Carl Jung’s approach to therapy and dream analysis

Carl Jung and Therapy

Carl Jung taught that the unconscious is purposeful. He saw that our dream shows us (therapist or patient), through images, how to take the next step in in our own individuation journey. He also saw that a legend or fairy tale uses similar images to similar purpose.

Jung showed that some images are true symbols, that is, the best possible representation of a mystery. Therapy helps us to develop a dialogue between the conscious mind and the unconscious: the unconscious itself remains a mystery. Such dialogue dissolves psychological blockages and thus allows the personality to renew itself.

Jung’s approach to therapy works, in part, by helping us to better understand the images which the unconscious sends us. These images may appear in our relationships with others, as well as in dreams and myths.

Therapy helps us to confront unconscious contents as they are projected onto our relationships. Relationships improve as we become more conscious.

Since creativity also involves a dialogue with the unconscious, Jungian therapy is a creative process. It is thus specially attractive to creative people.


Carl Jung’s Approach to Therapy

Jungian therapy diverged from Freudian therapy when Jung broke from Freud early last century. Jung emphasized the prospective meaning of symbols in dreams. Jungian therapy gives less weight to (but does not deny) repressed sexuality. It considers obstacles to prospective striving to be as important as childhood conflicts. Like Heinz Kohut, Jung emphasized leading edge interpretations (looking forward rather than back.)

Jungian therapy or analysis is face-to-face. Jung said that only the therapist’s whole self could do justice to the patient’s whole self. In this way he anticipated intersubjectivity which is central to current psychoanalysis.

Therapy often includes dream interpretation. Jung taught that the guiding Self uses dreams to support growth. When an analyst interprets a dream it is to better understand the direction of the Self.

Therapy seeks to build a dialogue between consciousness and the unconscious. Therapy should have no agenda other than increased consciousness. Out of the dialogue direction will emerge.

Greater fulfillment and meaning come from a better relationship with the unconscious. Dreams, fairy tales, myths, and religious symbols all seek to bring unconscious forms and impulses into consciousness. When consciousness widens its range, Jung said, it is renewed.


Carl Jung’s Dream Interpretation in Therapy: Notes on Technique

Jungian dream interpretation stays close to the images within the dream. Jung said that Freud’s free association always led to complexes but left the dream behind. In Jung’s approach we associate to the dream image until we reach an affect-laden association, then we stop.

The dream is purposeful. The therapist assumes that the dream provides images or stories which compensate a one-sided conscious viewpoint.

The setting describes the overall problem. The rest of the dream should be interpreted in that context. Otherwise the therapist tends to interpret striking images out of context.

Both objective and subjective associations should be considered. If these disagree, the therapist looks for a corresponding conflict in the dreamer.

Polarities in the dream should be interpreted. Jung saw that these represent tensions in the dreamer.

The therapist should look for repetition of the same idea with different images. These help confirm the interpretation.

The therapist should look for settingperipeteiacrisis, and lysis, as components of the dream’s structure. The therapist should consider both objective- and subjective-level interpretations. In Carl Jung’s approach some images are seen as metaphorical, while some are truly symbolic: the best possible representation of something mysterious.

The therapist may amplify the meaning of true symbols by comparisons with mythology.

The therapist should see the dreamer’s flush, sigh, tears, relaxation, or enthusiastic agreement (Yes! That’s it!), before accepting his or her interpretation.

Without that affirmation, the therapist should assume the interpretation is wrong, either in content or in timing. This is because, even if the interpretation is technically correct (and it may not be), unless the dreamer can incorporate the interpretation into his or her own consciousness, it will serve no useful purpose.



Jung saw that archetypal images occur in everyone’s dreams independent of education. And that they occur in mythology independent of ethnicity. He recognized that these images carry psychological energy and suggest future developments.

Archetypal images represent as-yet-unconscious potentials. Jung saw that archetypal potential leads to illness when it is blocked. Therapy helps us to relate to archetypal images consciously, thereby releasing their energy for growth. Carl Jung’s approach resembles that of many traditional cultures; traditional cultures often attend closely to dreams.

The archetype-as-such is universal while the archetypal image is derived from the dreamer’s experience.

The shadow, anima, animus, and Self are common archetypal forms. Therapy works to make these more conscious. Each usually appears as a charged human figure.

Archetypes, though numerous, are still limited in number – they represent universal factors.

Jung argued that the personality can be renewed by integrating new archetypal contents.