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Therapeutic Dream work

Cognitive Approaches

Montangero's article (as cited in Lewis and Krppner, 2016) pointed out that in using the cognitive approach to dream analysis, the therapist follows the basic tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy and that they help the individual to enhance their cognitive skills in order to be able to alleviate their psychological distress

For example, in the treatment of nightmares one of the methods that is used with the cognitive approach is imagery rehearsal therapy. The basic premise of the approach is that those who have recurring nightmares and are experiencing insomnia, later come to understand that The insomnia is brought on by anxiety as the researchers explained. Unlike cognitive experiential dream theory, the approach does not integrate other theoretical orientations.. The approach to nightmares and the treatment of them, is aligned with cognitive experiential dream approaches as the individual has the opportunity to revise their dream if they have an unpleasant dream after a few weeks the frightening dream this procedure is conducted with other dreams as well and though it cannot yield results where are the nightmares go away , It does lessen the frequency of the nightmares.. The researcher discussed cognitive distortions regarding dreams.

The researcher described cognitive distortions as a form of what he termed as "dichotomous thinking. "In other words, the dreamer is thinking in terms which appeared to be extremely similar to what he termed "all or nothing "thinking. And exploring an interpretation of a dream that contains a cognitive distortion, it is important to identify them in the dream. The researcher noted that and the expiration of dreams, it can be possible to use cognitive restructuring for example the author noted the dreamer had dreamt that he had been intimately involved with another woman but that it caused him to stress. The situation in the dream as the dreamer later learned in therapy had more of a connection to understanding that his marriage like intimacy and rather than wait for years to divorce, he would wait one year

The researcher also gave an example of a dream in which a woman is assaulted and about to be raped but suddenly decides that she wants to engage in a pleasurable said sexual situation with the rapist. The dreamer felt empowered. Although the woman had been suffering from insomnia, she realizes through the dream that the reason she was distressed and had difficulty sleeping was because she was anxious and felt that she did not have control of her life. The researcher pointed out that dreams can also reveal what is known and cognitive behavioral therapy as core beliefs. The dreamer in the scenario felt incredible guilt if she did not please the people in her life including her boss, they would withdraw love from her and exact revenge. Therapist in the scenario help the dreamer to understand that it was her maladaptive thinking that was causing many of the stressors in her life.

The cognitive experiential dream model differs from cognitive behavioral dream work in that it integrates several other theoretical orientations drawn from the work of Carl Rogers, Freud, Jung , Gestalt, phenomenological, and cognitive behavioral approaches. The model incorporates three different stages that include as the authors noted exploration, insight, and action. The researchers pointed out that each stage of the process brings about the opportunity to explore dream imagery as well as find meaning within the dream content which then can lead the dreamer to determine a course of action drawn from the exploration and insight gained during those stages.

The researchers noted that the therapist, or as the researchers termed them the dream workers, do not represent dream content experts and generally do not provide interpretations but act as guides in collaboration with a dreamer the meaning related to the dream. The therapist uses the dreamer as an active participant and collaborator in the exploration of dreams. The stage of exploration is conducted in depth and allows the therapist through curiosity and questioning to get to know the client. The clients are encouraged to discuss the dream as though it were happening in the present moment. Collaboration includes encouraging the dreamer to select up to five images that they would like to discuss in more detail drawn from either a scene. And object in the dream. An individual in the dream or a moment in the dream.

Dreamers are encouraged to identify associations to the images as well as to identify any triggers. The process is thorough and then the dreamer and therapist work slowly through it. During the inside stage the dreamers are encouraged to attach meaning to the dreams using emotions, thoughts, and memories that in some way may relate to the images that were looked at in depth in the earlier stage.

The action stage is also collaborative and involves encouraging the dreamer to explore the messages of the dream which can be applied to their waking life. For example, the dreamers are encouraged to consider whether they believe they need to make changes and if so, they are encouraged to act and make choices.

Another aspect of the approach is that the dreamer is encouraged to revise the dream in terms of what they would keep and what they would change. This approach as the researchers described can be valuable as it helps the dreamers to empower themselves interview themselves as the creators of the dreams. Therapists also encourage their clients to evaluate the whole process in the dream and explore areas that worked well and those that did not as well as how the dreamer felt about the dream.


Hill and Spangler (2009) noted the value of using dream work in therapy relates to the fact that the individual working with a therapist could become empowered. For example, in the cognitive experiential dream model, dreamers are encouraged to revise their dreams and change the events of the dream around as well as the ending. Therefore, may benefit by taking more control of their lives rather than feeling helpless and his victims of circumstances.

