Dream Therapy: Dream Interpretation, Why Do We Dream

Somewhere there is a saying, “A single dream is more powerful than thousand realities.” Sometimes dreams can tell about the problems and get the solutions to the existing problems, dreams can express emotion and dreams can express hidden feelings and dreams can also bring experiences to the life not lived. What best the dreams can do is they can gratify wishes. To all its wonders, dreams can be used to gain an insight in to a patient’s psyche via a therapy known as the Dream therapy. This current article is all about the Dream therapy which will get a little information on what actually dreams are, what dream interpretation is, why we dream and analyzing dreams for better understanding of a person’s psychological state.

What is Dream Therapy

An Overview on Dream Therapy:

Dream therapy is a procedure which involves the chore of deriving meaning from images and elements seen in the dreams so as to gain an insight into a patient’s psyche. Dream therapy includes recording and then analyzing the dreams seen by the patient. One can not only figure out the unconscious or subconscious dilemmas, but also can find out the appropriate solutions for the same. There is a belief that dreams can be interpreted to find a way for leading a healthier and more creative life by eradicating our problems. So, it can be said that interpreting, studying and analyzing dreams properly one can help self in gaining emotional well being.

Sigmund Freud, in the late 19th century has put forward that dreams can be used as a psychoanalysis tool and has outlined in his book “The Interpretation of Dreams” in the year 1900. The alternative medicine movement then adopted dream therapy as one of the treatment methods and thus the therapy started growing by its popularity through the 1900s and 2000s.

What is Dream Interpretation?

The process of assigning meaning to dreams is known to be Dream interpretation. This interpretation of dreams is a popular practice, especially in the alternative medicines and dates back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians practices that were used for healing. However, in the 19th and 20th centuries, psychoanalysis gave a greater understanding to these dream interpretations and a popular therapy known as Dream therapy became a powerful tool of science after the works of Freud and Carl Jung.

Researchers in the year 2009 at the University of Frankfurt found a link between lucid dreaming (the state of dreaming, where the dreamer is aware about his or her dreams) and psychosis. Thus, dream therapy came in to existence to know about the psychological condition of a person and find out the treatments to conditions like psychosis, pseudosiezers and depersonalization.

Why Do We Dream?

Now, why exactly do we dream? There are many theories proposed by many scientists on why we dream. Let us know about some of them here in this section.

Theory 1: One theory about why we dream is that dream work hand in hand with sleep so as to assist the brain in sorting through everything that it collects during the day or during the waking hours. Our brain meets with thousands and millions of inputs every single day. Some inputs are the minor sensory details, like the color of a passing car, the dress color of a person crossing by at the traffic signal etc; while other inputs are far more complex ones, like the important presentation you are putting for your job or your seminar talk etc. So, what exactly happens during sleep is your brain works so as to plow through all of these minor and major information in order to decide what all to hang on to and what all to forget. Some scientists feel that dreams play a crucial role in this process. There are studies to back up this theory. Research show that dreams are linked to how we form our memories. Studies have shown that if we are learning new things during our waking hours, we get increased amount of dreams during our sleep.

Theory 2: One more theory about why do we dream suggests that dreams reflect our emotions. During the day time our brains are working real hard to make connections so as to achieve specific functions. For example, if you are posed with a hard math problem your brain is greatly focused on that one particular thing. Similarly, if you are making a painting you are incredibly in to that particular work. Same goes to everything else you do.
However, during the night hours, everything slows down. We no more require anything to focus on while we are in our sleep. So, here our brain makes very loose connections. Now, emotions of our day battle it out in our dream cycle while we are at our sleep. If you are holding something very much heavy in your mind during the day, there are chances that you may dream about the same thing in a specific way.

Theory 3: The third theory about why we dream suggests that dreams actually don’t serve any function at all and they are simply pointless by-product of the brain firing while we slumber. Some feel that dreams are just meaningless and have no connections with the realty. However, the real fact is as long as the brain exist, such a mystery on dreams would persist and probably one won’t be pinpoint with actual certainty about why exactly we dream.

Dream Therapy: Using Dream Analysis as a Therapy!

We have mentioned earlier that Dream analysis is an important thing included in the dream therapy technique. Now, what exactly dream analysis is? Dream analysis, is actually a therapeutic technique used in psychoanalysis and help us in understanding the psychological problems in a person’s mind and also have the appropriate solution to them by analysis the dreams one visualizes during sleep.

