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Roland, A. (1971). The Context and Unique Function of Dreams in Psychoanalytic Therapy: Clinical Approach. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 52:431-439.

(1971). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 52:431-439

The Context and Unique Function of Dreams in Psychoanalytic Therapy: Clinical Approach

Alan Roland


From close scrutiny of the dream literature and working with dreams in psychoanalytic therapy, the problem of the context in which dreams are reported in psychoanalysis and the function they serve in the ongoing therapy seem to us to need important amplification. While the clinical approach to dreams expressed in this paper is obviously practised by some analysts, it has not to our knowledge been given a sound enough theoretical basis or been described sufficiently in the dream literature. By clarification and elaboration of the context and the bases for the unique function of dreams, we hope to contribute towards a better conceptualized approach in working with dreams in psychoanalytic therapy.

Such an approach has added relevance today because of an increasing controversy over the place of the dream in psychoanalysis. One school of thought (Arlow & Brenner, 1964); (Waldhorn, 1967) diminishes the importance of dreams, designating them on the same order of psychic value as the various other means of communication in psychoanalysis, such as free associations, fantasy, transference phenomena and so forth. As reported by Altman (1969), this down-grading of the dream seems to have gained a widespread hearing today in many American psychoanalytic training institutes. Another school of thought (Kanzer, 1955); (Bergmann, 1966); (Klauber, 1967) opts for the uniqueness of the dream, not so much because of its being the royal road to the unconscious, but rather because of its communicative function in the ongoing therapy.

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