Dreamwork: Used here as a general term to denote any structured approach to a
recalled dream. This includes various interpretive methods used both in and
outside of clinical settings as well as keeping a journal and expressing the
dream in art, theatre, dance and other forms. The emphasis is on *doing*
something with the dream.
Dream Sharing: Used here to mean a recalled dream that is shared, usually
with another person or group of people. The emphasis here is more social than
dreamwork and less formal. Dream sharing can occur in dreamwork, but also more
casually as in a phone conversation with a friend or over a water cooler at
work, or on a bulletin board on the world wide web. The emphasis is on sharing.
The Association for the Study of Dreams (ASD) has been promoting safe
dreamwork since it's beginning in 1984. Pioneers such as Jeremy Taylor, Gayle
Delaney, Strephon Kaplan-Williams, Montague Ullman, Henry Reed, Patricia
Garfield and many others strove to forefront a set of dreamwork ethics and
practices that would always allow the dreamer to be the final authority on
issues of meaning and value, whether working with a therapist in a closed
setting or talking with friends openly on the telephone. These values and ethics
have been successful in allowing grass-roots dreamwork groups to develop safely
outside clinical settings. They have also allowed clinicians a perspective
through which they can view dreamwork as a useful tool for empowering patients.
These values and ethics can now be transported to the new virtual frontier
and become a model for dreamwork and dream sharing taking place in Cyberspace.
Just as the offline grassroots dreamwork movement looks to the Association for
the Study of Dreams as a standard for behaviors and ethics, so too the online
dream movement can find direction and guidance in ASD and its model groups and
There has been some history of concern at ASD about whether these values and
practices can accurately be transported from offline to online, from
face-to-face to Cyberspace, from the contained vessel of the therapeutic
container to an anonymous encounter with virtual strangers.
The original concern about online dream sharing and dreamwork was first
discussed at the ASD executive board in 1995. At that time there was on the
table a proposal to have both an ASD website and computer café for the 1996
Berkeley Conference. Some of the concerns mentioned below and the following
decisions were discussed and enacted during the Spring 1996 executive board
meeting as well.
It may be difficult to realize that at the time, the Internet was an all but
unknown phenomenon to the general public. Within two years it would be difficult
in the Bay Area to watch TV for more than a half-an hour without the Internet
being promoted, or drive 10 blocks without seeing a billboard for e-commerce.
But in 1994-95, one had to pretty much explain the word "Internet" if
used in casual conversation. It was under these conditions that the ASD
executive board had to decide the policies that would guide the organization
into the 21st Century.
The main concern had both a specific and general side. The specific concern
was how to regulate remote dream sharing at ASD venues where interpretations of
dreams might be imposed on the dreamer. The more general concern was whether it
was emotionally safe to have dream sharing conducted remotely without the usual
containers and safety values provided by face-to-face dreamwork.
Peripheral concerns also included:
a. Would ASD be libel or legally responsible for problems that arose with
participants or the actions of the leaders?
b. Would ASD be seen as endorsing a process or particular remarks made by
individuals or leaders during these sessions?
c. Would WWW links to other sites constitute endorsement of these websites?
Other concerns that have emerged around this include a concern about
dreamwork as a clinical vs non-clinical activity. Traditionally with therapy,
dream narratives and images have been connected with material that the client
may not be ready to be aware of about themselves. There was a concern that
dreamwork could cause reactions such as de-compensation or depression in people
suffering from various mental illnesses, as well as other reactions that might
require a mental heath professional.
The decision was to :
1. Prohibit all sharing of personal dreams and interpretations of dreams on the
ASD bulletin board on the website (at that time hosted by GMCC).
2. Provide a clear warning and disclaimer to any links to sites off of the ASD
3. Have a committee decide what links were appropriate, if any.
4. Prohibit live & delayed online dream sharing at any ASD conference or ASD
sponsored event until further studies had been done.
