion, because if you just get the constraints to your natural compassion to relax, then you have plenty of compassion.” - Dr. Dick Schwartz

We have another opportunity to listen to a conversation between authors and therapeutic pioneers Drs. Dick Schwartz, founder of Internal Family Systems (IFS), and Laurence Heller, founder of the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM).

Joined by our host, Sarah, the two authors come together for a second time to continue their rich conversation on the similarities and differences between the two modalities they’ve created, and to take a more specific look at how both of their works have drawn from the spiritual elements of the human experience.

While IFS and NARM are both known as being exciting, emerging models for healing complex trauma, this episode highlights that Drs. Schwartz and Heller acknowledge that the deeper focus in both approaches is on the Self, that internal place within us all that provides the foundation for our lives despite the complexity of wounding and traumas that one has experienced. They reflect on this beginning of a meaningful, powerful relationship between two very important therapeutic models. What might the future hold for IFS and NARM working together to bring healing into our world?

Dick’s bio: Richard Schwartz began his career as a family therapist and an academic at the University of Illinois at Chicago. There he discovered that family therapy alone did not achieve full symptom relief and in asking patients why, he learned that they were plagued by what they called “parts.” These patients became his teachers as they described how their parts formed networks of inner relationship that resembled the families he had been working with. He also found that as they focused on and, thereby, separated from their parts, they would shift into a state characterized by qualities like curiosity, calm, confidence and compassion. He called that inner essence the Self and was amazed to find it even in severely diagnosed and traumatized patients. From these explorations the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model was born in the early 1980s.

IFS is now evidence-based and has become a widely-used form of psychotherapy, particularly with trauma. It provides a non-pathologizing, optimistic, and empowering perspective and a practical and effective set of techniques for working with individuals, couples, families, and more recently, corporations and classrooms.

In 2013 Schwartz left the Chicago area and now lives in Brookline, MA where is on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

To read the full show notes and discover more resources visit


NARM Training Institute


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.


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51 episodes