Clara Hill's Model of Dream Interpretation
Dream Interpretation​
February 2, 2024

Clara Hill's Model of Dream Interpretation

This article explores the approach to dream interpretation developed by psychologist Clara Hill, highlighting her integration of dream work into modern psychotherapy practices.

Introducing Clara Hill

Clara Hill, a psychologist from the United States, holds the belief that dreams serve as therapeutic tools to enhance self-awareness. Her approach draws from various existing dream theories, including Freudian, Jungian, and Gestalt, combined with elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Hill's research primarily focuses on training therapists, dreamwork, finding purpose in life, and psychotherapy.

Clara Hill - Clara Hill's Dream Interpretation

Dreams in the Context of Modern Psychology

Clara Hill integrates dream interpretation into the framework of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), utilizing it as a supplementary tool alongside CBT. Although not officially classified as part of CBT, dream work is often viewed within the realm of psychoanalysis or counseling rather than medical therapy. Dream therapists are regarded as analysts or counselors, and the individuals seeking assistance are seen as clients rather than patients.

In recent years, cognitive therapists have developed models for incorporating dreams into therapy, treating them as supplementary data to inform mental health treatment. Many therapists now include dream-related questions in standard intake questionnaires, as they frequently encounter discussions of dreams during sessions with clients. However, many therapists admit to having limited confidence in how to approach or respond to dream sharing. Hill's focus lies in training therapists in dream work, aiming to provide them with the confidence and skills to explore dreams with their clients and establish connections to waking life. Additionally, she encourages clients to bring their dreams into therapy sessions and integrate them into their healing process.

Clara Hill's Approach to Dream Interpretation

Dreams possess deeply personal qualities and serve as continuations of waking thoughts. They encompass cognitive, behavioral, and emotional aspects that directly impact mood and psyche. Clara Hill's goal is to facilitate client understanding through an exploration of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Hill approaches dream interpretation from an active dream work perspective, engaging both the client and therapist in the process. Instead of merely assigning meaning to the client's dream, as Freud would often do, Hill works collaboratively with the client to delve into the dream's meaning. Dream sharing plays a pivotal role in Hill's approach.

Known as the cognitive-experimental model of dream interpretation, Hill's approach aims to uncover connections between dreams and waking life. This model encompasses three stages:


During this stage, the client shares the details of the dream with a partner or therapist, providing as much detail as possible. The therapist may prompt the client to expand on certain aspects, asking for clarifications or elaborations. The client is encouraged to recount the dream multiple times, examine related imagery, explore the associated feelings, and reflect on the timing of the dream. Finally, the client summarizes the dream.


In the insight stage, Hill collaborates with the client to explore their understanding of the dream, working together to generate possible meanings.


The action step has three components:

Clara Hill's cognitive-experimental model of dream interpretation is founded on the idea that dreams are an extension of waking thoughts. She emphasizes that dream meanings are highly personal and may not align with standardized dream dictionaries. In her approach, working with dreams necessitates an ongoing conversation, fostering a collaborative relationship between therapist and client.


Dreams serve as valuable tools for fostering self-understanding and personal growth. Clara Hill advocates for all therapists to possess fundamental skills in dream work, enabling them to effectively engage with their clients' dreams. Further research and guidelines are needed to fully integrate dream work into modern medicine as a comprehensive practice. However, Hill's contributions and training programs have significantly contributed to the exploration of dreams within psychotherapy and the recognition of their potential for therapeutic insight.

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