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Dream journaling in art therapy

Dream journaling in art therapy

Dream journaling

What is dream journaling in art therapy? The process, the technique and insights…

Updated on July 31st, 2021. 
Art therapy is the process of using art to express deep-seated emotions that are difficult to explain verbally. Art therapy involves various techniques like painting, sculpting, doodling, sketching etc. The purpose of the art therapy is to help people deal with their innermost thoughts and emotions which are difficult to talk about. People mostly use the above-mentioned techniques to showcase what they are feeling and then these creations are analyzed by the art therapist to understand the hinted emotions and stress. Dream journaling in art therapy focuses on making sense of one’s dreams to understand their inner self and work out through the chaotic emotions.

What is dream journaling in art therapy?

We all dream. We do this either consciously or unconsciously. It is a continuous process of our life. Dream journaling or cataloging basically focuses on the dreams you have when you’re sleeping. So, where does dream journaling fit in art therapy? To understand how dream journaling in art therapy works, we must understand what is dream journaling in the first place…

A guide to art therapy for newbies

What is dream journaling in art therapy?

In simple words, a dream journal is a journal which records your dreams. Dream journaling in art therapy can be viewed as an invaluable source of gaining an insight into the psychology of an individual. Dream journals are very individualistic. Not everyone dreams the same way. Every person has different emotions, different thought processes, different ambitions in their lives. These influence the dreams you see when you are sleeping. It is impossible to memorize your dreams. Dream journaling is basically keeping a record of your dreams. This can help you analyze your thought processes and enable you to understand your own experiences in the future.

Eventually, you may find that your journal becomes a personal treasure to you. It will give you the valuable perspective into things which matter the most to you like your relationships, activities, your biggest concerns, etc.

Dreams have a way of communicating which is very hard to understand the moment you wake up. Thus, the best way to understand your dream is to record them in a journal. It does not matter if you don’t remember your dream clearly. Write down or draw whatever you do remember as part of your dream. It can be a wispy image or a minuscule fragment of your entire dream. Just make sure to record it the moment you wake up.

Understanding the benefits of art therapy

The history of dream journaling in art therapy

The focus on dreams started way back in the 1930s when one of the pioneers of Western dream psychology, Carl Jung proposed to use dreams as a means to explore an individual’s inner thoughts and life. In his essay titled as ‘Individual dream symbolism in relation to alchemy’, he focused on his analysis of more than a thousand dreams and visual impressions from one person. In his essay, he has also described the method he used to understand the dreams.

He mentioned that in understanding dreams, dreams should not be seen as an isolated entity. The dreams are a coherent series whose meaning is gradually understood. The interpretation of each individual dream is going to be different depending upon the individual, but as a series when all of the dreams are focused upon, it will give the psychologist or the therapist an insight into the person’s thinking processes and feelings and how the person approaches life and deals with problems.

Benefits of dream journaling in art therapy:

There was several benefits of keeping a dream journal. A few of the benefits are listed as follows:

Improvement in dream recall

This is the primary benefit of dream journaling in art therapy. When people maintain a dream journal, their dream recall improves. Even having your dream journal at hand as your drift off to sleep tells your consciousness that you are ready to document your dream. This helps to focus your psychic attention towards the messages in the dreams and help keep your dream fresh in your mind when you wake up for the purpose of documentation.
The most important part of dream journaling is to document your dream the moment you wake up. When you wake up from your dream, do not try to slip back into sleep. Write the dream down while it is still fresh in your head. Eventually you will get better at remembering dreams and documenting them.
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Record the minuscule details

The technique of memorizing through visualization is an old art technique. This method not only helps to cement the info in the mind of the individual, it also helps the person construct their own recall methods.
When you start to record your dreams on a regular basis, small details like the ones which you would have otherwise missed will begin to come to the surface. Recording the  objects you see in your dream will help your recall similar dreams. Overtime you will start to understand the objects which occur in your dreams repeatedly. This will help you explore your psychic landscape.

Make sense of your daily life

Waking life and dream life are pretty much the same. They both have an influence on one another. Dream journaling in art therapy can help you blend your waking life and dream life. You can allow the two to converge in one. When practicing dream journaling, you will eventually start to notice certain aspects of your dream life in your regular life. You may even find solutions to your problems in your dreams as during the awake periods, the mind is much more chaotic, while in sleep, the chaos is much less and it is easier to solve a problem.

Evolution of dreams

Our dreams evolve with us. Keeping a dream journal by your side can help you track your dream progression. Our subconscious and unconscious minds are deeply intertwined. If you observe changes in your conscious life, you will notice that your dream patterns change as well.
Recording the evolution of your dream as part of dream journaling in art therapy can help you develop new perceptions regarding how to understand your dreams and use them to deal with the obstacles and changes in your regular life.

How can one start with dream journaling in art therapy?

