DNMS - Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy

Information About DNMS

Ego-State Therapy

Ego-state therapies have been around for many decades. Psychosynthesis, Gestalt Therapy, Transactional Analysis, and Inner Child Psychotherapy are types of Ego State therapy. These methodologies share the approach that different personality parts, sub-personalities, or ego states can have different views of reality.

For example, healthy ego states live in the present, feel and manage the full range of emotions, hold positive beliefs about self and the world, engage in appropriate/desirable behaviors, and have an adaptive point of view.

In contrast, wounded ego states live in the past, are stuck in painful emotions, hold negative beliefs about self and the world, engage in unwanted or inappropriate behaviors, and have a maladaptive point of view.

Ego state therapies aim to help individual wounded ego states heal and work to increase communication and cooperation between wounded and healthy ego states. This type of therapy helps resolve old traumas, quiet internal conflicts, and build self-esteem.

What Is the DNMS?

Have you ever felt like a secure, confident adult one moment, then after something triggering happens, suddenly felt like a sad, angry, or fearful child? When we're significantly wounded in childhood, child parts of self get stuck in time. From then on, those wounded child parts feel hurt, powerless, alone, and lost. They hold negative, untrue beliefs about self and world. (From Amy Blake, LCSW and Certified DNMS Consultant.)

Reminders of a painful past can trigger a flood of overwhelming emotions, evoking a felt sense that the past is still happening now. Some child parts manage those painful emotions with troubling behaviors – like overeating, starving, withdrawing, gambling, or drinking.

There are two kinds of childhood wounds – trauma wounds and attachment wounds. Trauma wounds form when safety needs are not met well. This occurs when bad things happen – like a tornado, hurricane, or school shooting. Attachment wounds form when emotional needs are not met well. This occurs when important good things do not happen – like when parents fail to make a loving connection, soothe painful emotions, or attune. When parents are physically abusive or threatening, they inflict both trauma and attachment wounds.

What if there was a therapy that could heal wounded child parts stuck in old trauma and attachment wounds by helping them get their unmet emotional and safety needs met now? What if this therapy could help child parts come to feel emotionally secure, valuable, lovable, and safe? Would that interest you?

The DNMS is a gentle, multidimensional, comprehensive, strengths-based, client-centered, ego-state therapy developed by Shirley Jean Schmidt, MA, LPC. It helps heal childhood trauma and attachment wounds by meeting the needs of wounded child parts to help them get unstuck from the past.

The DNMS starts with mobilizing a team of loving internal Resources. The Resources join the therapist in providing all the emotional support, compassion, empathy, and radical acceptance wounded parts needed in childhood but didn't get. They're gently given all the information they need to come out of the past and into the safety of the present moment.

As more and more wounded parts heal, unwanted behaviors, beliefs, emotions, and urges diminish. Internal conflicts fade out, and self-esteem grows. All this makes it easier to handle the stresses of life with adult skills and strengths. To learn more, click on the video link below.

Signs That DNMS Therapy May Benefit You
    • Felt an irrational fear of abandonment.
    • Experience relentless internal conflicts.
    • Felt stuck in the past – especially stuck in childhood.
    • Heard a parent's wounding message over and over in your head.
    • Felt as though a traumatic event from the past is still happening now.
    • Reacted to a stressful event as though you were a fearful, helpless, or angry child.
    • Suspected your unhappy childhood is connected to your adulthood problems.
    • Noticed that what you think (I'm worthwhile) doesn't match what you feel (I'm worthless).
    What Does DNMS Treat?
      • Elimination of chronic depressive disorders.
      • Lessening or complete elimination of OCD behaviors.
      • Reduction or elimination of anxiety, including panic attacks and phobias.
      • Complicated grief.
      • Eating disorders.
      • Desensitizing emotional triggers that lead to relapse in addictions.
      • Dissociative disorders.
      • Relationship problems.
      • Complex trauma wounds, such as those inflicted by verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.
      • Attachment wounds, such as those inflicted by parental rejection, neglect, and enmeshment.
      • Those struggling with never having felt understood.
      • Those who need affirmation.
      • Those who cannot turn off the inner tapes of hostile caretakers.
      • Those who are codependent.
      Video Introduction to DNMS
        Read the DNMS Wiki (click to visit the Wiki)

