EMDR and dream interpretation


This paper describes a method of dream interpretation useful in psychotherapy.The therapist can use the treatment method EMDR (eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing) for processing dream images. The associations elicited in this manner provide a wealth of significant material for psychotherapy as well as resulting in meaningful dream interpretation.

Learning Objectives: 1) To present a new method of dream interpretation 2) To describe the protocol so that others could use it 3) To indicate how this method can enhance therapeutic results

Evaluation questions: 1) How does this use of EMDR differ from the standard use of EMDR with dream imagery? 2) Summarize briefly how EMDR is used for dream interpretation? 3) What are the advantages and disadvantages of this method of dream interpretation?

EMDR and Dream Interpretation
When utilizing EMDR to resolve a trauma, one of the four target areas in the standard EMDR protocol is the nightmare image. During reprocessing, the nightmare image often changes to reveal the real life experiences that are part of the traumatic material. If processing is complete, the nightmare image will not reoccur. Theoretically, the periods of REM sleep when dreaming occurs are thought to be natural survival mechanisms whereby experiences from the day are synthesized and stored in memory. It has been speculated that nightmares are the mind's attempts to metabolize trapped information. Because trauma can also produce interrupted and dysfunctional REM sleep, nightmares may reoccur indefinitely without resolution taking place. EMDR has been shown to effectively process nightmare images so that reoccurring nightmares cease. Less has been reported in the EMDR literature regarding dream images that are not nightmarish and do not reoccur. It is usually assumed that if the dreaming process is natural and healthy without nightmares or interrupted sleep, then it is not to be tampered with and is not a focus of treatment. However, EMDR can be very helpful in processing information from dreams, even when the dream images may not appear to be relevant. Case material will be presented to demonstrate how EMDR can be useful in processing dream images during the normal course of treatment as well as contributing to the resolution of specific traumas.






Shirley A. McNeal

Original Work Citation

McNeal, S. A. (2001, July). EMDR and dream interpretation. Presentation at the International Association for the Study of Dreams, Santa Cruz, CA




“EMDR and dream interpretation,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed January 26, 2022, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/18325.

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