5. Develop a Dreamwork Ethics Statement. (See copy below)
To address the concerns about the safety of online dreamwork and dream
sharing, Sara Richards, Ph.D. and Richard Wilkerson developed a panel discussion
at the 1996 Berkeley Conference and brought together a variety of people who had
been experimenting for some time with dream sharing and dreamwork online. The
panel consisted of John Herbert, Ph.D., Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D., Linton
Hutchinson, Ph.D., Jeremy Taylor, Sarah Richards, Ph.D. and Richard Wilkerson.
(Other projects were also developed, such as test-groups conducted independently
of ASD by many members, and online dreaming education programs. For a short
history see the ASD Dream Time Cyberphile Winter 1997, Volume 14, #1
The conclusion of the panel, regarding the safety of online dreamwork, was
unanimous. All felt that dreamwork and dream sharing online could be, and was
being, conducted safely and productively. The panel was brought together again
in Santa Cruz in 1999 and came to the same conclusions.
Some of the recommendations included:
1. State up front what the ethical guidelines are and whether the session is
or is not a psychotherapy session. Although the Board of Behavioral Science has
now given a go-ahead for Mental Health professionals to provide some services
online, it has not been demonstrated whether dreamwork will be appropriate or
not. Non-clinical dreamwork online *has* been continually demonstrated to have
productive and live enhancing results.
2. Use non-defensive approaches, such as John Herbert's variations on the Ullman
State III "...if this were my dream." approach or the Gayle Delaney
Interview method have been the most often used and are recommended. The key is
leaving the control of the final interpretation, if any, in the hands of dreamer
and always allowing them to be the final authority.
3. At the end of dream sharing sessions, provide a feed-back form that allows
the people involved to express concerns about the moderator and the process and
4. Due to the language and difficult topics and images that can occur in
dreamwork, special considerations are needed for children sharing dreams online.
At this time, dreamwork online may not be appropriate for them, at least in the
groups that have been presented at ASD.
Further conclusions: Why is online dream sharing safe?
John Herbert's comparison study of face-to-face dream groups with online
dream groups (Herbert 1991, 2000) found that face-to-face groups were more
emotional while online groups were more reflective. It was suggested that is
this due to the delay in response time in his bulletin board groups study, and
that people have more time to reflect.
As Jeremy Taylor has pointed out, real time dreamwork in chat and conference
rooms offers the safety of anonymity. People join anonymously and this allows
them control over personal exposure and the possibility of retaliation if they
expose a vulnerable part of themselves.
As Richard Wilkerson has pointed out, there is a group process that protects
the dreamer from intrusive and abusive language/behavior. If someone says
something inappropriate to a dreamer, there are others who will jump right in
and confront them. They too needn't fear direct retaliation, by the leader or
other group members. (Other than verbal abuse, which is very, very rare in
dreamsharing. This is due to the natural-selection process. Dreamwork tends to
attract people who are interested in personal growth. People with big issues
join political discussion groups).
As Jayne Gackenbach has pointed out, there is now an online culture. That is,
people online are not as confused as they were about what they are getting into
and what is and isn't appropriate online. To further this clarity, participants
can be asked to sign or check boxes that indicate they understand and agree to
the terms and conditions of the group.
However, the organization (ASD) was reluctant to move from its initial
position that the Internet is not an appropriate place for dreamwork and dream
Further research and exploration of ASD and online dream sharing.
In 1995 Alan Siegel, Ph.D. and Richard Wilkerson began the Cyberphile column
on the quarterly ASD Dream Time magazine. Each issue contained updates, news,
articles and information about dream sharing and dreamwork online, as well as
providing a forum for those concerned about such issues. The project has been a
gateway for hundreds of people to come online, experience a variety of dreamwork
venues, and contribute to the dream field in general. Out of the hundreds of new
people we have met and shared dreams with, not one has reported being abused in
any way in the venues mentioned. Some were concerned, some not interested, some
questioned the relevancy and significance of online dreamwork. But no one was
harmed. This isn't to say it can't happen, but it does give testimony to online
dreamwork as one of the safest activities available.
