How does it work?
Dreams are usually recorded in a form of a detailed written/recorded journal or log which is taken to sessions with the practitioner, but some therapists encourage clients to draw scenes from their dreams as well. Dreams are then compared to key decisions and events in the patient’s waking life or feelings that the dream content promotes, before meanings are formulated through discussion with the practitioner.
The theory behind dream interpretation is that when some aspect of our lives or relationships is playing on our mind, the unconscious continues to work on the problem without us realising whilst the conscious part of our brain is busy doing other things. Cognitive psychology has proposed that we can only hold about seven individual pieces of information in our short term memory at any one time, but stored, long term memories can be conjured up effortlessly. It is this kind of thoughtless processing which believers in dream therapy wish to tap into; they feel that dreams are a point where the unconscious processes are exposed and made visible.
The unconscious is also held to be a counterbalance to conscious, reasoned feelings and so opinions and ideas raised in the dream state are said to represent views that we are too afraid to express. These thoughts may shed new light on a situation or influence a decision that we are struggling with. The visual aspects of dreams are also said to be important as much of our experience of the world is tied to imagery (and in particular, the scenes and knowledge that we take in without consciously processing).
Is it for me?
Dream therapy can be utilized to work on understanding a specific situation or as a long term creative problem solving tool. If you are affected by persistently vivid dreams and wish to try and decipher them, are curious about the possibility of dreams carry meaning or have a question you have been mulling over for a while to no avail, then experimenting with dream therapy may prove to be a productive experience. However, if you are reluctant to share your worries or the scenarios that play in your head out when you nod off, this treatment is unlikely to be for you.
Good to know
Dreams occur in both rapid-eye movement or REM sleep (where the eyeballs can be seen to be moving benath the eyelids), and non-REM sleep states. REM dreams follow a more story-like arc and contain strong emotions, whereas non-REM dreams often involve gentler social interactions. People with depression often experience more periods of REM sleep than non-depressed people, but scientists have not yet worked out why...