Magazine article Addiction Professional

Introducing Dream Work to the Group Setting

Magazine article Addiction Professional

Introducing Dream Work to the Group Setting

Article excerpt

Alcohol and other drug counselor Darryl Wheeler of the Jackie Nitschke Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin, wrote in to request more information about how to use dreams in group therapy for the benefit of members' recovery. Groups are perfectly suited for dream work. Several contemporary theorists use dream work in groups. I prefer a combination of some of their theories and techniques. Although none of the dream workers I mention here focus on addiction, their ideas are applicable to our clients.

Two prominent authors and dream workers are Jeremy Taylor and Gayle Delaney. Taylor's Dream Work lists 21 basic hints for dream work. The first mirrors the International Association for the Study of Dreams ethics statement, declaring that only the dreamer can recognize the dream and its understanding or meaning. Many colleagues have shared with me horror stories of a therapist telling the patient what the dream means, absent the patient's own "aha!" experience.

Taylor coined the phrase "if it were my dream." This refers to group members helping the dreamer with the dream brought up in the dream group. The premise is that others in the group will have their particular projections, and that what is said about someone's dream always will reflect to a degree the personality of the person making the comment. Taylor explains in a Jungian way that an individual dream in fact does speak to the collective, and chances are with a close-knit group that the dreamer might have the "aha!" experience from everyone's comments and projections.

In an example of this process, a dreamer shares a dream that he is in a blue room filled with dogs. One group member starts by saying, "If it were my dream," then continues, "I feel sad and blue, and am afraid." He goes on to say he has always been afraid of dogs and has depression. The next person says, "If it were my dream, I recognize the loyalty sense of dogs and calmness from the blue." A third person suggests, "If it were my dream, I pictured sheepdogs as my guardians, and the blue represents calmness to me." (The color meanings are taken from Max Luscher's Luscher Color Test and the dog meanings from J.E. Cirlot's A Dictionary of Symbols.) The dreamer can now incorporate any new symbolism that fits, can have the "aha!" experience, or can continue with his own associations. The dreamer always has the final say about the dream.

Using a dream interview

Delaney's Living Your Dreams includes a chapter on starting a dream group. Explaining what she calls a "dream interview," Delaney uses the idea that the therapist or dream helper is only an aide to the dreamer and helps the dreamer discover the dream's meaning. She writes, "The interviewer pretends to have just come in from another planet and asks the dreamer a series of specific questions about the dream."

Using the dog dream as an example, the interviewer would start by saying something like, "I don't know what blue is or what dogs are; I just came from another planet. Tell me what they are and what they mean to you." After the dreamer's explanation, the interviewer would seek to make the dream practical to waking life by asking if the description fits anyone in the dreamer's life or a situation in life that the dreamer is experiencing.

Delaney's dream interview has six steps. The first two are to describe the dream as completely as possible and to have the dreamer restate the dream. Every time I have pursued this second step, a new important symbol comes out or another symbol becomes complete. The third step is the "bridge," or connecting the dream images to waking life characters or situations. …

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