Working With Dreams
For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories
In Working With Dreams, Dr. Phyllis R. Koch-Sheras demonstrates her powerful approach to working with clients' dreams. Dreams frequently come up for discussion in the course of therapy, and the insights clients might gain from dreams can help the therapeutic process.
In this self-directed approach, Dr. Koch-Sheras teaches clients to use a special technique called "dream language" to describe their dreams, which emphasizes the client's own creation of the dream. By translating the dream language and role-playing aspects of the dream, clients gain insight that may reflect on their lives. Dr. Koch-Sheras helps the client to translate her dream and obtain some lessons from the dream, including ways to apply these lessons during her waking life.
Dr. Koch-Sheras's self-directed approach to dream work is a powerful process for enhancing the effectiveness of psychotherapy that goes beyond understanding the dream as an end in itself. Her approach brings the dreamer actively into the process of dream work and its application to current life experience, rather than approaching dream interpretation as a passive exercise that focuses on the client's needs and dependence on the therapist to meet them.
The therapist teaches and guides clients to interpret their own dreams, enabling dream work in therapy to become an avenue to self-responsibility and self-healing. Clients are taught how to use dreams as a vehicle for taking responsibility for both their waking and dreaming lives, enabling emotional growth and relationship development—not only intellectual insight—to be possible. In this way, clients develop confidence in their own authority and creativity and come to see that they have the power to heal themselves. In addition, clients are shown how to use their dreams as a path toward dealing with relationships in a way that moves beyond their own self-interest to become more related and connected with others.
This self-directed approach focuses on the technique of translating a dream into "dream language," emphasizing the client's own creation of the dream story and the perceptions that lead to each dream symbol, action, and feeling in the dream. Based on the theory that all aspects of a dream are parts of the self created by the dreamer, the technique is reminiscent of Carl Jung and related to the gestalt therapy of Frederick Perls and the "percept language" of John Weir.
Clients are taught to start by telling the dream in ordinary language in the present tense. Then they "translate" the dream aloud in dream language. The translation involves owning each part of the dream by using the phrase "part of me" after every noun and adding the phrase "I have me…" at the beginning of every sentence, which helps to emphasize the client's accountability for all the actions and feelings in the dream, rather than blaming them on something or someone else. While sometimes a bit awkward at first, clients learn to be comfortable with dream language, like learning a foreign language.
Reliving the dream in some way is an essential part of the client's taking responsibility for creating it and making effective use of it. Some of the techniques for reliving the dream include role playing or dialoguing with the various characters and aspects of the dream, changing or finishing a dream in fantasy, and giving oneself messages for actions to take from the dream.
In the process, clients learn to apply this self-directed way of thinking and operating to their waking lives as well as to their dreams, further moving them towards being more self-directed and responsible for their own perceptions and behavior.
Phyllis R. Koch-Sheras, PhD, is a practicing clinical psychologist and coauthor of several books on dreams and dream work, including The Dream Sourcebook (1995), The Dream Sharing Sourcebook (1998), The Dream Sourcebook Journal (2000), and Dream on: A Dream Interpretation and Exploration Guide for Women (1983). She is past-president of the Virginia Applied Psychology Academy and the Virginia Psychological Association.
Dr. Koch-Sheras received her doctorate from the University of Texas and completed her internship at the VA Medical Center in Palo Alto, California. She has worked in state hospitals, university counseling centers, and has maintained an active independent practice for more than 25 years. During that time, she has specialized in working with dreams, couples, families and groups. Dr. Koch-Sheras is an adjunct faculty member in the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education.
- Hill, C. (Ed.). (2004). Dream work in therapy: Facilitation, exploration, insight, and action. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Jung, C. G. (1964). Man and his symbols. New York: Dell.
- Koch-Sheras, P., & Lemley, A. (1995). The dream sourcebook. Los Angeles: Lowell House.
- Koch-Sheras, P., & Sheras, P. (2006). Couple power therapy: Building commitment, cooperation, communication, and community in relationships. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Koch-Sheras, P., & Sheras, P. (1999). The dream sharing sourcebook. Lincolnwood, IL: Lowell House.
- Koch-Sheras, P., & Sheras, P. (1996). The dream sourcebook journal. Los Angeles: Lowell House.
- Perls, F. (1971). Gestalt therapy verbatim. New York: Bantam Books.
- Van de Castle, R. (1994). The dreaming mind. New York: Ballantine.
- Wangyal, T. R. (1998). The Tibetan yogas of dream and sleep. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion.
- Weir, J. (1975). The personal growth laboratory. In Benne et al. (Eds.), The laboratory method of changing and learning. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books.
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