What Is Dream Therapy, And What Are Its Benefits?

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated March 12, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Dream therapy involves analyzing what your dreams might say about your waking life, thought processes, and relationships. With the guidance of a dream therapist, you can learn to track and record your dreams each morning when you wake up and bring the information to therapy. Your therapist may help you decipher these dreams and their potential meanings concerning your treatment goals. 

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Decipher the potential meaning of your dreams

Benefits of dream therapy 

There are various benefits associated with dream analysis therapy, including the following. 

An understanding of moods 

According to many dream therapists, emotions can arise from the unconscious mind. Dream therapy might benefit you if you have unstable moods or unexplained intense emotions. For example, your therapist can give you an idea of what your dreams might say about unconscious thoughts or beliefs contributing to these emotions. 

As you discover potential meanings for your moods and emotions, your therapist can guide you in resolving any challenges that arise. They might use techniques from other therapy methods like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat these symptoms or challenges as you discuss them. You might also be asked to continue tracking recurring themes to see how often they appear and what moods you’re in when they do. 

An explanation of symbols 

It can be challenging to interpret dreams independently due to their abstract nature. The symbols you see in your dreams might be associated with various meanings. When you describe an account of a dream you had, be as descriptive as possible. Down to the very last detail, any information that you can provide may help your therapist unravel the meaning. 

The presence of symbolism is prevalent in this line of therapy. Seeing specific images or having different experiences in dreams could mean something other than you might expect. For example, the following are potential meanings of common dreams: 

  • Flying: A desire for freedom 
  • Snow or blizzard: Feeling isolated from your community
  • Spiders: Betrayal 
  • Losing money: Fear of losing power 
  • Cheating on your partner: Your needs aren’t being met 
  • Falling: Feeling out of control or not supported by an individual 
  • Dying: Uncertainty or fear 

Some dreams, like nightmares, may also indicate past adverse experiences or unhealthy relationships. If you’re experiencing nightmares due to a traumatic event, a dream therapist can help you discuss methods for relief. 

Creativity 

The dreams that you have could spark your creativity. Many individuals report dreams as abstract and outside of the box. If you are creative and feel stumped on a project, dream therapy can help. You can analyze your vision with a therapist, going into detail about it. Tracking your dreams could also inspire you for a book you’re writing or a creative art project you’d like to make. For example, some clients paint their dreams to understand their symbolism further. 

An understanding of nightmares

Nightmares can showcase what individuals most fear and reject in their lives. Interpreting nightmares with a dream therapist can help you understand your fears and know which ones to target in therapy. For example, perhaps you fear death and continuously dream of dying or losing others. Your therapist can help you find underlying reasons for these fears and face them through specific therapeutic techniques. 

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Encouragement of self-care

When you wake up each morning and write in your journal or record your dream, you take time for yourself. Partaking in this exercise can be a form of self-care that may ripple effects throughout your life. Focusing on self-care for a few minutes daily can show you care about finding solutions to your challenges. 

If you are participating in dream therapy, the few minutes you use to track your dream when you wake up allow you to focus on yourself. It gives you an activity to mindfully focus on, such as journaling, and lets you consider your needs. Studies have found that expressive writing can improve mental health, and dream journaling is a form of expressive writing.  

A sense of attunement with yourself 

Dream therapy can allow you to self-reflect and connect more profoundly with yourself. When analyzing dreams, you are attempting to get to the bottom of pressing issues in your psyche, which is a form of self-reflection. Dream therapy can help you pinpoint why you feel a certain way by encouraging reflection and deep analysis. While you may begin searching deep within to find out what your dreams mean, you might find more than the symbolism or meaning of a dream. 

Being more in touch with your innermost self could benefit you in all areas of life. Clients may experience increased self-esteem, better communication skills, and more restful sleep as a result. A dream therapist can guide you through this process and help you hone the skills involved in dream analysis. 

Grief support

Grief can often be reflected in dreams, whether due to losing someone to death or ending a long-term relationship. You might dream about seeing the person and talking to them once again or have nightmares about the loss. Dream analysts may believe that what a client dreams about during a loss can signify how they feel about the situation. If you dream about living happily with your loved one again, you might be reflecting on missing them and remembering the positive emotions they provided you with. 

Alternatively, if you are having nightmares surrounding the death of your loved one, it might indicate a traumatic loss. If the dreams leave you feeling deeply unsettled, terrified, or scared to sleep alone, speaking to a dream therapist can help you understand where these dreams come from and why you aren’t having positive dreams about your loved one. In some cases, a dream therapist might refer a client to a psychiatrist for medication, as certain medications can reduce the occurrence of nightmares.

Does dream therapy benefit everyone? 

Dream therapy may not be a suitable choice for every client. If you are interested in getting more in touch with the subconscious side of yourself or are a creative person, you may enjoy it. However, if you’re looking for a structured approach or in-depth conversation about other areas of mental health, a dream analyst may not benefit you. 

Some therapists believe that the concept of interpreting dreams is not a reliable approach. For instance, many providers believe that dreams are random and not connected to feelings, happenings, or information from our waking lives. There are many theories about dreams, so seek a provider following a view you believe in.  

No matter what you believe, there are hundreds of modalities of treatment available and many methods to try. People from all walks of life have reported success using dream therapy. If you think dream therapy might be right for you, consider contacting a therapist for further guidance. You might also be able to find an integrative provider that uses dream analysis alongside other techniques. 

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Decipher the potential meaning of your dreams

Counseling options 

Individuals can find a dream therapist in many ways. One standard method of seeking support is through an internet search. You may discover psychologist directories that allow you to filter professionals by your location, insurance plan, and preferred form of therapy. If there aren’t many dream therapists in your area, you can also try online dream therapy over the phone, video, or live chat sessions with a licensed provider. 

Platforms like Regain for couples and BetterHelp for individuals offer connections to thousands of specialists practicing hundreds of forms of therapy. Upon signing up, you can indicate your interest in a dream therapist and receive support tailored to your needs through a match-based therapist-client system. Once you receive your match, you can partake in unlimited messaging with your therapist and use the platform’s app journal feature to journal and track your dreams. 

If you’re unsure about the effectiveness of online therapy, note that many clients find internet-based methods like online CBT more effective than in-person therapy, and one study has found that it is often significantly more cost-effective. You can get started anytime by signing up for a platform or contacting a telehealth specialist. 

Takeaway

Dream analysis therapy offers many benefits to clients looking to understand how their dreams communicate to their unconscious minds. To get started, reach out to a therapist near you or online, and learn how dreams might be impacting your life. 

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