        The developmental needs meeting strategy (DNMS) is a psychotherapy approach developed by Shirley Jean Schmidt, MA, LPC. It is designed to treat adults with psychological trauma wounds (such as those inflicted by verbal, physical, and sexual abuse) and with attachment wounds (such as those inflicted by parental rejection, neglect, and enmeshment). Visit the DNMS Institute website (www.dnmsinstitute.com).

        The DNMS is an ego state therapy based on the assumption that the degree to which developmental needs were not adequately met is the degree to which a client may be stuck in childhood. This model aims to identify ego states that are stuck in the past and help them get unstuck by remediating those unmet developmental needs.

        The processing starts with the DNMS therapist guiding a patient to mobilize three internal Resource ego states: a Nurturing Adult Self, a Protective Adult Self, and a Spiritual Core Self. The therapist then guides these three Resources to gently help wounded child ego states (or parts) get unstuck from the past by meeting their unmet developmental needs. This helps them process through painful emotions by establishing an emotional bond. The relationship that wounded child parts have with these Resources is considered the primary agent for change.

        Alternating bilateral stimulation (made popular by EMDR therapy) is applied at key points in the protocol to enhance the process. The DNMS focuses special attention on healing maladaptive introjects (wounded ego states that mimic abusive, neglectful, or dysfunctional caregivers. The model assumes that these ego states cause the most trouble for clients, so helping them heal may result in a significant benefit—leading to a decrease in unwanted behaviors, beliefs, and emotions.

        Ego States / Parts of Self

        According to Daniel Siegel , "a state of mind can become engrained when a positive event is repeatedly experienced; when a negative event is repeatedly experienced; or when a traumatic event is overwhelming." The DNMS assumes that engrained states of mind can become sub-personalities, parts of self, or ego states with a point of view. Some parts form by reacting to others, while others form by introjecting other parts.

        Introjection is the unconscious internalization of another person's behaviors, ideas, values, or points of view. An introject is an internal representation of another person. The DNMS assumes an introject can form when mirror neurons fire during significantly positive or negative relationship events. Neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that certain neural circuits get activated in a person who is carrying out an action, expressing an emotion, or experiencing a sensation - and in a person who is observing that person's action, emotion, or sensation.

        Vittorio Gallese, one of the discoverers of mirror neurons, calls this shared activation. He believes that shared activation of neural circuits leads to embodied simulation. Embodied simulation means that internal representations of the body states associated with the actions, emotions, and sensations of the observed are evoked in the observer, 'as if' he or she were doing a similar action or experiencing a similar emotion or sensation.

        Gallese believes this process to be a basic functional mechanism of the brain, which engages automatically and unconsciously, not the result of a willed or conscious cognitive effort, not aimed at interpreting the intentions of others. This suggests that the formation of introjects of the significant people in our lives is a biological reflex that - for better or worse - we have no control over.

        Parts of self can interact with each other like family members—for example, cooperatively, antagonistically, or both. They can have competing agendas, which can lead to internal conflicts.

        The DNMS is an ego state therapy. Like other ego state therapies, it aims to help individual wounded ego states heal and encourage cooperation and integration between ego states. (Other ego state therapies include psychosynthesis, Gestalt therapy, transactional analysis, Internal Family Systems Therapy, Voice Dialogue, and inner child psychotherapy.)

