Dream work and Gestalt Therapy

Karen Marie Mcpherson

Karen Marie Mcpherson

Welcome to this month’s Blog spot where UKCP Registered Psychotherapist Karen-Marie McPherson discusses the curious topic of clinical Dream Work and how a Gestalt approach to working with dreams in therapy may differ from other types dream analysis.

Welcome to this month’s Blog spot where UKCP Registered Psychotherapist Karen-Marie McPherson discusses the curious topic of clinical Dream Work and how a Gestalt approach to working with dreams in therapy may differ from other types dream analysis.

We all dream, but often we have no memory of it and at other times they may seem so vivid.  Dreams are a subject that has always interested me, I remember being younger and owning a dictionary that would tell me exactly what my dreams meant. I kept a note book to write them down by the side of my bed. It was only as I trained as a Gestalt Therapist I began to challenge my perception and realise that dreams are unique to the individual.

If you type into a search engine “what does my dream mean” you will find 81,100,000 results, ranging from quizzes, dictionaries and even You Tube clips. There feels something not very personal to me about this. It feels like everyone’s dreams potentially means the same, despite the differences in experiences, cultures, environments and personal situations.

In terms of therapy many modalities have a take on dreams, including the work of Freud and Jung. In this blog I want to share with you my thoughts on just one approach. Gestalt Therapy belongs to the humanistic field of therapies that was developed in the 1940’s in response to the analytical therapies. The Gestalt Approach focuses very much on the Here and Now and supports clients in developing self-awareness which can help when they may be feeling stuck or find themselves repeating patterns.

Fritz Perls was a key contributor to Gestalt Psychotherapy. He believed that:

“We are split in many parts and the beauty of working with dreams is that in a dream every part – not just every person, but every part is yourself” (Perls, 1969, p89)

In other words, he believed that every part of your dream is a part of you. Dreams can be seen as being projections of parts of ourselves. These parts have often been ignored or buried deep inside ourselves.

As a therapist if a client wants to bring a dream I welcome it, to me it means there is something significant for that person. It does not matter if the dream is old or recent, it’s come into a person’s awareness for a reason. I might invite the client to become the parts of the dream, which I am aware sounds a little out there, but what might be perceived as something minute may actually hold key information about something out of your awareness. A monster may become the part of you that has strength, an injured animal might be the part of you that is hurting. As a therapist I do not see it as my role to interpret, but to facilitate your own engagement with symbolism of the dream material…whatever is in your dream is unique to you.

Another view from a Gestalt perspective is from Isadore From (1996) who takes a slightly different angle, who believed that each part represents a retroflection. A retroflection is “doing to oneself what one would really like to do to a person or their environment” (Mackewn, 1997, p27). Working on dreams from this perspective may help a client express what they are unable to do in real life.

To me dream work can be an important aspect of developing our self-awareness and can enable us to become the voice of our dreams (Mackewn, 1997) but it is important to remember that this is just one

of many approaches. If you are interested in exploring your dreams in therapy whatever the modality, do not be afraid to, you may discover a lot about yourself and your processes.

If you would like to engage in psychotherapy to explore your dreams or for any other reason and would like to book an appointment to see one of our Leicester Psychotherapists please explore our website for further information or call us today on 0116 416 1626 to arrange an appointment.

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References

From. I (1996) in Muller.B (1996) ‘Isadore From’s Contributions’, Gestalt Journal, 19, 57-82

Mackewn.J (1997) Developing Gestalt Counselling Sage Publications – London, p27

Perls.F (1969) Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, Lafayette – California, p 80

Therapy Verbatim, Lafayette – California, p 80

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