In 1999, Alan Siegel initiated the Dream Time Live program, where ASD members
with general and specialized experience in dreams and dreaming were brought
together with the general public and provided another forum to discuss what the
problems and solutions with online dreamwork might entail. Many of the initial
pioneers of dreamwork online have participated and discussed ways that ASD might
become a model for online dreamwork.
In 2000 Ed Kellogg, Ph.D., proposed on the Electronic Communication Committee
a new standard for dream sharing on the ASD bulletin board. The new policy still
restricted interpretations of dreams in the context of requests by dreamers for
other people to impose meanings on them, but allowed the meaning of dreams to be
discussed in the context of research presented on the ASD bulletin board.
In 2000, Alan Siegel & Richard Wilkerson brought together researchers
& dreamwokers who have been developing dream sharing online and presented an
dual - offline/online issue of Dream Time Magazine. This resource includes
articles about online dreamwork by Jeremy Taylor, John Herbert, Jayne Gackenback,
Robert Bosnak, Fred Olsen, Walter Logeman and Harry Bosma. This project is now a
resource for others to find the wide variety of safe dreamwork processes that
have worked online and develop new processes.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Sharing dreams online is somewhat different than sharing dreams offline, but
not so much that ASD ethics and values for dreamworkers would be violated. In
fact, online dreamwork would benefit from having dreamwork modeled by an
organization that is as respected as ASD. While not all cyber-venues may be
appropriate for dream sharing, all dream sharing cyberecologies can benefit from
having a positive model.
The evidence for safe online dreamwork is now overwhelming, and after 7 years
of trials the time is ripe for ASD begin developing its own programs. There is a
large body of literature, experience and public documents now available for
study and use. These trials and experiments offer the ASD organization a
framework to build model dream groups.
(if you can not find any of these documents, you can request them from
Richard Wilkerson, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Gackenbach, Jayne (1996). Writing a Dream Class for the World Wide Web.
Grant MacEwan Community College. This paper was presented at the annual meeting
of the Association for the Study of Dreams, Berkeley, Calif., 1996. Retrieved
August 17, 2000 on the World Wide Web: http://www.sawka.com/spiritwatch/writing.htm
Herbert, John W. (2000). Reflections on online dream groups. ASD Dream Time,
17(3). pp 14-15,32. Retrieved August 17, 2000 on the World Wide Web:
Herbert, John W. (2000). Dreamwork on the Internet. Private conversations
with John Herbert about this 2000 Ph.D thesis, July, 2000.
Herbert, John W. (1999). The Different Kinds of Online Dreamwork.
Presentation, ASD Conference 16, Santa Cruz, CA UCSC.
Herbert, John (1996 October). The Founding of alt.dreams: Some Historical
Cyber-dreaming Notes. Electric Dreams 3(9). Retrieved July 26, 2000 from
Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams
Herbert, John W. (1991). "Human Science Research Methods in Studying
Dreamwork: Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Face-to-Face and Computer
Dream Work Groups." Unpublished Manuscript, Saybrook Institute, San
Francisco. Retrieved August 17, 2000 on the World Wide Web:
Herbert, John W. (1994).A Sample Session of An Online Dream Group on
SeniorNet. Unpublished. Retrieved August 17, 2000 on the World Wide Web:
Taylor, Jeremy (2000). In Praise of Electronic Intimacy - Initial
Explorations of the Deeper Meanings of Dreams via the Glowing Screen of Shared
Cyberspace. ASD Dream Time 17(3), 42-27, 36. Retrieved August 17, 2000 on the
World Wide Web:
Taylor, Jeremy (1996). Dreaming Deep and Surfacing: Dreamwork Community in
Cyberspace. Dream Network: A Journal Exploring Dreams and Myth, 15(1), 35,45.
