Dreams are big news these days. There’s an article on dreaming in the New York Times comparing the spread of dream groups over the past five years to book clubs. The author points out that the leadership for such groups ranges from skilled professionals to self-proclaimed experts. If you are thinking of leading a dream group or joining one, the International Association for the Study of Dreams is an excellent resource for developing your skills. As dream groups become more popular, it is more important than ever for dreamworkers and dreamers to familiarize themselves with the ethics of working with dreams.
IASD ETHICAL CRITERIA FOR DREAM WORK TRAINING
We, the Board of The International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), therefore adopt and recommend the following fundamental principles and elements as necessary for any adequate training program for professional work with dreams.
We define dreamwork in the following way: any effort to discover, speculate about, and explore levels of meaning and significance beyond the surface of literal appearance of any dream experience recalled from sleep. This would include anyone serving in the role of psychotherapist, counselor, educator, or group facilitator in the interpretation or exploration of dreams for the purposes of providing psychotherapy, personal growth, or spiritual guidance for others. The ETHICAL CRITERIA FOR DREAMWORK TRAINING published herein are suggested basic criteria for those engaged in, or aspiring to undergo approved training in, working with dreams, and IASD assumes no responsibility in connection therewith.
These criteria are designed to apply to practitioners whose practice is exclusively or mainly focused on work with dreams. To the extent that other practitioners include work with dreams as part of their practice, these guidelines should also apply to them.
Formal human service work utilizing dreamwork, as defined above, should conform to all existing regional and national laws regulating the practice of health, mental health, pastoral counseling or spiritual direction. The publication of these criteria is not to be considered as an endorsement by IASD of a particular training paradigm, nor are they to be considered as qualifications or grounds for certification for serving the role of psychotherapist, counselor, educator, or group facilitator in interpretation of dreams for the purposes of providing psychotherapy, growth, or spiritual guidance for others.
(1) Any program training people to work with dreams should have a clearly stated ethical component. We recommend the “Statement of Ethics for Dreamwork” adopted by the IASD as a foundation for ethical components of dreamwork training.
(2) In accordance with this basic Statement of Ethics, any program training people to work with dreams should emphasize that all dreams may have multiple meanings and layers of significance. Programs which offer to train people to work professionally with dreams (i.e., responsibly, for pay) are free to emphasize one particular technique or theory over others, but in order to achieve minimum standards for adequate professional training, these programs must expose their students and trainees to a representative variety of different techniques and theoretical models that include an overview of current approaches in the field, and a historical and cross-cultural perspective of human studies and therapeutic approaches to dreams.
(3) Any program training people to work with dreams should include a significant component of an adequately supervised practicum, face-to-face work with dreams, both one-to-one with individuals, and facilitating group experiences. As electronic media become more and more a feature of our lives, IASD wishes to encourage dreamwork training programs to extend this supervised practicum component to include telephonic, computer-linked, and other “media” as well, always making sure that these training experiences are carefully supervised by thoroughly skilled practitioners.
(4) At the outset, any program training people to work with dreams should have clearly stated written goals, as well as clearly stated written policies regarding the evaluation of student/trainee progress and performance. Professional training programs should provide written evaluations of students’ and trainees’ progress and performance in a timely fashion. Evaluations of student/trainee work and progress should be applied equally to all students regardless of background. Written descriptions of educational goals and requirements, ethics, and evaluations policies should be made available to students prior to registration for the training program.
(5) Any program training people to work with dreams should focus serious attention on the universal propensity of people to naively attribute their own less-than-conscious values, feelings, ideas, and judgments to others. Sometimes called “projection”, or “transference” and “counter-transference”, this universal tendency must be addressed directly and made more conscious in the process of professional work with dreams.
(6) Any program training people to work with dreams should require its students to have done substantial work on their own dreams with qualified practitioners, and to commit themselves to ongoing personal dreamwork with qualified practitioners and supervisors.
(7) A program should assure that the practitioner has at least some basic knowledge of related fields, such as group dynamics, psychology, psychiatry, medicine. These additional areas of knowledge should be detailed enough to ensure as far as possible that no harm is done to the dreamer or group member through errors of omission or commission by the practitioner. In addition, any program training people to work with dreams should require its students or established practitioners to be alert to signs of and to obtain assistance for their personal problems at an early stage, in order to prevent significantly impaired performance. When students or established practitioners become aware of personal problems that may interfere with their performing work-related duties adequately, they should take appropriate measures, such as obtaining professional consultation or assistance, and determine whether they should limit, suspend, or terminate their work-related duties.
(8) When dreamwork is done to help persons with any psychological problems, the practitioner should have an appropriate professional degree and license in addition to the dreamwork training.
(9) Any program training people to work with dreams should offer and require a minimum familiarity with the history of dreamwork, not just as a preoccupation of Western culture, but as a world-wide phenomenon. Once again, professional dreamwork training and education programs are free to emphasize one element of this diverse history over others, (e.g., the Western medical/psychiatric tradition of dream exploration), but they must also present the student/trainee with a sufficiently diverse historical overview that includes exposure to at least some of the aboriginal and non-European traditions that view dreaming as means of communion with realms of spirit. It is recognized that the meaning and use of dreams may differ across and within cultures. When there are ethnic and/or cultural differences between the dreamer and the counselor, psychotherapist, dreamwork teacher, or spiritual guide these should be attended to and respected. Discussion of, sensitivity to, and respect for cultural differences both within and among cultures should not only be observed but considered an opportunity for greater communication and understanding.
(10) Although dreamwork training for specialists (such as medical practitioners, therapists, social workers, etc.) will require further training beyond these basic areas, even specialized education and training in working with dreams should conform to the fundamental principles outlined here. Those who are licensed or regulated by regional or national requirements must follow those requirements for training and practice in specialty areas in addition to the guidelines described herein.
(11) Those trained in dreamwork must demonstrate continued formal and informal study in their areas of expertise to refresh old skills and keep abreast with important developments in the field. It is recommended that a minimum of 15 hours per year be devoted to enhancing or reviewing areas of skills. Formal course work at accredited institutions, workshops with highly qualified practitioners, or continuing education offered by the Association for the Study of Dreams are ways to meet this requirement.
(12) Professional practitioners of any skill have an ethical obligation to pass on to succeeding generations the substance of their specialized knowledge in a coherent and accessible fashion. This is as true for those who work with dreams as it is for many other professional group.
(Adopted by the 2001 IASD Board of Directors)
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