What is dreamwork?

I would define dreamwork as the practice of deliberately creating the conditions for receiving insights from dreams, and then actually doing something in response to those insights. Almost all the clients who consult me for their health issues are doing some form of dreamwork, some just occasionally and some in a very serious and dedicated way.

Dreams have much to tell us about our health. They speak about what makes us ill, what stresses us, how we may be behaving dangerously, how we are trying to change, and what is blocking us from changing—all issues which are critically important in health care. For this reason they can be a natural and dynamic component of any health care practice.

The Dreamworking Method

The dreamworking method I have developed as a result of my clinical experience is a five-step process for working with dreams.

This method can be used by anyone who would like to engage their dream life more fully. It can also be used by practitioners of all kinds who would like to do formal dreamwork with their clients and are seeking a method to use.

The method is facilitative rather than interpretive. It does not involve interpreting a dream; rather it is designed to help bring insights and make connections.

Step 1: Catch

It begins with catching the dream properly, which is a difficult task for many people. Catching a dream involves not only remembering it upon waking, but also doing whatever it takes to anchor the dream securely in the long-term memory. If this is not done, the dream may slip away and be lost.

Step 2: Amplify

The next step is to amplify the dream, which means simply to get more out of it. If you want to “work with a dream” you will need to know what the feeling tones in the dream were. You will also need to have a sense of what the dreamer associates with all the key figures and features of the dream. This kind of amplification work can be done with simple open-ended questions and will lead to a richer and fuller sense of the dream.

Step 3: Orient

The next step is to get oriented. Orientation is the opposite of feeling lost (which can happen very easily in a dreamscape). Getting oriented may happen spontaneously as you talk about the dream, but often it does not. If it doesn’t there are techniques you can use to help get your bearings.

Step 4: Connect

Next we try to help the dreamer connect the dream to his or her life. This simple “aha!” moment of insight is what we are aiming for with this method. There are techniques that you can use to help support the dreamer, but the connection itself must be experienced by the dreamer and it must feel true and resonant for both of you.

Step 5: Respond

Finally, if a satisfying connection has been achieved, we arrive at the last step – the response. Now that we have received and understood the message of the dream…what will we do about it?