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Taking dream work into the community

Monte Ullman

Dream Appreciation Newsletter Vol. 1 No 1, Winter 1996

Q: What possibilities do you see of dream work developing in the community?

A: Dream work does not have a high priority in any Western society. While the situation in the United States is beginning to change in a small way, it is still minuscule compared to the attention our dreams should have. The trend however, is in the right direction with significant changes having been made in the past two decades.

The most intensive dream work in proportion to the population is now developing in Sweden. A cadre of well trained dram group leaders are preparing others to lead dream sharing groups there as well as stimulating interest in other Scandinavian countries and on the continent.

In order for community dream work to expand, the first need is for a broader educational base. The study of dreams and their potential should reach into the educational system at every level from grade school on up.

Until the present upsurge of interest in dreams, preparation for dream work was the exclusive prerogative of psychotherapy and psychoanalytic training institutes. Only a handful of therapist have been concerned with moving dream work beyond the consulting room. Notable among them is the late Richard Jones, who for many years gave a successful course at Evergreen State College in which he integrated literature studies with dream sharing (see The Dream Poet, G.H. Hall and Co., Boston,1979).

A second need is for the preparation of leaders who are competent to lead experiential dream groups. The books I have written have been addressed to both lay and professional audiences with a view to laying out the essentials of safe and effective dream work. While books can serve as guides, they should be supplemented by first-hand experiences in training courses.

A third need is to educate both the general public and all those in the health professions with regard to the healing aspects of dream work and the enormous potential it has for preventive psychiatry. Only beginnings have been made with regard to the latter. There are target populations that would benefit from what dream sharing has to offer. These would include adolescents, geriatric populations, drug abusers, incest survivors and prisoners, to mention a few.

In my work at two senior centers, one Italian and one Jewish, it was the participant's first encounter with serious dream work. It was exciting to witness the excitement of those in their seventies and eighties as they experienced the creativity involved in shaping dream images so relevant to their lives.

Dream work in the community can become a reality - and it is people interested in the group dream work process who can bring it about.