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Psychotherapists’ dreams about their patients



Abstract This study examines therapists’ dreams about their patients from the Jungian and the relational perspectives. Few clinical and empirical references to this subject are to be found in the literature. In the present study 31 dreams were collected from 22 therapists. Dreams were collected using anonymous self-report inventory. The research focused on three theoretical research questions: 1. What themes appear in the manifest content of therapists’ dreams about their patients? 2. What contributions are made by Jungian interpretation of therapists’ dreams about their patients? 3. To what extent are masochistic contents present in the manifest content of therapists’ dreams about their patients?

The first question was addressed using categorical content analysis of a) themes common to different dreams and b) pre-determined themes for all dreams. The third research question was addressed using Beck's (1967)‘Masochistic Dream’ measure. Results: Among the themes common to different dreams were: therapist-patient role reversal; therapist and/or patient attends and remains in meeting, departs/doesn’t depart; cancellation of therapy session; sexuality between therapist and patient; aggression; presence vs. absence; non-verbal relationship and communication; time; driving vs. stopping. With regard to pre-determined themes it was found that in 20 of the 31 dreams, the therapist had a negative experience and was characterized as vulnerable. Likewise it was found that 26 out of 31 dreams took place in either a) a street, a road, a route, a corridor; b) en route to somewhere; c) a therapy room and/or building; d) a house. With regard to the contribution of Jungian interpretations of the dreams it was found that 17 of the dreams had diagnostic and prognostic elements, 4 of which were initial dreams, 9 of them were compensatory dreams and in 14 it was found that the patient represents the shadow of the therapist. With regard to the third question it was found that 18 of the 31 dreams met Beck's (1967) criteria for masochistic dreams. The theoretical discussion examines the findings from a Jungian perspective, with an emphasis on also understanding the dream in terms of its expression of relational aspects of the therapist-patient relationship. The findings affirm the presence of the ‘wounded healer’ archetypes in therapists’ dreams about their patients. The results of the study indicate that therapists’ dreams about their patients can be a valuable tool for deepening understanding of the therapeutic relationship and process.