Electric Dreams

Guide for Dream Group Facilitation

Earl Koteen

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Koteen, Earl. (2007 January). Guide for Dream Group Facilitation. Electric Dreams 14(1).

Editor: The following is an outline for group leaders interested in the process of dreamwork. This outline is a summary or many years of experience that Earl Koteen has had in a variety of settings.


Check-in: Name, mood and/or what's most prominent, dream title; want/need/weed to share (Need expressed importance and urgency, want a preference to share, and "weed" is between the two. We use recency and frequency of sharing as guides for tiebreaking.

Opening Centering Exercise: Some mind, body, and sensory awareness/relaxation. Can include a couple of deep breaths, body scan, attention to surrounding sounds and sensations, etc.

Identification and Sequencing of Sharers: Review wants/needs/weeds, identify who will share (normally 2 on weeknights; 3 on weekends) and in what sequence

Sharing Dreams and Break: Normally about 1 hours per dream and one 10 minute break. After about 45-50 minutes into dream work, ask 1st question to the group (Any new perspectives on the dream?) and then 2nd question to the dreamer (Anything you wish us to look further at or anything you wish to do or say?

Closing Centering Exercise: Relax and return to body. Express gratitude for sharing of the dreams and for contributions by group members.


In addition to what's mentioned above:

Set method for sharing the dream: It's dreamer's choice, though the dreamer may and often does want input from the group on how s/he will share the dream. If the dream is typed, sometimes the group wants to read it before the dream speaks it. If the dream isn't typed, then there are normally two readings. Encourage the dreamer to read slowly, but without interruption the first time. During the 2nd reading, group members may interrupt at any time to ask the dreamer to pause or to repeat.

Ignore the Speaker!!!: OK, I am exaggerating for emphasis. I don't really mean to ignore whoever is speaking. However, just as the use of "if it were my dream" or "in my dream" seems counterintuitive at first, one of the biggest challenges of facilitation is recognizing that your primary responsibility is not to the speaker but to the group. Notice the speaker, but do not give the speaker rapt attention. Instead, regularly scan the room to see whom else wishes to speak. Surprising, the speaker will know you are attending to her/him even though you are not always looking directly at her/him.

"Air" Traffic Controller: This is often the most important part of facilitation. While one person is speaking, you can acknowledge a raised hand or other indication of a desire to speak by eye contact and a nod. If you notice that more than one person wishes to speak, announce a sequence as soon as the current speaker stops.

Often when one speaker stops, more than one person starts to speak, even though not all of these individuals have previously indicated their desire to be put in the speakers' queue. Most of the time, the potential speakers quickly resolve sequence among themselves. However, if they can't easily resolve it among themselves, please interrupt if necessary to announce a sequence of speakers. To make your interruption more courteous, you can make statements like: "X has had her hand up for a while now," or "Y hasn't had a chance yet to comment on this dream." However, usually you will have no problem so long as you set a clear sequence. When there are more than 2 people who wish to speak, it's often easiest to just sequence them from right to left or vice versa depending on seating arrangement.

Another responsibility is enforcing the sequence. Once you've said that Y will be the second speaker after X, tactfully interrupt Z if he tries to jump in.

A third responsibility, even when you haven't announced a sequence, is to see that those who have been trying to speak get the opportunity. Comments like, "X has been trying to make an observation," usually do the trick.

Please exercise your best judgment in making your interventions. These are guidelines and not rules and can generate strife if imposed too rigidly. However, they generally make for a happier and better functioning group when reasonably imposed. Dream group members tend to less impatience and are less likely to overtalk one another when they are assured that they will get their "turns" to speak.

Earl Koteen (koteen@sbcglobal.net), a long-time dream worker and workshop leader, is completing his studies at the Starr King School for the Ministry (Unitarian Universalist), Berkeley, California, where he hosts a dream group open to the public.