In this procedure, the person in the therapy depicts his or her dream to the therapist and then goes on the discussion and procession of the dreams and new information are gleaned from the dreams. Finally, the therapist can suggest some better ways to apply the new information in an effective way. There are various models of the dream therapy which make use of the dream analysis procedure in different manners. Let us know about some of the most known theories of dream analysis which are used in the dream therapy.

  1. Psychoanalysis: According to this theory, dreams represent fulfillment of wish, unconscious desires and conflicts. As the Psychoanalysis say, dreams comprises both, the manifest and the latent content. The manifest content in the dream includes information from the dream as the dreamer remembers it. However, the latent content in the dream are those which are actually the repressed materials or the symbolic meanings embedded within the dream. The person in the therapy presents the manifest content of his or her dream to the therapist and the therapist analyses the dream and pulls out specific latent content or certain specific symbols from the manifest content as expressed by the dreamer or the patient. Utilizing the manifest and the latent contents from the dream of the patient, the therapist explores the repressed material or the hidden symbolic meaning of the dream. Then comes out new information which is used by the patient in a specific way as explained by the therapist so as to come out of the real problems which may be troubling in the dreams.
  2. Jungian Analysis: This is similar to the Psychoanalysis theory, except the fact that here the dreamer is more important in unlocking the message of his or her dreams. Also in this case, dreams are seen as attempts to express and generate rather than efforts to repress and disguise. This analysis also makes use of a technique known as Amplification, which is based on the assumption that humanity shares a collective unconscious or a set of inherited universal experiences. Amplification goes beyond using just the individual’s associations; it explores the collective understanding of the symbol so as to help the individual find meaning in the dream. For example, if one person dreams about a dog, he or she will be encouraged by the therapist for exploring of all the information associated with the dogs, like they are loving, man’s best friends etc.
  3. Gestalt Therapy: The therapists following Gestalt therapy believe that dreams are the existential messages which we send to ourselves. These existential messages are explored actively so as to bring dream content in to an individual’s real life. In this process the person in the therapy is asked to note down the script of one’s dream and then asked to act out each “Part” of the dream with dialogues created by one, in between the parts. For example, if a person dreams of a shadow of someone in one’s room, one is said to ask the shadow questions, like, “Who is there?” and then the therapist will ask the person to tell the answer which the “Part of the shadow” replies, like the answer may come, “I am your well wisher. By playing the parts, saying out the dialogues of each part seen in the dream, by self; the person taking the therapy clarifies all the feelings from all angles.
  4. Existential Art Therapy: There is one more approach to the dream analysis in the dream therapy. Here, the therapist acts as a witness as the person taking the therapy tries a journey of self- discovery. Here, the art is used as the medium to explore, interact and analyze the dream images of an individual.

Dream Therapy for Addressing the Mental Health Issues:

Dream therapy is known to be effective in addressing certain mental health issues. We already know that dream analysis is used to aid people address the problems they are facing in their current times by the help of their dreams. It can also be said that dream analysis can also be used to address many mental health problems. An advance cognitive behavioral technique known as the IRT or the Image Rehearsal Therapy is developed for addressing the mental problems like chronic nightmares and the post traumatic stress etc. Here, the patient is asked to write the story of what they dream of or the story of their nightmare and then asked to change their story content to something positive, motivating the individual as suggested by the therapist and are told to rehearse their new dream mentally for 20 to 30 minutes a day. This way, the frequency and the intensity of their nightmare can be reduced. Thus, it can be said that dream analysis included in the dream therapy can be used to solve various mental health issues in individuals.


Though research indicates that dream therapy has its real benefits, there are some limitations too. Some believe that dreams are purely biological phenomena, which suggests that they do not have any symbolic meaning. However; like the UFOs and their tales, “those who see, experience or feel, believe; others simply ignore!” Dream therapy and its effectiveness can be understood only by those who have been really benefited through it. For others, this might be one more alternative treatment with imaginary beliefs.

If you want to try out Dream therapy as an alternative treatment, make sure you are consulting an expert dream therapist. Kindly consult a medical professional in case of any serious mental health issue for appropriate treatments.

Have a nice sleep and dream sweet!

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 30, 2019

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