If you wish to start dream journaling in art therapy, just keep a notebook and a pen on your nightstand. To start the journaling, record the dreams which you remember. You can either write about them or you can make pictures of what you saw in your dreams. Record your dreams on an everyday basis. It does not matter how weird your dream may seem to you. Just focus on one point, record your dream the moment you wake up when it is still fresh in your mind. You can then take these details to your therapist (trained in the process of dream journaling in art therapy) and he or she will help you decode and make sense of your dreams.

How to record the dreams?

To record the dreams, you can use the following means:

Keep a notebook and pen on your nightstand

The moment you get up, pick up your notebook and your pen and note down whatever you saw in your dream. It does not have to make sense to you. You may not understand why you saw what you saw in your dreams, but it does not matter. All that matters is to have a record of the dream when it’s still fresh in your mind.

Use a voice recorder

Recall the fragments of your images verbally. For this, you can use your smart phone. Install a voice recorder and just record the fragments you remember from your dreams the moment you wake up.

Keep a journal and a pencil for doodling or sketching

Another way of embarking on dream journaling in art therapy is to record it in the form of images as you saw it. Your images don’t have to be of a professional quality. It does not matter if you are not artistically inclined, all that matters is that your thoughts and your dreams are pictorially represented in your notebook for future references.

It also does not matter which method you use to record your dream, the main purpose of the activity is to set up a friction free and smooth process to record as much of the dream as you can on an everyday basis as soon as you wake up.

Which dreams to record?

This is possible the most asked questions regarding dream journaling in art therapy. Which type of dreams should I record? Record all your dreams. Your dream might seem weird to you but that is absolutely okay. Every person dreams in a different manner and dreaming is a very personal experience which cannot be compared with anyone else’s dreams. In your dreams, you may have superpowers, you may fly, you may be chased or you may have an intense experience which you’ve never felt while being awake. Write them down or draw them in your journal. There is no dream which should not be recorded. Your journal is only for your eyes or your therapist’s if you choose to share it with him or her.

What part of the dreams should you focus on?

This is the second most important question pertaining to dream journaling in art therapy You may remember your dreams as fragments or images which don’t connect to each other or don’t make sense. It is okay to feel this way. Just record whatever you were feeling in your dream or the fragments or images which you saw. If it does not make sense it is all right. You may feel that there are many details of the dreams which are pointless to note, or seem trivial to you. Make sure you get those details down. These details which may seem worthless to you might be of a high significance value when you explore your dreams later or when you consult your therapist.

Focus on recurring dreams

As part of your journey through dream journaling in art therapy, When you analyze your dream journal after a month or so, focus on the dreams which take place recurrently. These recurring dreams are very important as they can provide your therapist one of the crucial points of entry into understanding your thought processes and your patterns of dreaming.

Record your sleeping patterns as well

Dream journal is not only for recording your dreams, it can also help you record your sleep patterns. When you wake up in the morning, or if at night you are not able to sleep, record the same in your journal, the time were you awake. In the morning when you wake up; record, how many times you got up in the night, whether it was easy to sleep, how many dreams you think you had during the night etc. This will help you uncover any kind of stress which might prevent you from having a good night sleep every day.

Catalog your feelings when you’re writing about your dream

Making a record of your dream does not mean that you only write about your dream and be done with it. Once you’ve written about your dream, write about the feelings which you felt when you were recording your dream. This analysis will help you in the long run in understanding your dreams and your inner thinking process.

The role of the therapist in dream journaling in art therapy

The therapist will not interpret the dream for the client. The work of the therapist in dream journaling in art therapy is to act as the guide, recorder and witness to the whole process. The therapists role is to help the client make sense of their dreams. The client is the on in control of the reductive process of understanding the dream.


I would highly encourage everyone reading this post to start dream journaling in art therapy. You don’t have to suffer from mental health issues to start with dream journaling or art therapy. Dream journaling in art therapy can be used as a tool to manage your everyday stress and make sense of your chaotic dreams.

As I mentioned before, it does not matter how much of your dream you remember or the fragments which have faded away. As long as you catalog your dreams, it will help you understand yourself a little bit better. You don’t need to go to a psychologist with your dreams. Just record them and read them over time and it will prove to be beneficial to you. I feel having a dream journal is a gift you can give to your future self.

Have you ever tried dream journaling in art therapy? How was your experience? Since when have you been recording your dreams? If you would like to share your story with everyone, please write it down in the comment section below. If you want me to feature your stories in my blog post, feel free to contact me on any of my social media channels. I would be glad to share your story with the world. If you have any queries, feel free to reach out to me on any of my social media channels. I will be happy to help.

See you in my next blog post

Frequently asked questions

What is dream journaling?
Dream journaling is the process of recording your dream. The dreams documentation can be used as a route to ones inner thoughts and to make sense of difficult situations.
What are the benefits of keeping a dream journal?
The following are the benefits of maintaining a dream journal
  • Enhance your focus
  • Better your problem solving capabilities
  • Hello you make sense of your dream patterns.
  • Uncover inner thoughts
Who interprets the dreams in dream journaling in art therapy?
The dreams are interpreted by the client or the patient under the guidance of a psychotherapist who has been trained to help patients make sense of their dreams.

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