Ethics and Confidentiality

Ethics and Confidentiality

IASD has, over the years, developed several different ethics policies for different aspects of dreamwork. The first one, the IASD Dreamwork Ethics Statement, was developed in 1997 and is used as the gold standard for dreamwork worldwide. This statement is focused strictly on dreamwork.

  1. IASD Dreamwork Ethics Statement

IASD celebrates the many benefits of dreamwork, yet recognizes that there are potential risks. IASD 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 significance.

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.

IASD 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 the IASD Ethics Committee
Carol Warner, Chair
Association for the Study of Dreams
Spring, 1997

The next statement, the Statement of Ethical Concerns, was developed very early in IASD’s history.  It is intended to provide general guidelines and standards of behavior and principles for presenters and participants at IASD conferences and other meetings.  It is a much more general statement than the Dreamwork Ethics Statement.

  1. Statement of Ethical Concerns

In articulating a statement of ethical concerns regarding the study of dreams, the members of the Association for the Study of Dreams acknowledge not only the value and importance of the personal and professional study and use of dreams but also the responsibility inherent in such study and use. The Association also recognizes that, since the study and application of dreams is undertaken in such diverse contexts, it is neither possible nor appropriate to set forth specific standards for the proper enactment of this responsibility. Nevertheless, the Association does wish to establish and make clear its expectations regarding its own membership.

To begin it should be understood that while membership in The International Association for the Study of Dreams clearly indicates an interest in this study, this membership should not be taken to imply competence in any given field of the study or application of dreams. Nor should membership in the Association, which is open to anyone, be taken to imply any endorsement whatsoever of the activities of those persons maintaining such membership.

Nevertheless, it is expected that all members of The International Association for the Study of Dreams will do their utmost to respect the rights and dignity of other persons in whatever formal or informal involvement they may have with dreams. It is expected that members will make every effort to insure the welfare both of those persons who may seek their services as well as of those persons whose assistance or participation members themselves may seek in their own dream related activities. Furthermore, IASD members who are researchers and practitioners are expected to be familiar with and conduct all of their professional activities in accordance with the established standards of their respective professions.

In addition to these general ethical requirements of its members, the Association hereby makes clear its intention to establish and uphold three basic principles with regard to its own functions and to the conduct of those who are involved in carrying out these functions. Such functions include but are not limited to the Annual International Dream Conference, local programming, IASD sponsored professional presentations and media coverage associated with any of the above activities.

Principle 1: The Upholding of Honesty, Accuracy and Openness

All invited speakers and presenters for IASD functions or programs as well as all officers, board members and other persons serving IASD in any official or unofficial capacity are expected to make every reasonable effort to insure the presentation of accurate, complete information and the free exchange of ideas and alternate points of view. More concretely, this general principle may be understood to include but not be limited to the presentation of one’s own credentials, competencies, training and education as well as one’s own activities whether these be scientific, academic, social or clinical in nature. This principle may also be taken to include but not be limited to the presentation of accurate, unbiased information and resources regarding dreams and dreaming whenever a member offers or participates in any IASD functions.

Principle 2: The Avoidance of Conflict of Interest

All invited speakers, presenters and workshop leaders for IASD functions as well as all officers, board members and other persons serving IASD in any official or unofficial capacity are expected to make every reasonable effort to avoid situations which may present a conflict of interest or which may compromise their ability to make objective and responsible decisions. These persons shall not unduly exploit their responsibilities with and for the Association for the Study of Dreams nor their involvement in any IASD related program or function to further their own personal, political or business interests. Such undue exploitation of their association and responsibilities with IASD may be understood to include but not be limited to the active solicitation of clients for private practice; the use of position, trust or dependency to engage in sexual harassment or activity; and the concerted pursuit or acceptance of immoderate material or financial gain.

Principle 3: The Insurance of Informed Consent, Privacy and Confidentiality

All invited speakers, presenters and workshop leaders are expected, in all IASD activities, to obtain free and informed consent for any participation required by or offered to others. It is understood that such consent involves an adequate disclosure of purposes, requirements, benefits and risks of the activity in question and that such consent not be obtained under conditions which may be perceived as threatening or coercive. Furthermore, it is expected that all invited speakers, presenters and workshop leaders will, in all IASD activities, respect the privacy of others and take every reasonable step to insure that personal information gained while engaging in these activities be kept confidential.

Eric Craig, Chair Ethics Committee, 1993

The next statement, the Abbreviated Ethical Statement, is a condensed form of the Statement of Ethical Concerns.  It was created to summarize the rather lengthy original statement.

  1. Abbreviated Ethical Statement

The International Association for the Study of Dreams acknowledges the value and importance of the study of dreams and recognizes the responsibility inherent in such study and its consequent applications. The Association encourages its members to exemplify the highest standards of ethical behavior in whatever involvement they may have with dreams. Members are thus encouraged to do their utmost to respect the rights and dignity of other persons; to be honest, accurate and open-minded in the presentation of information and ideas; to insure privacy and confidentiality in dealing with clients, research subjects or members of the general public; and to prevent and avoid any situation where a conflict of interest may compromise the capacity for making prudent and objective decisions and responses.

In keeping with these broad principles, the Association considers it unethical, at its own conferences and programs, for members to use direct solicitation or persuasion for economic or self aggrandizement. Presenters are expected to be honest and accurate in the communication of their own credentials and competencies.

The last statement, the Ethical Criteria for Dreamwork Training, was approved by the IASD Board in 2001.  It provides principles and elements necessary for professional dreamwork training.

For Guidelines to Ethical Dreamwork Training click here >>>

Added August 2019:

The IASD Dreamwork Ethics Statement clearly states, “…dream groups outside a clinical setting are not a substitute for psychotherapy, or any other professional treatment, and should not be used as such.” However, as IASD co-founder Jeremy Taylor (1992) wrote,

On rare occasions, a person may show up at a dream group meeting with psychotic or prepsychotic tendencies. In such a circumstance, dream group members should be prepared to offer friendly and firm support to the troubled person in finding appropriate ongoing help. In a group open to all comers, the organizers should have a list of mental health professionals available for referrals. (pp. 130-131)

Taylor, J. (1992). Where people fly and water runs uphill: Using dreams to tap the wisdom of the unconscious. New York, NY: Warner Books.

Sometimes a person simply needs more help and personal attention than is appropriate in a dream group. Other times, it can be successful for a person to attend therapy on their own, parallel to attending a dream group. Whichever the circumstance, it is important for dream group hosts and facilitators to know how to access local referrals.

In the United States, IASD recommends using as a tool to search for qualified licensed therapists in your local area, and compile your own list to have on hand.