3 Dream Interpretation Tips, From a Psychotherapist

Jesse Lyon

Verywell / Julie Bang

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History of Dream Interpretation

In ancient times, dreams were thought to be a sign of divine intervention or a way to communicate with the deceased.

Dream interpretation first became linked to psychology in the 19th century–when Sigmund Freud began talking about the hidden meaning in dreams.

Dream interpretation fell out of favor in the therapy office over the last few decades, however, as therapists began using “evidence-based” treatments instead of psychoanalysis.

Dream Interpretation May Have a Place in Therapy

More recently, however, there’s been a resurgence in dream discussions in therapy offices. Many therapists welcome conversations about what your dreams might mean to you.

Perhaps that dream about your friends not showing up at a party means you don’t feel like your friends are people you can trust or that you haven’t been connecting to them lately. Or maybe that dream about going back to your childhood home means you’re missing your family.

Fortunately, there are ways you can learn to interpret your dreams. And when you do, your dreams might give you new insight into your problems, your mental health, and your relationships.

Meet Jesse Lyon

Jesse Lyon is a licensed mental health counselor and owner of Lyon Counseling in Casselberry, Florida. He works with teens and adults to address a variety of mental health issues and relationship problems but he’s also a dream interpreter. 

He worked as a dream scientist at Dream App and he’s gained a following on social media because he explains the meaning behind common things people dream about.

Jesse’s Tips for Interpreting Your Dreams

In this episode of the Verywell Mind Podcast, Jesse shared a lot of strategies for uncovering what your dreams might mean and how those interpretations could be beneficial. 

Write Your Dreams Down as Soon as You Wake Up

Jesse says the reason we often forget our dreams is because we immediately reach for our phones when we wake up or we get out of bed and start doing things without taking any time to think about what we were dreaming about.

Start a Dream Journal

He says keeping a pen and notebook close by and taking a few minutes to write down your dreams before you do anything else can help. 

When you write down your dreams as soon as you wake up, you might find your dreams become easier to remember over time. You could train yourself to recall your dreams when you first wake up.

Reflect on the Possible Meanings Behind Your Dreams

Remembering your dreams is only one step in the process. The next step is to reflect on the potential meaning.

You might find some common themes that pop up in your dreams.

Jesse says it's OK to use tools like an app, book, or even just a quick Google search to see what a specific dream could mean. This might get you started and help you build some confidence in your ability to interpret your dreams by yourself a little later on. 

But you can also just stop and think about what that dream might mean to you. Are you missing a connection you once had with someone? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you searching for something in your life that you haven’t found yet?

As you write your dreams down more often you might find some common themes that pop up in your dreams—like you dream a lot about people whom you miss.

Or,  you might notice that you dream about certain things for a while and then your dreams shift. You might even have a recurring dream that happens at the same time every year. 

Looking at your patterns might give you some insight into what’s going on in your mind. So you might review your dream journal over time and see what you can uncover about the bigger picture of your overall mental health. 

Get Mental Health Support If You Need It

Jesse says our dreams can sometimes reveal our mental health issues or even underlying medical problems. 

Sleep issues and bad dreams can often be related to mental health. For example, nightmares may be a symptom of  PTSD. Other mental health issues, like depression or anxiety, may cause bad dreams.

Sometimes, bad dreams cause people to feel afraid to go to sleep. Then, they put off going to bed at night and wake up feeling exhausted. Their exhaustion may increase the likelihood that they have bad dreams. The lack of sleep can take a toll on their mental health.

As their mental health deteriorates, the chances of having more bad dreams increase. It can be a difficult pattern that’s hard to break.

What This Means For You

If you are struggling to sleep or you’re having bad dreams, consider getting some professional help. You might start by talking to your physician or you can reach out to a mental health professional.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.