A Matter of Course: Techniques for Understanding Dreams

By Rita Buettner

TAUGHT BY:

Lee Joyce Richmond, Ph.D., professor of school counseling

FOCUS:

This one-credit course explores various techniques for working with dreams in ways that will help school counselors help students who have questions about their dreams—which give a glimpse into what is happening in the students’ lives. Both Jungian and Gestalt methods of dream exposition are introduced. To make the methods clear, students work in class, considering their own dreams.

THE COURSE’S ORIGINS:

“We are introducing one-credit courses to the counseling program because there are many counselors in school who need to continue their education,” Richmond said. “We’ve developed courses in career development, working with students with special learning issues, and counseling gay and lesbian students. If a professor has an expertise in a particular area and it’s something that’s needed, then we’ll work it that way—after the courses go through all the normal approval processes. My interest happens to be dreams.”

WHY LEARN ABOUT DREAMS?

“In some of the counseling courses, I will mention dreams—just in passing—and counselors get very interested in what to do with dreams. In Gestalt counseling, dreams are a big thing. So they’ve heard about using dreams in therapy. And their students will come in and say, ‘I had this dream. It bothered me.’ The counselors learn to ask questions and elicit the meaning from their students.”

DO THEY LEARN TO INTERPRET DREAMS?

“No, we teach them to work with dreams, so that a student or a group of students can find meaning in their own dreams. We teach them that Freud had some ideas about it and Carl Jung had some ideas about it, but basically the meaning of the dream resides in the dreamer,” Richmond said. “We learn psychologist Robert Van de Castle’s approach. His idea is that you draw the dream, and you title the dream, and you look at the dream and get the different parts of the dream to talk to each other. This is what I’ve taught the students to do. There’s a whole technique to it.”

ONE DREAM SHARED IN THE CLASS WAS “THE HEART-HEADS”:

“There was a picture of a sink with seven snakes coming out of the drain, and they all had heart-heads. The back story to that was that the person who had the dream, her mother was coming to visit her. The mother was a woman who had to have everything cleaned, so she was cleaning everything in her house, including the sink. She had six siblings. There were seven siblings coming out of the drain, and one didn’t have the head. The student was the person who didn’t have the head. It came out that she was the middle child and she always felt her older siblings were going to bite her head off.”

ANOTHER TOOL FOR THE COUNSELING TOOLBOX:

“When counselors know how to use some of these creative techniques with kids—art therapy and music therapy are others—when they learn how to use a different media with young people, they can elicit things from kids,” Richmond said. “You can go all the way back to Jung. He used drawings and amplification and every kind of technique you could to get people to see things more fully and accept themselves more fully.”

WHY IS THERE SO MUCH INTEREST IN DREAMS?

“People just get fascinated with this,” Richmond said. “We ask, ‘Do dreams have meaning? Is there such a thing as the unconscious?’ All of the students in the class have dreams, and they bring their dreams. When the class is over, that is the only class that my teacher ratings are absolutely perfect in. What they like is working on their own stuff. If it doesn’t ever help their students, it helps them as counselors.”

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1 Comment

  • Posted by Diana Troncoso | October 4, 2013

    Hi,
    I am a graduate pastoral counseling student and would like to know if this course is still being taught?
    thanks,
    Diana

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