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Dream Therapy: Case Study #1
In a nutshell: Today's counseling netted some extraordinary and profound insights for one client. I felt compelled to document this case because it will go down in my career as one of the most enlightening use of Dr. Claire Hill's dream therapy model. DREAMS ARE POWERFUL AND CAN CHANGE LIVES!

Session #2 with Kevin
October 1, 2015
By Eagle1

The Client
Kevin is an army vet who has been diagnosed with and struggles greatly with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I was originally assigned to meet with this client specifically to treat his symptoms of PTSD, which includes constant flashbacks, repeating nightmares, and night terrors. On 10/1/2015, the client reported being haunted by a particularly bizarre dream that he categorized as a nightmare.

Background for Understanding the Dream
In order to set up this dream, it is important to know a little bit about Kevin’s life, specifically his previous marriages.
Wife A
was his first wife, and she turned out to be a serious drug addict. Before finding this out, however, Wife A became pregnant while they were dating and convinced him to get married to her. Without disclosing her indiscretions and other flings, she had Kevin convinced that it was his child. Fast forward 3 years later, he found out (and confirmed by a DNA test) that the child was actually not his! Wife A had purposefully lied to Kevin in order to find a safe daddy for the child. This marriage fell apart shortly after this surprise came to light. He had been manipulated.
Wife B
shows up on the scene and seems like a caring and loving wife. They have a child together and then Wife B begins cheating around on him. Wife B shows Kevin one side of her while concealing her other affairs. Once again, Kevin finds that he has been manipulated.
Wife C comes in years later and changes all this. Kevin already suspects that Wife C will be no different than the others. He has severe trust issues, but Wife C repeatedly demonstrates her convicted and untarnished love for him. Kevin and Wife C are still married to this day, and Kevin no longer mistrusts his wife.

Recent real-world events leading up to the dream
Wife B (second wife) recently passed away in her mid-thirties with severe medical problems. The funeral was just a few months prior to our session.
Wife A (first wife) calls the counseling center in search of Kevin. The message that was relayed to Kevin disturbed him. It said that Wife A was wanting to visit him in the facility. He was deeply troubled by this and called Wife C to inform her and explain that he had no idea why Wife A would want to come visit him. He was experiencing severe anxiety over this.

The Dream (occurred 2 days prior to our session and months after Wife B died)
Kevin and Wife B were driving in Kevin’s car towards Wife B’s house. They were casually talking, pulled up into the driveway, stopped the car, turned the ignition off, got out of the car, and both started walking towards the front door.
Both of them stopped in front of the door, and Wife B turns to kiss him on the cheek. The end.

Feelings in the Dream

Kevin immediately wakes up in a sweat. He realizes that Wife B has been dead for months, and even more, he considers this dream a nightmare because he did not want anything to do with Wife B. He still has angry feelings towards Wife B, and the fact that she kissed him made him immediately suspecting of her.

Dream Therapy

We had about thirty minutes left in our session and I decided to quickly move through Dr. Claire Hill’s Cognitive Experiential Dream Therapy model to analyze this dream. After Kevin recalled the dream, I had him take time to feel the sensations from the dream. What was he feeling during the car ride home? What was he feeling while talking to Wife B? Most importantly, what was he feeling while Wife B kissed him?

At first, Kevin said he felt confused. However, I suggested the possibility that he was confused while looking back on the dream, but that while in the actual dream, he might have been feeling something else. Confusion in this case would probably suggest lucidity in the dream because Kevin would probably only be confused if he was able to be aware that: 1) he was in a dream, and 2) that he was dreaming about getting kissed by an ex-wife who was already dead.

Thus, I gave him more quiet time to reflect on his true emotional state in this dream. After a brief period, he stated “I felt manipulated.” To me, this emotion sounded reasonable, so I went with it.

