Freud believed that dreams were the "Royal Road to the Unconscious". He meant that dreams represent uncensored material.
When a client brings a dream to a psychotherapy session, he or she brings something special, something that speaks for the
unconscious. We know that dreams can be puzzling. Working through the puzzle can prove extremely productive and beneficial
to the therapeutic process. One dream can provide enough material for a single session or more. When there are more than one
- three would be a typical series - unconscious material can be brought to the surface. In this way, a client can reach
a higher level of awareness.
When a client brings dream material to a session, both client and therapist work together to determine what the client's
associations are to all the elements of the dream. The therapist may ask about the client in the dream. Was the
client watching herself as if in a play - or was she the acting subject, the dream ego? During the dream, how much in
control did the client feel? What feelings did the client have in the dream? Was it scary, comforting, exciting or neutral? All
these issues have relevance to the present life of the dreamer. And of course, the final say in interpretation rests with
the dreamer. Only the dreamer can know if an interpretation is correct - so the psychotherapist is the facilitator who encourages
and helps the client through this important process.
In some cases, unpleasant dreams and disturbed sleep can follow traumatic incidents in the client's life. Although some regard these as anxiety dreams, it may be that the person who experienced the
incident is finding it difficult to process feelings arising from it. Dream work can be beneficial in integrating material, reducing
unpleasant symptoms and allowing the client to resume their old activities.