        Healthy Parts of Self

        According to this hypothesis, healthy parts of self form in response to positive, affirming relationships with role models who are loving and attuned. They live in the present, feel and manage the full range of emotions, hold positive beliefs about self and world, engage in appropriate, desirable behaviors, and have an adaptive point of view. Some healthy parts of self may be adaptive introjects or internal representations of caring, supporting people. A DNMS therapist will help a patient mobilize healthy, internal, Resource ego states that can reparent wounded parts of self to help them heal.

        Wounded Parts of Self

        Siegel argues that wounded parts of self form in response to traumas and to negative, wounding relationships with role models who are abusive, neglectful, rejecting, and enmeshing. They live in the past are stuck in painful emotions hold negative, irrational beliefs about self and world engage in unwanted or inappropriate behaviors; and have a maladaptive point of view. The DNMS model presumes two categories of wounded ego states—reactive parts and maladaptive introjects.

        According to Siegel, "reactive parts of self form in reaction to significantly wounding experiences." People are usually very aware of the problem behaviors, beliefs, or emotions of reactive parts.

        There are many types of reactive parts. Some hold raw emotions, like anxiety, terror, anger, sadness, grief, despair, shame, and hopelessness. Some hold reactions to specific traumatic experiences. Some cope with painful emotions with pain-avoidant behaviors like withdrawing, drinking, or overeating. Some cope with painful emotions with self-punishing behaviors like cutting, starving, or isolating. Some rebel with risky or self-destructive behaviors like drinking, smoking, or engaging in unprotected sex.

        Some try to manage hurtful people with strategically pleasing behaviors like complying or overachieving. Some try to prevent attacks from others by engaging in aggressive behaviors—putting up a façade of strength, intimidation, control, or power. Some try to control other parts of self with warnings, threats, commands, or admonitions intended to encourage behaviors that please others or discourage behaviors that might upset others.

        Maladaptive Introjects

        According to this hypothesis, maladaptive introject is a part of self that forms when mirror neurons fire in the presence of a significant role model who is physically or emotionally wounding (such as an abusive or rejecting parent.) In the DNMS model, a maladaptive introject is conceptualized as a part of self with an intrinsically good true nature that is unwillingly wearing a mask or costume that conveys the role model's wounding messages. The mask is the mirror neuron's engrained recording of a past wounding experience.

        When the mask is activated (or when the recording plays) the wounding message is directed to reactive parts who perceive the wounding experience from the past is still happening in the present. (The relationship between maladaptive introjects and reactive parts in the DNMS model is similar to the relationship between top dog and underdog parts in the Gestalt model.)


        The DNMS endeavors to get maladaptive introjects unstuck from the past. This is intended to stop the internal conflict generated between wounding introjects masks and wounded reactive parts. The processing starts with the Resource Development Protocol. This protocol strengthens a client's connection to three healthy parts of self—a Nurturing Adult Self, a Protective Adult Self, and a Spiritual Core Self. These Resources are based on real experiences a patient has had of nurturing and protecting a loved one and peak spiritual experiences - so that patients understand their Resources are real parts of self, not just imaginary helpers.

        Next, a series of steps are employed to identify a group of important maladaptive introjects connected by a common theme, such as rejection, abuse, or enmeshment. The steps include an Attachment Needs Ladders questionnaire, a Conference Room Protocol, and a Switching the Dominance Protocol.

        Once identified, these introjects are then invited to connect with the Resources. A DNMS therapist will guide the Resources to meet their developmental needs, process their painful emotions, and strengthen an emotional bond.

        According to the DNMS model, these interactions with Resource parts of self will help introjects heal. As they heal, patients report unwanted behaviors, beliefs, and emotions diminish.


        Two DNMS case-study articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals. One is a case study about a patient with dissociative identity disorder. The other is eight case studies representing the work of three DNMS therapists.

        While these published case studies tend to support the assertion that the DNMS is effective, they do not meet the criteria for empirical research. The DNMS has not yet been tested in controlled clinical trials and cannot be called an evidence-based therapy.

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