Stanley Krippner (www.stanleykrippner.weebly.com), Ph.D., professor of psychology at Saybrook University, San Francisco, is a Fellow in four APA divisions, and past-president of two divisions (30 and 32). Formerly, he was director of the Kent State University Child Study Center, Kent OH, and the Maimonides Medical Center Dream Research Laboratory, in Brooklyn NY. He is co-author of Extraordinary Dreams (SUNY, 2002), The Mythic Path, 3rd ed. (Energy Psychology Press, 2006), and Haunted by Combat: Understanding PTSD in War Veterans (Greenwood, 2007), and co-editor of Healing Tales (Puente, 2007), Healing Stories (Puente, 2007), The Psychological Impact of War on Civilians: An International Perspective (Greenwood, 2003), Varieties of Anomalous Experience: Examining the Scientific Evidence (APA, 2000), and many other books.
The San Francisco Weekly recently published an excellent article on Dr Krippner – http://www.sfweekly.com/2012-
Dr. Krippner will be presenting a pre-conference workshop on Finding Meaning in Dreams: The Use of Dream Reports in Counseling and Psychotherapy. (Due to time conflict with another conference, Dr. Krippner will not be able to present a keynote.)
Finding Meaning in Dreams: The Use of Dream Reports in Counseling and Psychotherapy
Dreams can be understood as inner experiences occurring during sleep in which a narrative is created from images. These experiences sometimes are kept private and sometimes are shared. Dreams also are associated with physiological indicators that occur during sleep, such as rapid eye movements and brainwave patterns similar to those found in the waking state. Dreams can be used in psychotherapy by engaging with dream content and process within a healing context. This can include dream interpretation and other ways of working with dreams. It can be performed individually (e.g., using self-analysis via keeping a dream journal), by a client working with an individual therapist, or by sharing dreams in a group setting. Throughout history and across cultures, dreams have been used in therapeutic ways. Contemporary Western culture increasingly ascribes to rationality, emphasizing observable facts and consequently many Westerners pay little attention to dreams, believing they have no practical value. But within the modern Western world, there still are people who value dreams, including some Western mental health professionals who use what can be called “dream therapy” for healing. Psychotherapy is a broad collection of methods used to address psychological difficulties in life. These may include distress while adjusting to relationships or work, as well as dealing with specific psychological problems, such as anxiety and depression. Most psychotherapy involves a verbal dialogue between a client (or patient) and a mental health practitioner. Some psychotherapies occasionally address dreams, but there are a few specific therapeutic approaches focusing primarily or even exclusively on dreams; both fit the term dream therapy. Freud, Jung, Adler, and other pioneering psychoanalysts made extensive use of dream reports in their therapies. There are other traditions of psychotherapy that incorporate dream reports, such as cognitive approaches in which dreams are used to identify errors in thinking and maladaptive beliefs. One main concern regarding dream therapy focuses on how to interpret symbolism in dreams. Many systems propose that a specific symbol has a true meaning (e.g., assuming that a snake always represents a phallus), whereas others look more flexibly in a constructivist way (e.g., that a dream’s meaning is co-constructed by clients interacting with therapists) for creating meanings useful to the client. We urge the rejection of simplistic works on dream interpretation that proclaim any symbol be treated with one meaning. A symbol is an image that has a deeper meaning, and dream symbols may have more than one meaning. In addition to working with dreams in a general way, sometimes an unpleasant dream itself can indicate the need for psychotherapy, especially if it is a recurrent nightmare. Such dreams may or may not be related to a psychological problem, like trauma or stress, but could also be triggered by other factors, such as an undiagnosed physical illness or even medication side effects. However, “posttraumatic nightmares” or other problematic dreams may not disappear without professional help. It is important to consider multiple vantages before concluding that unpleasant dreams indicate a need for dream therapy. One of the functions of dreams is the downloading and working through of emotions experienced during the day. As a result it is not surprising that many of our dreams are unhappy, confusing, or even terrifying. Although few contemporary psychotherapists use dream therapy, it is an area that remains of great interest to some. The research literature on the effectiveness of various studies on dream therapy notes that Clara Hill’s cognitive-experiential method demonstrated its utility in several studies, such as providing increased client satisfaction, especially for those who were highly motivated to work with their dreams. One reason for the success of Hill’s method may be its incorporation of insights gained in dream therapy into a client’s daily behavior. The research data as a whole suggest that dream therapy can increase clients’ self-insights about central issues in their lives and facilitate their productive involvement in therapy, as well enriching clinicians’ understanding of their clients. In other words a case could be made that exploring dreams within therapeutic contexts can be both meaningful and useful.