Therapy with Dreams and Nightmares is an excellent, accessible resource, and its latest edition includes much more than its first. It explores the important historical and contemporary beliefs, psychological theories and models of dreamwork, as well as offering a precis of contemporary research into the functions of sleep and dreaming and its associated memory consolidation and processing. Cushway conceptualises dreams, and all of of our responses to them, as the important experiential component of memory processing during sleep, and therapy is thus seen as a potential to work creatively with that experience. There is no one way to do this though, and she offers some tried and tested ways in a generous manner.
Freud, Jung, Perls, Faraday and other cognitive thinkers are discussed, and then ‘integrated’ by Cushway into her own loose theory with a cognitive slant. A repeated theme is the importance of respecting the dreamer – it is only satisfactorily understood when it makes sense to him or her, and it may take a few ways of working to get there. A chapter takes time to look at the common language and symbolic interpretation of dreams too – I had forgotten that we can create great puns in our sleep.
Cushway goes on to distinguish between objective and subjective ways of working with a dream or dream fragment, made concrete by case studies each step of the way. ‘Objective’ approaches asks the dreamer to disengage from any feelings associated with a dream and to comment on it from the outside, while the subjective (or constructivist) approach encourages the dreamer to re-enter the dream material and explore all the experiences that brings. The latter includes the work of Perls, Kelly and Hill.
A special look at lucid dreaming and nightmares in the wake of sexual abuse are very useful, along with ideas of how to work with dreams in groups. Nightmares are distinguished well from night terrors, with tips on how to support children or their parents through them.
A version of this appears in Private Practice journal.