I then asked Kevin what current situation makes him feel manipulated. The goal here is to extract day residue while processing real world application to the dream. Typically, our minds generate dreams in unorthodox symbolism while reflecting much of our recent past experiences. He pleaded that he was not feeling manipulated at all.
As a young clinician, I had a brief inner struggle. Did he not grab the right emotion from the dream or am I asking too broad of a question. I immediately thought of specific people who might be present in his life. I was looking for females in his life who might be perceived as manipulative. I thought that Wife B (who is now deceased) might represent someone else who is actually alive right now. We went through Wife C (no, she is not manipulative) to Kevin’s mom (no, she is not manipulative) to Kevin’s grandmother (no she is not either). Then, I asked whether he had any females near him that might be manipulative. Immediately he spouted out Wife A’s name who is still living in the same town as Kevin. Kevin then explained that relationship in depth.

Immediately, I recognized a pattern, and as I started talking, Kevin’s eyes lit up. We both saw manipulation in BOTH ex-wives. I then continued the trend….I asked him to think really deeply about his current wife (Wife C). Might you subconsciously mistrust her? He insisted that he originally did mistrust her early on, which caused considerable conflict. He since learned that Wife C is extremely trustworthy and refused to believe that she has any manipulation.

So, we still don’t have an explanation for the dream theme of manipulation. There should be a current, real-world issue here having to do with manipulation! That’s when I turned to Wife A again, who was still living in Kevin’s home town. “Kevin, we need to move back to Wife A….is there anything she’s doing that is manipulative, or that you perceive as manipulative.

He immediately describes the phone call she made to the counseling center. The message said that Wife A wanted to come in and visit with him. He was horrified! But later, he found out that it was a misunderstanding by the person taking the message. It was actually his son who heard he had been sent into the facility and wanted to find him. So he asked his mom (Wife A) to call around and find him, which she did. She was, in fact, NOT wanting to visit Kevin, ....just to find out whether he was in the facility.
But emotionally speaking, the very thought of Wife A looking for him sent his subconscious down memory lane, and it horrified him. The stories he told of Wife A and B were indeed horrific and definitely manipulative.

The Dream’s Ultimate Meaning
Kevin and I formulated the dream’s meaning together, and it was very profound. Wife A’s recent phone call forced Kevin to think of manipulation in the forefront of his mind.

Thus, just 2 days later, he dreamed of the bigger manipulator ex-wife (Wife B) who, in the dream, was clearly trying to manipulate him by a deceptive kiss.

HOWEVER, the fact that his mind chose the deceased ex-wife holds a powerful nugget for Kevin. In short, Wife B in the dream represents the spousal manipulation that Kevin has experienced for a big portion of his life, threaded through two marriages. Since his mind selected the deceased Wife B as the dream character, this means that Kevin’s experience with spousal manipulation is DEAD, since Wife B passed away earlier this year.

This resonated with Kevin very deeply, to the point he talked extensively about the goosebumps up both his arms.

In Dr. Hill’s model, we don’t just stop once the meaning of the dream is ascertained. We take it one step further and create action items that will improve the client’s life. This one was easy, and Kevin took no time to state it. He said that he needed to appreciate Wife C’s non-manipulation. We talked about his upcoming anniversary, and he committed to planning a very special day for her, such that she specifically receives kudos (not just in words) for the way she treats Kevin. She needs to know how much he appreciates not being used, not being controlled, not being deceived, etc.

Kevin was elated that we somehow turned this horrific, troubling nightmare into a living testimony, and action-packed catalyst for major action. But Kevin wasn’t the only one excited. His counselor was elated as well, for this was a monumental achievement in his young career. Net results are marked decrease in anxiety (to a level zero in the client), marked improvement in mood and affect, and a strong commitment to improving his relationship skills and affirmation for his current wife.
WOW Eagle! This is fantastic!!
You should be very excited! What an excellent session for BOTH of you!
Thank you for sharing!
Wow, lots of explanation points in this reply (!)
Very impressive. Congratulations!

I work at a university so I know how important these breakthroughs are for professional careers, never mind how good it must feel to have helped a lucky-to-have-met-you person through a crisis.

Another thing that popped into my mind was, "Hey! I can use this method for myself with a dream I had last weekend that had me waking up madder than a wet hen." Big Grin
Dreams are extraordinary, but even more so when knows how to work with them. Do hope to have many more of these accounts, and I'll do a better job of outlining Hill's model so that we can all do our own DreamWork. Even those dreams that end up coming true!
I look forward to seeing these studies.
Learning from Hill's model would be great! Thanks!

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