Dream Research as an Occupation-or- Dreaming the Paths in Life

I often receive requests for information about the occupation of a dream researcher, here then are the questions and my answers. 

Dear Mr. Hagen,

It was a great pleasure talking to you yesterday! I learned alot from our conversation. I still have many questions that I hope you can answer.
How much schooling is required to become a dream researcher?
What is the typical day of a dream researcher?
How many different specializations are there? and what are they?
What subjects are the focus in school for this position?
What is the starting position?
How much does it pay?
Is there room for advancement?
Where would one go to find a job in this field?
Where is the most opportunity?
Once hired as an entry level employee how long does it take to advance?
Once hired will I have to continually take classes?
Can I find a paying position while going to school?
How many years experience are required to find a position?
Can you recommend a book or a specific author on this subject?
Do you recommend a particular school in my area?
And lastly the question I asked you on the phone was if individuals that consistantly recall their dreams are more intelligent?

I would appreciate it greatly if you could write me back with some insight to these inquaries.


Hi Richard 

A career in dream research is not as glamorous as you might assume, it is hard work. Today, there are as I see it, three primary philosophical tracks to entering an occupational career in sleep and dream research. 
The first is an academic path (Universities and higher schools of learning) where the philosophy of the dream in all its variations is taught. Unfortunately this educational path is very narrow, and occupationally limited on the globe. While there is some interest from the public, it is also very limited. I believe, that the dream does not hold as much public interest on an everyday basis as it did in classical or Biblical times. 

Second, neuroscientific research (also an academic path) is ongoing in the area of sleep and dreaming. The scientific research pioneers such as Aserinsky and Kleitman (they identified REM sleep) and Michel Jouvet provided a research foundation to build a scientific model of dreaming. As a student, the academic work of Milton Kramer had an influence on me 35 years ago. It was my great pleasure to meet Milton in the flesh a few years back. The academic questions surround the evolutionary functions and pathology of the sleeping and dreaming brain. Any models that the "Human Brain Project" puts forward in the future about the brain, will (I believe) have to include the evolutionary significance of "The Dreaming Brain". Educational paths in sleep medicine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_medicine leads to a variety of occupational types of training and degree certifications. (Check out the "sleep medicine" link for more information about types of work and careers). As many of your questions are about occupational income and of advancement possibilities, what I can say, is that most likely these dedicated occupational paths can provide the best long term financial security.
The other primary occupational track is in the psychotherapeutic field, this is the career path I have been on for the last nearly 30 years. Unfortunately, this career path in North America is more difficult to be a consistently financially secure one. In North America the most common form of psychotherapy is cognitive-behavioural, depth-psychology (working with dreams) takes an institutional back seat in the culture we live in. I learned that lesson many years ago after opening my private psychotherapy practice "Family, Child and Individual Counselling Services" in 1989. A client who had been referred to me and had been seen by at least 5 other medical professionals, her medical complaints and problems had remained untreated. Why? Not one of these so-called medical professionals had thought of asking their patient about her dreams! If they had, the physical symptoms that she reported would have found their psychosomatic medical basis. I will make the bold statement to you (which I have been making for nearly 25 years), is that 25% of patients seen on any given day by family physicians in North America, do not have traditional medical forms of disease, instead they suffer from stress induced psychosomatic problems. This stress/dream induced medical epidemic is ongoing, and remains the best kept medical and political secret from the public at large. It was reported that 90% of the American population had nightmares after 9/11, think about it.
There is no book about career paths in dream research that I know of, however the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) is a growing association whose reach goes beyond North America. There are a wide variety of dream research paths that their membership incorporates. There is empirical experimental research, philosophy of the dream (PhD) academics, Freudian, Jungian, and Gestalt psychology psychotherapists, lucid dreaming, post-traumatic nightmare counseling, to name a few paths. The IASD holds an annual conference where you can meet all these people. If you would like to contact the IASD (check them out on the web), they might also help you with some of your questions. My own educational role in the global dream research field is to pragmatically inform an ill-informed public of the everyday role dreams play in our lives, via the Internet.
While at this years IASD conference, I was able to pick up a copy of the Harvard professor Deirdre Barrett's book "The Committee of Sleep", it provides a good place to start to understand the historical, social influence and scope of dreams and dreaming. If you can't find it, you might call up the IASD, Deirdre is a member, they might help you to find a copy. As for your questions about dream recall and intelligence where you ask "And lastly the question I asked you on the phone was if individuals that consistently recall their dreams are more intelligent?"
Interestingly, I did hear a research paper presented at this years IASD conference that suggested dream recall enhances "depth of processing". The depth of processing paradigm of memory has still not been proven. My response to the researcher during the discussion time was that it is very flattering to think that people who record their dreams are somehow "deeper" in their whole life philosophy and outlook. From my own depth-psychological thoughts to young dream researcher, read my note "E-mail to a Young Dream Research". My own thoughts on the intelligence question is more pragmatic in nature, in that persons who process information less deep may be more susceptible to Alzheimers disease. I believe that this hypothesis is scientifically testable. As there seems to be a variety of evolutionary forms of "intelligence", dreams may play an important role?! I do believe, again from a pragmatic perspective that emotional intelligence plays an inordinate role in everyday life and in our dreams. There are those who are emotionally empathetic and then others who are psychopathic, dreams usually are not affectively (emotionally) and cognitively black and white, although they can be. 

I hope I have given you some food for thought to your very sound occupational directed Socratic questions. As Socrates is reported to have said, "I can't teach anybody anything, I can only make them think". 


Mark H

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