IASD Guidelines for Ethical Dreamwork Training

IASD Guidelines for Ethical Dreamwork Training


These guidelines are intended to establish ethical standards for professional and nonprofessional dreamworkers (called practitioners herein), who lead dreamwork trainings. These guidelines are based on the ethical criteria established by the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) Board of Directors. Following these guidelines does not constitute an endorsement by IASD of any particular program or paradigm of dreamwork.

Ethical Criteria for Dreamwork Training

The International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) has adopted and recommends the following fundamental principles as necessary for any adequate training program for dreamwork.

We define dreamwork herein as an effort to discover and explore levels of meaning and significance of any dream experience recalled from sleep, and work with the insights gained for the purpose of self-growth and/or therapeutic benefit. A dreamworker is anyone who works with people professionally or non-professionally to help them explore dreams for purposes such as therapy, personal growth, spiritual guidance, or general health and well-being.

Dreamwork practitioners should conform to all regional and national laws regulating the practice of physical and mental health, pastoral counseling and/or spiritual direction.

Programs that offer Continuing Education credits (CEs or CEUs) must comply with  all of the requirements of the certifying agency.

Training People to Work with Dreams

(1) Statement of ethics: Any program training people to work with dreams should have a clearly stated ethical component as described in the IASD Dreamwork Ethics Statement.

Programs should provide students with a disclaimer that dreamwork is therapeutic, but it is not a replacement for psychotherapy.

(2) Assignment of authority: In accordance with this basic IASD Dreamwork Ethics Statement (https://www.asdreams.org/ethics-and-confidentiality/), any program training people to work with dreams should emphasize that ethical dreamwork helps the dreamer work with his/her own dream images, feelings, and associations; and dreams may have multiple layers of meaning to the dreamer. Systems of dreamwork that assign authority or knowledge of the ultimate meaning of the dream to someone other than the dreamer can be misleading, incorrect, and harmful. The dreamer is considered to be the final authority on the meaning of her/his dream.

Programs that train people to work with dreams may emphasize one particular technique or theory over others, but in order to achieve minimum standards for adequate professional training these programs must introduce their students and trainees to basic education in ethical practice, psychology and the science of dreaming and dreamwork.  This should include but not be limited to the following:

  • an overview of the science of sleep and dreaming;
  • an overview of the multiplicity of dreams and broad range of experiences and content including more common dreams, nightmares, lucidity, and impactful or extraordinary dreams;
  • an overview of current biological and psychological theories;
  • an overview of current dreamwork practices both clinical and general;
  • an historical and cross-cultural (including religious and spiritual) perspective of dream studies;
  • a practicum that includes ethical dreamwork.

(3) Experiential component: Any program training people to work with dreams should include a significant component of an adequately supervised practicum with dreams, both one-on-one and in groups.

(4) Course expectations: Any program training people to work with dreams should have the following:

  • written goals;
  • clearly stated learning objectives;
  • written policies regarding performance evaluation;
  • defined expectations for students including the proficiencies and skill level that will be required of them;
  • written evaluations of student and faculty performance.

These descriptions of educational goals and requirements, ethics, and evaluations policies should be made available to students prior to registration in the program.

(5) Ethics concerning projection in dreamwork:  Any program training people to work with dreams should teach about the universal propensity of people to attribute their own feelings, ideas, values and judgments to others. The program should describe the consequences of projection and provide a dreamwork protocol that avoids imposing projections on the dreamer or the dream. (Refer to the IASD Dreamwork Ethics Statement.)

(6) Respect of the dreamer: The decision of any individual dreamer to share or not share a dream in whole or in part must be respected.

(7) Importance of personal dreamwork: Any program training people to work with dreams should require its students to do ongoing work on their own dreams with a qualified practitioner.  An example of a qualified practitioner is one who has successfully completed a program on dreamwork that conforms with the guidelines of this document.

(8) Requirements for faculty:  Faculty should have a basic understanding of and experience with ethical practices, group dynamics, psychology, and teaching methods. Practitioners should have academic or professional credentials, such as an advanced degree or training in a related field, relevant publications or authored or contributed to a book which advances the field of dream studies.

The faculty member must be alert to signs of and obtain assistance for challenges to their own or their students’ emotional health. The faculty must know when and with whom to make referrals in the course of teaching or in the course of doing dreamwork with students.

It is essential that the faculty:

  • follow the ethical guidelines in this document;
  • be sensitive to cultural, religious, and gender issues;
  • avoid imposing their opinions or interpretations on the dreamer in any circumstance;
  • only recommend products or services, of their own or others, when appropriate, always prioritizing the needs of the students in pursuit of their studies and goals;
  • only make claims that are well-supported and balanced;
  • recognize that students enter the program with various degrees of readiness and the program should be advertised, designed and executed accordingly.

(9)  Teacher-Student cultural differences

When there are ethnic and/or cultural differences between the teacher and student, these should be attended to and respected. Discussion of, sensitivity to, and respect for differences both within and among cultures should be observed, respected, and considered an opportunity for greater communication and understanding.

(10) Recommendations for continuing education

It is important that those trained in dreamwork continue study in their areas of expertise to refresh their skills and keep abreast of important developments in the field. Formal coursework at institutions, workshops with highly qualified practitioners, or continuing education offered by IASD are ways to meet this recommendation.

(11) Time Frame

To obtain the breadth and depth of knowledge and practice indicated in this document takes time and commitment. The length of the course should be adequate to achieve the learning objectives stated in this document and should match the claims of the program.

(12) Record Keeping

The educational institution should keep records of their graduates and the level of training completed.

Adopted by the 2018 IASD Board of Directors