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Dream Therapist

What They Do

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Dream therapists analyze and interpret dreams to find meanings that apply to everyday life. Therapists say dreams are a link to the subconscious, and learning how to understand them is key to understanding yourself.

Dream therapists also have a personal interest in their own dreams. Some become true psychologists or psychiatrists. They get full degrees in these fields and then specialize in dreams during their therapy sessions with clients.

Others describe themselves as dreamworkers. They don't deal with traumatic personal issues such as childhood abuse. Rather, they act as a guide for people who want to explore their subconscious through their dreams.

Dreamworkers help with self-development. Psychologists and psychiatrists who use dreams in their therapy deal with mental health problems or specific psychological issues.

The number of people who train in dreamwork has risen in the last decade. Even regular medical doctors are attending dream workshops so they can better understand their patients.

Kathleen Sullivan is a dreamworker who tapped into this growing interest when she went on talk radio in Pacific Grove, California. Her show wasn't expected to do well, but she soon discovered she had an avid audience.

"I got a call from the station manager the next day saying there was an audience out there for me," she says. So Sullivan became a radio dreamworker with an hour-long show.

Sullivan, who also belongs to the International Association of Dreams, says people from all over the world are tuning into dreamwork. The entire field could become significantly larger than it is today, she says.

"The dream movement is definitely coming into its own," Sullivan says. "Carl Jung saw nothing but complete disaster unless enough people own their shadow [dreams] rather than project it onto other cultures. And it seems as if that's happening now."

If you're thinking of becoming a dream therapist, be prepared to face some criticism. Sullivan says starting a dreamwork business in smaller communities might be tough.

Sullivan says that when Gayle Delaney, a dreamworker of almost celebrity status, appeared on Oprah, stations in Reno, Nevada, refused to carry the show. "There are parts of America where dreamwork is still disallowed," she says.

If you're interested in dream therapy, it's never too early to start exploring your own dreams. It's a good idea to keep a dream journal. While many people claim they never dream, experts say you dream a minimum of seven times a night. You can train your mind to recall these dreams when you wake up. You simply need to remind yourself every night and keep a notepad and pen next to your bed for quick dream retrieval in the morning.

Once you've recorded a number of dreams, you might notice certain patterns starting to emerge. For instance, red cars might show up in your dreams and then you realize you only see the red cars on days when you're particularly stressed. Over time, you'll discover what your own dream symbols are and that can give you insight into your subconscious.

"You're finding your inner voice," explains Alan Siegel, a clinical psychologist who works with children and adults. "Teenagers are looking to discover who they are, where they are going in life and how they're different from their family. If you can learn more about the symbols in your dreams, then you can get more of a sense of what direction to go in."

You might also want to read up on two fathers of psychology, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Both men focused significant parts of their work and research on dreaming. Today, Jung is considered to be the master, although some dreamworkers are Freudian.

At a Glance

Interpret dreams as a way of understanding everyday life

  • The practice is becoming better known thanks to exposure on TV and in the media
  • Some are true psychologists or psychiatrists
  • Most dream therapists are trained through workshops or through formal psychoanalyst programs