Working with Nightmares - 3rd & 4th October 2020
Time & Location
About the Event
Nightmares are a classic symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and this course provides a simple, step-by-step approach to working with nightmares that minimises the danger of re-traumatisation. We also introduce participants to the work with ordinary dreams. Finding a way to avoid re-traumatisation is an essential part of working with people suffering from trauma. Trauma is a “blocked” process that needs processing so that it can be stored and remembered the same way as normal memories. Contemporary research has shown that nightmares and other sleep disturbances can be “stuck” patterns. Some approaches to working with trauma suggest that nightmares can be alleviated if the person can change the ending (e.g. Gehrman and Harb, 2010). However, if this is done by consciously rehearsing the narrative of the nightmare, it can lead to re-traumatisation, distress, and drop-out from therapy. Based on systemic, embodied and trauma recovery approaches we support trauma clients to stay within the therapeutic window by beginning the therapy session with safety and stabilization. Working with nightmares involves re-visiting the trauma (in some way) and it is not always possible for sufferers to do this until they are stable and have the resources to calm themselves if they become triggered by the work. Using our framework, as the client processes the content of the trauma, they are able to stay in the present, aware of bodily sensations, and not become flooded by emotion. As a result of this work, the negative elements of the nightmare are transformed, allowing the client to move on from the “stuck” process. Working with embodied experiences connected to trauma is a much more gentle exposure than working with the traumatic narrative. Because narrative can be a powerful trigger, we use indirect imaginal exposure processing so that clients are more likely to stay within the therapeutic window (Briere and Scott, 2006). In this workshop, our participants learn through reflecting on the experiences they get from doing different exercises. As a result of this training, participants will learn: (1) how the nightmare can be broken into its various components which can be processed individually, and how nightmares can be re-processed without rehearsing the painful narratives which can re-traumatise clients; (2) how ordinary dreams can be broken into their various components to help the client process the whole dream; (3) how nightmare and dream re-processing can be incorporated into counselling or psychotherapy sessions. Through this training, participants are introduced to systemic, experiential and embodied techniques in nightmare and dream re-processing. For the purposes of training and research, we are collaborating with Tom Stoneham (a philosophy professor) and several researchers at the University of York. Tom has developed a Cultural–Social Model of dreams, which provides an alternative theoretical foundation for working with dreams and nightmares. The theory postulates that our dream content is largely determined by external social and cultural factors whereas most theories heavily rely on internal psychological processes.
- Working with Nightmares£150£1500£0