A systematic review of therapist experience of dream working in contemporary psychotherapy
Dreams have fascinated human beings for millennia but only really entered the realm of psychology with Freud’s 1900 work The Interpretation of Dreams. Despite estimated dream frequency and prevalence in psychotherapy, little time is spent on this material and little training in Ireland is available on the subject of working with dreams in clinical practice. This study aims to identify key themes regarding therapists actual experience of working with dreams. A systematic search of the literature on therapist experiences and ways of working with dreams in clinical practice was conducted using keyword searches of PsychINFO and the APA Journal Dreaming (since its publication). A thematic analysis organised the findings into categories. Four overarching themes emerged from the literature; therapist estimates of dream prevalence in therapy; factors which influence therapists working with dream material; what therapists do when dream material is presented and; therapist experience of working with dreams in practice. Nine subordinate themes were also identified; frequency of dreams being presented by clients; kinds of clients who bring dreams to therapy; amount of time spent working on dreams in therapy; therapist theoretical orientation; therapists valuing of dreams; therapist competence in working with dreams; attitudes to dreams and dream work outcomes. The paucity of empirical studies, the nature of studies found through systematic search and the single-researcher nature of this review are presented as the primary limitations. A discussion of the various themes emerging from the literature on therapist experiences of dreams in psychotherapy and the resulting implications for therapist training and further research, including an agenda for research in the Irish dreamscape context are highlighted.