Dreamscaping is an exciting new approach in grief and loss therapy that uses imaginal resourcing and a focus on felt sense, re-scripting and mental simulation, memory reconsolidation and photo-based art to shift the focus from “what do you miss?” to “what gives you joy?”  Call it visual reframing or visualized narrative therapy, Dreamscaping creates a place where “affection and moments of connection can exist in another time and place just in the imagining of it.”   

Therapists this approach appeals to:

  • clinicians using strength-based, imaginal approaches recognizing the power of short-term creative interventions  
  • narratively-inclined therapists looking for an approach more about tracking positive affect, positive existences and preferred futures
  • art therapists excited about co-creating with clients in a photo-based modality of their choosing (e.g., photo collage, photomontage, figures or shrines)
  • bereavement and spiritual care counselors seeking to incorporate innovative approaches into their work with individuals and groups.

Imaginal Resourcing

During a Dreamscaping interview, Russ, a bereaved chaplain, lists seven fond memories of his dad.  Russ selected three to put as his absolute favorites.  Now for the hard part: see if you can guess which memory is, in Russ’s words, “not mixed with any other uncomfortable feelings.”  This will become the resourced prescriptive memory.  Answer: Memory #2 because one can observe the highest positive cognitions in this particular narrative.

To see the full length interview with Russ on YouTube, go to https://youtu.be/DhjT9MDc7Fw.  

Focus on Felt Sense

Kim is a bereaved granddaughter and an art therapy student.  In this audio clip, Kim is interviewed by another art therapy student playing the role of a dreamscaping practitioner.  Watch how she zeroes in on one particular memory of watching TV with “Gram”— in particular, the felt sense of the surroundings, of her grandmother’s nails, and lastly, how she audits the details one last time by walking Kim through a  mental simulation of the memory. 

Rescripting & Mental Simulation

Fooling the Brain is relatively Easy

An individual will more likely "believe" in the truth of their prescriptive memory if: (1) The visuo-perceptual detail is rich; (2) If the brain perceives the new memory as internally-generated and (3) If novelty that is incongruous yet plausible is introduced into the prescriptive memory's story and picture.

... and walking your client through the simulation

"When you asked, "if I ever imagined being in the room when my father was dying," I had never really imagined being at his bedside, let alone re-imagining it. I had no image before— except this kind of pain in my heart. Now I have another image, a new image to keep with me because I do feel that grief takes on different pictures. If you don’t have a picture, then you don’t know how to do it and get through that process except to say, “There wasn’t a picture, I wasn’t there, I wasn’t available for my father.” Our hands, together, on top of the bible is going to stay with me …" - Nancy English Ph.D. APRN, CHPN, CT, Assistant Professor, Adjunct, College of Nursing

Memory Reconsolidation & Photo-Based Art

Donna-Marie, a bereaved mother, is asked:  “What kinds of things did your daughter collect in her room, and why?”  We knew that she loved riding her horse, Oscar.  But also, up until her daughter was around 12 years of age, she collected figurines of Little Mermaid and of dolphins.  Asking Donna-Marie what specifically a horseback rider like her daughter might like about dolphins, she paused for a moment and said “the way the Little Mermaid swam around and that sort of thing.”  We expanded upon that: “Sort of like cantering on a horse? Or almost like…she’s riding the Mermaid?” Donna at this point laughs with relief, and says “Yeah.  I never really thought about that before.  But it all kind of goes together now, doesn’t it?”

I have placed the picture in our second living area which is also the craft room. It's an open plan house so it can be seen from the kitchen and lounge room as well. I see it every day, it's in  easy view. It brings a smile to my face. In a strange way it doesn't evoke sadness as do the other pictures of Elizabeth that are throughout the house. When I see the other photographs, it is always tinged with sadness that she is not here. Whereas when I see the dreamscape picture it evokes more happiness. Thinking about this, it is probably due to the fact that in our interview, I remembered Elizabeth was always fascinated by porpoises because of the way they move: a new discovery or realisation about facets of her that I had never thought of which were separate from how I knew her. Thus the dreamscape is not a memory of her as in photos that are attached to situations or events that are no longer able to occur.  The dreamscape picture has also enabled me to, in a way, release Elizabeth to God. I can picture her differently from how I knew her and so it is easier to picture her safe and happy with God in heaven. It's hard to put into words how these things came to take place. Yet somehow, imperceptibly, a definite shift has occurred which has greatly helped me. Of course I still miss her terribly and always will. Yet, I think that now I am sad because I miss her, that she is not here, and not sad because of what happened to her and all the situations leading to her death. Because I can envision her differently now apart from her death etc.— it makes the whole thing a lot easier.

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