What is your take on the use of dreams in therapy?

As detailed in a paper I co-wrote with Dr. Nicholas Pesant, I believe that psychotherapists can be inspired by different, complementary ways of conceptualizing dreams and that working with dream material can be clinically helpful. There exist many approaches to working with dreams and, personally, I’ve never been a big fan of most psychoanalytically oriented approaches to dreamwork, including Freud's.  I’m a much bigger fan of Jung’s conceptualization of dreams and think there exist many excellent (and integrative) approaches to dream work. These include the Dream Interview Method (DIM), elaborated by Delaney (1991), the cognitive-experiential model of dream interpretation developed by Hill (1996; 2003), and Ullman’s (1996) highly popular dream appreciation approach developed for group sessions. It should be noted that many dream researchers interested in dream work are adepts of Ullman’s method.

Putting specific approaches to dream work aside, a considerable body of clinical research suggest that clinical work with dreams can a) help clients gain insights about themselves, b) increase their involvement in therapy, c) facilitate access to issues that are central to clients’ lives, d) contribute to establishing a safe and trusting environment, and e) enrich the clinician’s understanding of the client’s dynamics and clinical evolution.  That’s quite the list!  Thus, when used judiciously and at the right time, dream work can certainly be a highly useful clinical tool.

In sum, there is strong evidence that clinicians have much to gain by attending to their clients’ dreams and that effective dream work is accessible to most clinicians. So dream interpretation may not be the royal road to the unconscious (or to better self-understanding), but is nonetheless a useful and effective road among others.

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