CalSouthern faculty mentor Dr. Jacquie Lewis is an internationally recognized educator, researcher and author in the field of dream analysis. Her work in this area spans three decades. An in-demand dream facilitator, she has given lectures nationwide, and also frequently conducts workshops focusing on personal insight, transformation and personal growth.
A past board member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, Dr. Lewis recently co-edited and contributed a chapter to Weaving Dreams into the Classroom: Practical Ideas for Teaching about Dreams and Dreaming, an anthology that combines the experience of seasoned educators from the United States and Great Britain, who offer hands-on models for effectively teaching dreams to students of all levels.
In the following interview, Dr. Lewis discusses the book and the state of the field of dream analysis, as well as her future research plans.
California Southern University: What was the inspiration for Weaving Dreams into the Classroom?
Dr. Jacquie Lewis: I was part of a panel discussion at the annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. The discussion focused on the panel members’ experience teaching dreams in the classroom. When we opened it up for questions from the audience, there was an extremely enthusiastic response, with many sharing their own experiences, challenges and breakthroughs.
We decided that we should publish a book containing experiences such as these—the perspective of educators from various levels and institution types. Nothing like this had ever been published before and the reaction from the audience that day indicated that there was a need for and interest in a comprehensive resource that would help educators incorporate dream study into their classrooms.
CalSouthern: Where there contributed chapters that you found particular interesting or helpful?
Dr. Lewis: Dr. Fariba Bogzaran’s chapter was quite interesting. She created an entire dream program at John F. Kennedy University in the Bay Area. She very practically and pragmatically set forth many of the political issues that one must navigate in order to develop such a program: the sequencing of the critical steps that must be taken, whose support is required to get the program off the ground, etc. In her case, it involved securing the support of the faculty senate, then the chair, and ultimately, the dean.
Dr. Roger Knudson’s chapter was also very helpful. He developed an innovative program where graduate students learn the Ullman Method of working with dreams, then set up dream groups with undergraduate students. The graduate students—PhD students—developed skills they were able to take into the field with them. And the undergraduates gained exposure to dream study and many developed an interest in the field as a result.
CalSouthern: What was your chapter about?
Dr. Lewis: When I was teaching at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, I incorporated dream study into my humanistic psychology courses. Having been trained by Montague Ullman, I utilized the Ullman Method, a very humanistic, non-threatening approach that views the dreamer—and not the therapist—as the expert regarding the analysis of his or her dreams.
I found that the students who declared certain therapeutic orientations—cognitive behavioral therapy, for one example—to be far more resistant to dream work that those who had chosen other orientations, such as humanistic. I had to really “sell” these students on the value of working with dreams. On the other hand, many of the more accepting students when on to work with dreams in their practicums and internships and, ultimately, in their own practices.
My chapter dealt with the method I used when teaching dreams, as well as this mixed reaction I found with my students.
CalSouthern: Is the field of dream analysis a vibrant one?
Dr. Lewis: It used to be, especially during the 1960s. Fritz Perls was the therapist-in-residence at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. He practiced Gestalt therapy—which was very popular—and quite effectively and influentially incorporated dream work. Eugene Gedlin was a student of Carl Rogers at the University of Chicago and developed his “focusing” technique which incorporated dreams. It also was quite influential.
However, with the introduction of managed care, dream analysis and many experiential therapies began to fall out of favor because they simply are not designed to fully alleviate problems in six to eight weeks and clients, therefore, would be required to go out-of-pocket for these services.
CalSouthern: Obviously, you believe that dream analysis remains an important and effective clinical skill.
Dr. Lewis: Of course. We know from Freud, Jung and other forebears of psychology that dreams are very important and are often indicative of our waking concerns and experiences. What if a client comes to their therapist with a dream and the therapist has no experience or interest in dreams? They often simply say something like, “Well, I don’t deal with dreams,” as if that third of our lives when we happen to be asleep is unimportant.
Also, you may have a client that has difficulty opening up about a particular situation in their lives or how they feel about certain things. Sometimes these people who are uncomfortable talking about their waking lives are much more approachable about their dreams, because dreams work in symbol and metaphor. Working with these dreams allows you to get at the same emotional, psychological material without the client feeling threatened.
CalSouthern: Can you tell us a bit about your practice?
Dr. Lewis: As I mentioned earlier, I use what is known as the Ullman Method. It is very user-friendly and very non-threatening. It can be used by a therapist or in peer groups and it follows simple steps. One might be termed, “If it were my dream.” The therapist does not attempt to tell the client what their dream means, but rather, they share what it would mean to them if it were their own dream. Then, because there is universality of experience, the dreamer will be able to recognize how it relates to their life, put the pieces together and develop their own understanding. The dreamer then shares this understanding and the therapist—or peer group—offers helpful additional insights and perspectives. It is a very non-invasive way of dealing with dreams. The dreamer is the expert and can accept or reject anything the therapist or group offers and can stop the process at any time.
CalSouthern: How did you first become interested in dreams?
Dr. Lewis: I had a number of “big” or “archetypal” dreams as an undergraduate. Not everyone has these dreams; others do and find them life-transforming, as I did. They are extraordinarily vibrant and heavily storied. I began keeping a dream journal and have remained passionate about dreams and dreaming ever since.
CalSouthern: Do you have any new projects that you can share with us?
Dr. Lewis: I am looking forward to embarking upon a research project on the dreams of indigenous populations. I live in New Mexico where there is a significant indigenous population and it’s something that has interested me for some time. I don’t have all the details worked out just yet, but it’s a project that I am excited about undertaking.