Children’s dreams in psychotherapy practice: an exploratory study

Olivia Lempen

Supervisor: Dr Nick Midgley

Course: MSc in Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology


  1. To investigate the role of children’s dreams in the practice of child psychoanalysis today, and
  2. To explore contemporary psychoanalytic understanding of children’s dreams. This pilot study consisted of two stages.

The first involved a document analysis of published articles in the journal The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, making a comparison between those of the early 1950s and the 1990s, in order to see in what way the discourse around children’s dreams within the psychoanalytic literature has changed over time.

The second stage, based on questionnaires and in-depth interviews, attempted to understand in more detail the way contemporary child analysts, working in the Anna Freudian tradition, think about dreams and use them in their clinical practice.

The interviews were analysed with the method Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis which is centered  on the interwiewees’ subjective beliefs and experiences of working with children dreams.


Results suggest that there has been a decreased focus on dreams in a clinical context over time, and that this may partly be a consequence of changing theoretical models and changes in training. When work with dreams does take place, it appears that child analyst have various different theoretical models of dreaming ; and there is a variety of techniques for handling children’s dreams in psychoanalytic practice today.


  • Lempen, O., & Midgley, N. (2006). Exploring the role of children's dreams in psychoanalytic practice today: A pilot study. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 61, 228-253.