Regular Features:
Edition 3: Feb 09


> Alan Siegel, Ph.D has
over 30 years of teaching and publishing on
dream-related topics.


Dr Alan Siegel, an adult and child psychologist specialising in work with dreams, suggests the following strategies to assist trauma survivors who have posttraumatic nightmares:

1) ENCOURAGE VERBALISATION & EXPLORATION OF POST-TRAUMATIC DREAMS: Verbalisation and repetition of troubling dream content may bring a catharsis, including normalisation of fears, desensitisation of nightmare and its troubling content, and the emergence of new themes and renewed capacity to ‘play’ with the dream images.

2) WELCOME, REASSURE, WITNESS, EMPATHISE WITH THE EMOTIONS OF THE TRAUMA SURVIVOR’S DREAMS: Listening, affirming the importance of the dream and its telling, reassuring the dreamer (to help quell persistent anxiety), and helping the dreamer to name and describe the difficult emotions in the dream if they can tolerate it at this stage of therapy. Defer active interpretation and create a zone of safety to allow the dreamer to tolerate free association.

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3) HELP THE DREAMER BREAK THE SPELL OF THE NIGHTMARES: Inviting the telling of the dream (through verbal or media means) and accepting its upsetting content begins to transform the dreamer’s anxiety and phobic avoidance and may create a corrective emotional experience convincing them that their dream will not hurt others, provoke rejection, or be overwhelming.

4) POINT OUT NORMALITY OF INTERMITTENT NIGHTMARES: Nightmares are both a common feature of PTSD and a normal reaction to any stressor. The presence of nightmares may be a sign of positive adaptation wherein the dreamer can tolerate the remembering of upsetting conflicts as opposed to avoiding and denying them.

5) TAKE AN INVENTORY OF PREVIOUS LOSSES/TRAUMAS: This will help explain the nightmare and point to likely areas of impasse provoked by the trauma.

> Alan Siegel Ph.D
Alan has over 30 years of teaching and publishing on dream-related topics. He is the author of Dream Wisdom: Uncovering Life’s Answers in your Dreams. Dr. Siegel is a former president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) and Editor-Emeritus of the IASD magazine, Dream Time. The above information and more is available via his website at


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