Dreamwork Therapy for addiction recovery and healing

All dreams come in the service of health and wholeness. Can analyzing your dreams open new perspectives in addiction recovery? Here is how Dreamwork can help you understand more about your inner Self and increase your awareness in addiction recovery..

minute read

Dreams affect everyone

Alcoholism and drug addiction can affect anyone regardless of gender, age, race, socio-economic level or IQ. Another phenomenon that affects all humans is dreaming.

Nighttime dreaming, that is.

More about Dreamwork and its use in addiction treatment here. We’ll also cover 5 simple steps that you can take to start remembering your dreams in vivid color. Don’t miss the section at the end for your questions and comments. In fact, we try to respond to all questions personally and promptly!

The importance of dreams in addiction recovery

Dreamwork and recovery are a great partnership.


From a scientific standpoint, studies have shown that sleep and dreaming are important to repairing both mind and body which, of course, is critical in the process of recovering from addiction.

From a spiritual perspective, dreams are viewed as messages from the soul and have been a guiding force for most indigenous cultures. The Bible – our culture’s most well known sacred book – recounts many stories of prophecy coming through dreams. It is only in modern times that dreams have become a part of pop culture and not taken as seriously as times of past. Still, people are still fascinated by dreams and have an inherent desire to better understand them.

The psychoanalysis of dreams: Deep, unconscious desires

To understand more about the power of dreams in treating addictions, let’s dive into the foundational principles behind both Dreamwork and addiction recovery.

Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist who spent his professional life studying the unconscious. But he is also one of the best known contributors to the field of dreamwork. He believed that alcoholism was a spiritual thirst. Further, he posited that connecting with a Higher Power would help people overcome alcoholism. Therefore, it makes sense that learning a tool to dive into the mystery of Dreamwork would help quelch the thirst for spirit.

Using dreamwork as a part of the recovery process can be profoundly healing as it dips into the subconscious and brings buried information to light. Because dreams use symbols, metaphors, and archetypes as its language it is often like solving a puzzle or a mystery when we start working with dreams to find the underlying meaning.

It’s also about delving into the mystery… the mystery of being a spiritual being.

How does healing through dreams work?

As a therapist working with recovering addicts, I find using client’s dreams in sessions and groups a powerful tool to delving into deeper issues. I view it as getting direct messages from the soul to help guide the recovery.

To clarify, it’s not up to me to interpret the dream, but rather guide the client in finding their own interpretation. The moment the client has the “AHA moment!” related to a dream, an instantaneous healing happens that rarely occurs with traditional talk therapy. There appears to be a deep knowing that goes to a soul level.

Nightmares and recurring dreams present even more material to work with. I often find clients very resistant to discussing nightmares. Yet, when I explain that it is their shadow material trying to make itself known they tend to open up. The idea is that if we can acknowledge the information that’s present, the nightmares almost always cease. The same applies for recurring dreams.

In fact, both nightmares and recurring dreams are simply the most sacred part of the Self trying desperately to get the person’s attention. Jeremy Taylor, an ordained Unity Universalist minister who has worked with dreams for over forty years states:,

“All dreams speak a universal language and come in the service of health and wholeness. There is no such thing as a “bad dream” – only dreams that sometimes take a dramatically negative form in order to grab our attention.”

Common nightmares in addiction recovery

A common nightmare for a person new in addiction recovery is to dream about their own death or even a suicide. This is actually a powerful metaphor or symbol of the change that is occurring within the psycho-spiritual aspect of the person. Reframing these terribly frightening dreams to help the client recognize that the sick, addicted part of themselves is dying. This becomes a very powerful tool for the person making such drastic shifts in their life.

There is also a concept known as “compensatory dreams”. Jung stated the psyche is a self- regulating system and that dreams help balance things out. This is always a huge relief to a person in recovery who has a using dream. It’s not unusual for the recovering person to feel guilty for having the dream. Instead, it is the psyche’s way of balancing out what the person had been doing for ages in waking life into the dream life. It’s also a great reminder in waking life how miserable the life of addiction was.

Most commonly, anyone in recovery who has ever had a using dream can report what relief they feel when they wake up to discover they are still sober and haven’t veered back down the path of addiction.

5 Steps to more vivid dreams

Having trouble dreaming?

Many people report that they don’t remember their dreams. But it’s simply a case of exercising and strengthening your memory muscle. In fact, once you begin remembering dream images, the dreams will become more vivid and easier to note. Here are the steps you can take to start dreaming more vividly:

1. Set an intention to remember your dreams before you go to sleep.

2. Place a pen and paper beside the bed to capture any dream snippets during the night.

3. Immediately upon waking, before even moving your body, check to see if there are any dream images lingering in the ethers to grab hold of. This stage of waking is a critical time to capture the memory.

4. Record as much of the dream in free writing as possible. Do not analyze. Simply record.

5. Continued Dreamwork recording can then be assessed later with the help of a trained psychotherapist or dream analyst.

Dreamwork and addiction questions

Do you have anything you’d like to ask or add? Please leave your questions and comments in the designated section at the bottom of the page. We appreciate your feedback and try to answer personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries. In case we don’t know the answer to a question we will gladly refer you to professionals who can help.

About the author
Tamara Roth, Ph.D, is Clinical Director of women’s programming at JourneyPure's Tennessee treatment center JourneyPure At The River, and an accomplished author of “High Bottom – Letting Go of Vodka and Chardonnay” and "New Bottom – Turning the Other Cheek." Dr. Roth is a licensed professional counselor with two master's degrees from Vanderbilt University and a PhD in metaphysics from The American Institute of Holistic Theology. She is a trained neurofeedback provider, EMDR therapist, and has extensive training in dreamwork.
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