Taylor, Jeremy (1996). Dreamwork in Cyberspace. Retrieved August 17, 2000 on
the World Wide Web: http://www.jeremytaylor.com/cyberspace.htm
Wilkerson, Richard Catlett and Branka (1999 August). Special Section: Dream
Sharing with Serbia: A Special Report of a Dream Group Held During the Crisis in
Kosovo: Transcripts and Notes by Richard Wilkerson & Branka. Electric Dreams
6(8). Retrieved July 14, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web:
Wilkerson, Richard Catlett ed. (1998 October). A Transcript from an Online
Dream Group 'Coins of Life' August 1998 DreamWheel. Electric Dreams 5(9).
Retrieved July 8, 2000 on the World Wide Web: http://members.tripod.com/~electric_dreams/ed5?9.txt
Wilkerson, Richard Catlett ed. (1998 October). A Short History on the Rise of
Dream Sharing in
Cyberspace. Electric Dreams 5(9). Retrieved July 8, 2000 on the World Wide Web:
Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1997 August). Cyberdream - History Notes.
Electric Dreams 4(7). Retrieved July 26, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World
Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams
Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (Winter, 1997). A History of Dream Sharing in
Cyberspace ? Part I The Association for the Study of Dreams Newsletter 14(1).
Retrieved July 26, 2000 on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/dream/cyberphile/rcwasd05.htm
Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1997 January). DreamSharing In Cyberspace I -
Email and Mail Lists. Electric Dreams 4(1). Retrieved July 26, 2000 on the World
Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams
Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1996 July). ASD XIII and Cyberspace. Electric
Dreams 3(6). Retrieved from Electric Dreams July 27, 2000 on the World Wide Web:
Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1996 July). Dangerous Dreams: The Risks of Online
Dream Sharing. Electric Dreams 3(6). Retrieved from Electric Dreams July 27,
2000 on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams
Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1996 September). Significant Dreams: The Two
Millennium Silence Breaks in Cyberspace. Electric Dreams 3(8). Retrieved July
26, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams
Wilkerson, Richard Catlett and John Herbert (1995 April 15). John Herbert and
the Internet Group. Electric Dreams 2(6). Retrieved July 31, 2000 from Electric
Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams
To read John Herbert's research work comparing face to face groups with
online groups, go to
Herbert, J.W. (1991) "Human Science Research Methods in Studying Dreamwork:
Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Face?to?Face and Computer Dream Work
Groups." Unpublished Manuscript, Saybrook Institute, San Francisco.
and the newer
For a quick history and summary of this work, see:
Wilkerson, R. & Herbert, J. (1995). John Herbert and the Internet Group
Dreamwork. Electric Dreams 2(6)
ASD DREAMWORK ETHICS STATEMENT
ASD celebrates the many benefits of dreamwork, yet recognizes that there are
potential risks. ASD supports an approach to dreamwork and dream sharing that
respects the dreamer's dignity and integrity, and which recognizes the dreamer
as the decision?maker regarding the significance of the dream. Systems of
dreamwork that assign authority or knowledge of the dream's meanings to someone
other than the dreamer can be misleading, incorrect, and harmful. Ethical
dreamwork helps the dreamer work with his/her own dream images, feelings, and
associations, and guides the dreamer to more fully experience, appreciate, and
understand the dream. Every dream may have multiple meanings, and different
techniques may be reasonably employed to touch these multiple layers of
A dreamer's decision to share or discontinue sharing a dream should always be
respected and honored. The dreamer should be forewarned that unexpected issues
or emotions may arise in the course of the dreamwork. Information and mutual
agreement about the degree of privacy and confidentiality are essential
ingredients in creating a safe atmosphere for dream sharing.
Dreamwork outside a clinical setting is not a substitute for psychotherapy,
or other professional treatment, and should not be used as such.
ASD recognizes and respects that there are many valid and time?honored
dreamwork traditions. We invite and welcome the participation of dreamers from
all cultures. There are social, cultural, and transpersonal aspects to dream
experience. In this statement we do not mean to imply that the only valid
approach to dreamwork focuses on the dreamer's personal life. Our purpose is to
honor and respect the person of the dreamer as well as the dream itself,
regardless of how the relationship between the two may be understood.
Prepared by Carol Warner
and the Ethics Committee
Association for the Study of Dreams