Montangero's article (as cited in Lewis and Krppner, 2016) noted cognitive dreamwork, individuals can gain an awareness of the way thoughts influence behavior. In addition, individuals can also increase their awareness of their self-judgment as well as the judgment of others. Dream imagery may also reveal the individual's cognitive distortions which may be at the root of many of their problematic behavior as the author noted. Becoming aware of cognitive distortions can lead to cognitive restructuring when the client is led by the therapist. Using cognitive restructuring and reframing situations can be helpful in making positive changes. Dreams can also reveal maladaptive thoughts and core beliefs. Once the client develops their awareness around those dysfunctional thoughts, positive changes can begin to happen. For example, as the dreamer's awareness of dysfunction is increased, the work of reframing can provide a more positive perspective on the individual's view of their lives.

Sparrow (2013) noted that research supports the idea that using dream work enhances the therapeutic process and helps to engender progress more quickly. The researcher noted that dream work in therapy is also instrumental in being able to increase exploration as well as self-disclosure. As the researcher noted, the sharing of dream content can also be instrumental in increasing the level of trust between the dreamer and the therapist as often as with cognitive experiential therapy, the client and the therapist collaborate. Hence, the client becomes an active participant in the interpretation of the dreams which leads to greater engagement between the therapist and the client.

Kline and Hill (2014) pointed out that the cognitive experiential dream model has received empirical validation but also has been instrumental for clients to delve more deeply into understanding their thoughts, feelings and actions. As collaborators, the clients could consider the narrative of the dream and what action they would take to affect changes in their lives based upon what was learned from the dream. The benefit of the hill model of dream work focuses upon the three stages they provide an opportunity to construct meaning from the dream.

Dream Journal

I recently had a frightening dream in which I was confronted and pursued by two men who were covered in tattoos and were wielding knives. One of them made close contact with me physically so that I was able to see his face which was covered with tattoos that included images of arrows. In the dream, I managed to elude them, but they eventually caught up with me. I would use the cognitive experiential approach in working with a dream in order to change the events in the dream. I would mentally rewrite and revise the dream so that rather than being pursued and then found by these knife wielding assailants, I would tap into my inner and physical strength in order to disable these men, hence empowering myself. Perhaps in my waking life I have felt vulnerable to the extent that I could become the victim of circumstances beyond my control. By tapping into my physical strength as well as my inner strength, the capacity to confront my attackers would be enhanced. Rather than to become helpless, I would become empowered and I would be able to face my fears. Perhaps these assailants might be a representation of my fears. If the message in the dream by the act of rewriting it ,has a more positive tone in that it leads me to overcome my fears, or as is often said to feel my fears but to strengthen the ability to pursue overcoming them.

Bulkeley (2018) pointed out the importance of being able to study dreams in order to search for meaning as well as patterns. Sparrow (2013) noted that the process of analyzing dreams can result in positive outcomes in terms of the work that can be done in the therapeutic encounter.. In my experience, I felt as an active participant and enthusiastic about recording my dreams and then later using the cognitive experiential approach to take a closer look at the meaning of my dreams. The process helps me to understand the complexity of my dream life and how old is connected to my waking life. For example, I realized that I had many anxious preoccupations during the day and therefore my dream life reflected those anxieties. However, by using an approach in which I could alter the narrative in my dream, I felt a sense of empowerment that carried over to my waking life in that I was able to use techniques to alleviate my daily anxieties and consciously worked on this. Once I recognized the extent of my preoccupations, I began to more intensely practice deep breathing and guided visualizations. As a result, my dreams have been vivid but have not contained the violent imagery that appeared in the original dream.


Bulkeley, K. (2018). The meaningful continuities between dreaming and waking: Results of a blind analysis of a woman's 30-year dream journal. Dreaming, 28(4), 337-350.

Kline, K. V., & Hill, C. E. (2014). Client involvement in the exploration stage of the hill cognitive-experiential dream model. Dreaming24(2), 104-111.

Lewis, J. E. & Krippner, S. (Eds.) (2016). Working with dreams and PTSD nightmares: 14 approaches for psychotherapists and counselors. Praeger.

Sparrow, G. S. (2013). A new method of dream analysis congruent with contemporary counseling approaches. International Journal of Dream Research6(1), 45-53.

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