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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Carchrae

Nightmare Treatment and Dreamwork

Updated: Feb 27

A woman's closed eye with purple glitter eyeshadow on the lid.

When most people think of dreamwork, they often imagine a patient reclining on a couch, re-telling their dream to a rather stiff Freudian or Jungian analyst who asks them what they associate to different elements of the dream and then offers them an interpretation of their dream. 

While this where the roots of modern dreamwork (and psychotherapy) came from, thankfully we've moved on from some of the more problematic elements of this arrangement, particularly the idea that the expert in the room is entitled to tell the patient what their dream means. 

Modern dreamwork and nightmare treatment has come a long way. Today researchers like Dr. Leslie Ellis are merging the best of neuroscience and models of the nervous system like Polyvagal Theory with the best of the symbolic and archetypal elements of Jungian dreamwork and using them in the context of an embodied, experiential approach informed by Eugene Gendlin's Focusing Oriented Therapy. That's a lot of fancy words to say that modern dreamwork puts the dreamer's experience and inner knowing as the most important part of dreamwork. The therapist is there to help the dreamer engage with their dream from a place that is resourced, safe, socially engaged and empowered. When this happens, nightmares can be digested and even transformed into messengers that want to help us heal our trauma and live our fullest lives. 

If you suffer from nightmares, and particularly if you suffer from both nightmares and depression that comes with suicidal thoughts or intent, you may find it helpful to know that nightmares can be treated quite successfully. Not only does this treatment resolve the nightmares themselves, but often translates to improvements in daytime symptoms and a reduction in suicidal thoughts. Nightmare treatment can truly save lives. 

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