Benefits of Dream Therapy
Since the time of the ancients, dreams have been thought of as vehicles for other worldly communication. They’ve also been used as lenses for better seeing life’s complexities in the waking state.
As an integrative therapist with a cognitive bent, I’m a big fan of dream therapy. There’s just something fun about exploring dream content and interpreting meaning.
What is dream therapy?
In simple speak, dream therapy is a $10.00 term used to describe a technique whereby dreams, including recurring dreams, are explored and analyzed to help understand stressors.
Most forms of dream therapy involve journaling. An example might be keeping a notebook by the bed and recording material upon awakening. Others voice record images with a device, like a smart-phone or a tape recorder.
Freud believed that dreams concealed conscious thoughts. His protégé, Carl Jung, thought differently. He believed that dreams revealed a whole new language to human consciousness and helped to restore psychic balance (Seaward, 2009).
In contemporary times, some believe dreams are nothing more than the subconscious remains of the day. Others, particularly those who subscribe to certain cultural beliefs, allow for spiritual possibilities (see post on animal guides).
At the end of the day, what really matters is what you think.
What follows are 7 benefits of dream therapy you might not know. Some of what follows are common sense. A few may cause you to pause and reflect. Read them all to fully absorb their deeper meaning.
1. Conscious and subconscious balancing
A major benefit of dream therapy is the strengthening of the subconscious and conscious mind.
This goes back to Jung’s thoughts on psychic balancing. Think of this as a form of harmonic mental tuning.
2. Insight into mood
Dreams can be a reflection of what we’re feeling at the subconscious level.
By assessing the meaning of dream material, you may get a more wholistic view of your general mood state.
For those who find it difficult to talk about their feelings, dream therapy may help project outward emotions buried deep inside.
3. Exploring symbolism
By keeping a dream notebook handy and recording different symbolism, you may be able to identify various themes.
In turn, you can ask yourself: What is the central message?
4. Sparks creativity
If you are in a creative slump, dream therapy may help to spark creativity.
Even if you think dream interpretation is a bunch of hooey, you can still use subconscious fodder to kickstart the imagination.
5. Addressing chronic nightmares
In the clinical realm, Image Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) is used with dream work to help ameliorate symptoms of PTSD and night terrors.
In short, the goal is to rewrite the nightmare’s story. With the help of a therapist, you write down the unpleasant aspects of the dream and alter the content to something pleasant.
IRT is highly recommended for the treatment of nightmares, per to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (Zak, et al., 2010).
6. Positive self-care ritual
A major benefit of dream therapy is the establishment of a positive self-care ritual. By allowing five to ten minutes a day for journaling, you carve out time to focus exclusively on you.
Some people immediately write down themes from dreams upon waking and then use the symbols as part of a morning meditation.
7. Internal conflict awareness
The Hellenistic era Greeks practiced something called dream incubation. That’s where you self-reflect on a specific concern and then write it down before going to sleep.
Upon awaking, record whatever images pop up from your memory. Doing so may be helpful in shining a light on internal conflicts or life challenges.
Dream interpretation should be viewed as an art form and not a science. The meaning of a dream resides solely with the dreamer.
That said, by assessing the symbolism you experience in your subconscious state, you may get to know yourself better.
Plus, it’s a lot of fun.
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Seaward, B. L. (2009). Managing stress (Vol. 6). Sadbury, MA: Jones Bartlett.
Zak, R. S., Aurora, R. N., Auerbach, S. H., Casey, K. R., Chowdhuri, S., Karippot, A., & Maganti, R. K. (2010). Best practice guide for the treatment of nightmare disorder in adults. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 6(4), 389-401.
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