One of the things most people associate with therapy is having your dreams analyzed. The father of psychiatry - Freud - did indeed encourage people to share their dreams during therapy sessions and was able to assist in interpreting them. I do not know if they still teach aspiring psychiatrists how to interpret dreams in school but I know that it was not so much as mentioned in my clinicial social work curriculum. In recent years I've felt very disappointed by this. Patients often share with me dreams that they find strange or believe might be meaningful. My response is typically something along the lines of, "Hmm. That's interesting. I wonder what it means." In other words, I don't know anything more about the "meaning" of the patient's dream than he or she does.
I went to the web hoping to find some tips on dream interpretation -- something simple that could help me in my practice but that wouldn't require me to enroll in some special training program. I found some useful tidbits on the following website: www.guidetopsychology.com/dreams.htm. I used the tips provided in a recent session and was able to help the patient make some connections between his dream and the circumstances in his life. I thought I'd share these tips for anyone who might be interested, either to help them better understand their own dreams or to help others understand theirs.
1. Create a written account of the dream in as much detail as you can recall. (I've read that it's best to write your dreams down as soon as possible after waking up -- that's when you are most likely to remember them).
2. Ask: "When you think of this particular dream image, what other things come to mind?" For example, when you think about the dream what are your feelings? What are your thoughts?
3. Examine your emotional reactions to the dream. Think about times in your past when you have felt these same emotions. Ask how those situations from the past relate to what is happening in your life right now.