Dream Work in Grief Therapy

By Noronha, Konrad | Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, July-September 2014 | Go to article overview

Dream Work in Grief Therapy


Noronha, Konrad, Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine


Byline: Konrad. Noronha

Working with dreams is useful with grief and loss clients who present with dreams. Adlerian dream analysis is one-way of exploring dreams. It incorporates the life-style of the client. This case report demonstrates how Adlerian dream analysis was used with a client. Progress was noted in improved life-style once the client began to talk about her dream.

Introduction

The therapist incorporated Adlerian dream analysis [sup][1] as a process medium while working with a client who presented with unresolved grief and loss issues. Once the client began processing various facets of the dream and their relation to her life-style, she improved. Dream exploration was found to be useful in this client.

Literature review

Adlerian theorists believe that dreams are a manifestation of a person's life-style. They are expressions of the dreamer's attitude to life and his or her unsettled reality problems. [sup][2] The manner, in which the client behaves during the dream is perceived as representative of his/her life-style. Adlerian psychology makes much of the unity of personality as dreams "are an attempt to make a bridge between an individual's life-style and present problems." [sup][3] The individual only dreams of solutions that correspond to his or her life-style. [sup][4] Through his or her dreams the dreamer seeks guidance and an easy solution for a problem in his or her life while asleep. Only the dreamer can say with any certainty what meaning his or her dream may hold (private logic). [sup][5]

If both therapist and client do not agree with the interpretation, then the therapist is usually wrong as the reflections come from the private logic of the dreamer. [sup][6] According to Bird. [sup][7]

"There are two tasks to be addressed when working with dreams. The first is to help the dreamer understand his or her current situation as shown in the dream. The second is to address the issue of whether the dreamer wishes to consider making changes and whether he or she is ready to do so and then examining the choices of practical actions available." p. 206).

The dreamer selects images and symbols appropriate to the dreamer's subjective perception that are not bound by the constraints of the logic of waking thought and common sense. Adler assumed that dreams help the individual prepare his or her future attitudes with respect to concerns in waking life. [sup][8] The therapeutic action starts first with the desire to understand the meaning of the dreams and the consequences of behavior. Bird [sup][7] states "I look for an interpretation that offers the client encouragement in self-valuation, self-knowledge and social contribution" (p, 211).

Case Report

A 19-year-old female African-American undergraduate in a recently broken relationship presented with grief and loss issues post death of her grandfather. She was experiencing intrusive thoughts for 3-6 months, just before going to sleep. She was the primary caregiver of her grandfather and she reported that she had not processed her grief due to load of studies and other activities at the university where she was studying. She was unable to concentrate on her studies during the day and sleep at night due to recurrent dreams. She recounted a lowering of her grades in class. Client indicated that she was referred to therapy by one of her professors. She reported that she had experienced a heightened level of anxiety that led to feelings of not being in control of her happiness, which affected her ability to enjoy life. She reported that nothing was good enough for her and that she was always playing catch up. She had feelings of guilt at her inability to feel pain when others in the world die or happiness when there is a birth of a child. She reported that she knew her thoughts were irrational, but she continued to feel guilty for having them. She was motivated for therapy, never had counseling before and was confident that psychotherapy would aid her toward her problems. …

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