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Some Resources to Assist in Dream Work

September 1, 2006
by Roger Martinez, LADC, NCAC II
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I am a counselor working in New Jersey, and have been in the addictions field for a little over three years. I make every effort to learn new tools in an attempt to help my clients maintain or reach sobriety. I have found that working with a client's dreams has been very useful, but I am always careful only to go as far as what I have learned. I wanted some information on books (ideally, simple to understand) that discuss dreams and how to analyze them properly.

Elie De Franca

Elie, you are in good company. Every counselor worth seeing continues to learn and gain new skills, both from workshops and from professional reading. Ethically it is required of us not only to add tools to our repertoire of skills, but also to use these tools effectively.

Roger Martinez, LADC, NCAC II

Dream work has been recognized as a therapeutic tool for just over 100 years. Sigmund Freud came out with The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900. He delayed having this published just so that his work would be characterized as 20th century psychology rather than 19th century thought.

For about 50 years, there were but a handful of theorists, with Carl Jung arguably being the most prominent. Robert L. Van de Castle, PhD, in Our Dreaming Mind (Ballantine Books) recognizes others such as Alfred Adler, also a student of Freud. Erik Erikson developed a systematic approach that allowed for an extensive analysis of an individual dream. Van de Castle states that Calvin S. Hall, Jr., examined thousands of dreams and catalogued them according to five different major struggles. The fifth major struggle focuses on behavior and aggression. We will do well to connect addiction and problems associated with drinking and drug use to the fifth of the major struggles.

In the 30 years since the inception of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), many contemporary theorists have focused on dreams, though none in particular have written in the area of addiction. The primary work I have found that is helpful to my clientele is based on “group work” that I discussed in my May/June 2006 column, on PTSD and nightmare work, and on helping clients use dreams to make helpful changes in their lives.

Reading list

Any time I have put together a list of books, I always have thought later of other books I should have listed. As you begin reading about dreams, if your reading and research resemble mine, you soon will have a nearly endless list of reading material. For the sake of brevity, here is my short list.

In working with nightmares, I regularly reference Ernest Hartmann, MD. He published The Nightmare: The Psychology and Biology of Terrifying Dreams (Basic Books) in 1984, and his most recent nightmare book, Dreams and Nightmares: The Origin and Meaning of Dreams (Perseus Publishing), was published in 1998. The later book is more practical whereas the earlier work is more scientific. Hartmann continues to present workshops annually, is a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine, and directs the Sleep Disorders Center at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts.

The book I reference most frequently is Conquering Bad Dreams and Nightmares: A Guide to Understanding, Interpretation, and Cure (Berkley Books), by Barry Krakow, MD, and Joseph Neidhardt, MD. This book gives step-by-step instructions on working to diminish and eliminate nightmares and repetitive dreams. I have purchased and given away many copies of this book.

Several books on helping dreamers making needed changes in their lives are available. The first book I read in this area was Alan Siegel, PhD's Dreams that Can Change Your Life (Berkley Books), written in 1990. Siegel also recently published Dream Wisdom: Uncovering Life's Answers in Your Dreams (Celestial Arts). This book supports his first book in the area of dream incubation and enters into the area Krakow and Neidhardt address in their aforementioned work. The approach is similar to what I do with my clients in the area of rescripting the dream.

The work of Krakow and Neidhardt focuses on writing and rewriting the dream until the nightmare images have been rescripted to pleasant images, whereas my work primarily has been with the use of directive imagination. Siegel incorporates art and drama into his analysis.

Psychologist Henry Reed was the first in recent time to develop dream incubation, (sometimes defined as the practice of dreaming with a purpose, or actively seeking help from dreams to resolve a problem). He was talking about advances he was working on for using it in groups when I first met him at an IASD conference in 1996. Since then, several others, including myself, have recognized and used dream incubation in various ways. In 1979, Gayle Delaney, PhD, came out with Living Your Dreams (HarperCollins), in which she includes incubation techniques she refers to as “The Phrase Focusing Technique.” Siegel in his 1990 work calls his approach the “two-week turning point dream program.”

Whichever technique is used, as they all work similarly well, the idea is to gain insight and direction from use of the dream. The important aspect these theories have in common involves allowing the dream to answer a question we need answered, and the dreamer being open to the answer.

Roger Martinez, LADC, NCAC II, is a member of NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals and the International Association for the Study of Dreams. He has worked with dreams in his counseling practice for more than 12 years. Martinez can be contacted at The Dream Zone, PO Box 33073, Santa Fe, NM 87594, or via e-mail at