Why did you establish a website and practice in Professional Dream Interpretation?

After more than a quarter-century of providing psychotherapy, I became increasingly aware that the “mental health” model was a far too narrow way of working with dreams. As I immersed myself in the scholarly literature on ways that dreams have been understood throughout human history and in non-Western cultures, it became more and more important to me to separate dream interpretation from psychotherapy. Gradually, I learned about the important role that dream interpreters played in ancient cultures, and still play today in many parts of the world. As a result, I realized that it is inappropriate to assume that a person who wants to have a dream interpreted is suffering from a mental illness and requires a diagnosis and clinical treatment. Rather, I saw that with the guidance of a professional who is well-trained and highly skilled in dream interpretation, all human beings can benefit from paying attention to their dreams. Additionally, many individuals – such as those with careers in the military or in government – may be concerned about the possible stigma of becoming a psychotherapy patient. These persons should have the same opportunity as everyone else to benefit from their dreams. In short, I feel that the time has come to consider dream interpretation as a distinct and respected profession.

What are your qualifications as a Professional Dream Interpreter?

I have extensive experience, training, and skills in working with dreams. (Click here to go to the “About Shanee” page on this website for a description of my background and qualifications.)

What is the difference between a “professional” dream interpreter and other random people who claim to offer dream interpretation services?

Dreams are an extraordinarily complex phenomenon. It takes many years, if not decades, to truly become knowledgeable and skillful in working with dreams. If you have come across random persons who claim to have expertise in interpreting dreams, and you’re considering working with them, it is important to assess their credentials. Is there evidence of an active, longstanding membership in the International Association for Study of Dreams? Do they consistently read the current scholarly literature on dreams? Have they presented at professional conferences? Have they completed academic and postgraduate studies in areas related to dreams? From their academic or professional background, is there evidence that they have a deep understanding of the language of metaphor, myth, symbol, allegory, and wordplay (e.g., puns, double entendre, anagrams)? Do they maintain a consistent practice of recording and working with their own dreams?

Two Awake, Two Asleep
Photo by Shanee Stepakoff, 1986

Can you describe a typical PDI session?

Most sessions take place by phone or Skype. If you’ve written or typed the dream, it is helpful if you
e-mail or FAX it to me in advance of our session. However, this is not a requirement. Make sure to set aside a quiet time and place for the duration of our session. Inform your colleagues, family members, and so forth that you do not want to be interrupted. If we are working by phone and you have “call waiting”, switch off that feature so that we will not be interrupted by the sound of other calls. Generally, you will start by telling me the dream. After you’ve told the dream, I will invite you to more fully explore it in a number of ways. I will ask you questions about the components of the dream, for example the figures and images it contains. Gradually, as we enter into the dream narrative through a variety of verbal and nonverbal methods, the less obvious and deeper, richer meanings of the dream will almost always emerge. You may feel content to simply bear witness to the dream’s representation of an important personal or existential truth. Sometimes, however, you may feel that the dream is pointing you toward particular decisions or actions. At the end of our session you will have an opportunity to reflect on that possibility. If we have worked on a series of dreams, we might consider how your dream fits in with or differs from the other dreams in the series. (Click here for info on “Preparing for Your Session.”)

What is the typical length of a PDI session?

For most dreams, a one-hour session is sufficient to make good progress at coming up with an interpretation that will provide you with meaningful insights. For a longer or more complex dream, it is often beneficial to have 90 or even 120 minutes, or to schedule a second, 60-min session.

Do you offer face-to-face PDI sessions?

Presently, due to the COVID pandemic, I offer PDI sessions by phone, Zoom, and Skype. I will resume offering face-to-face PDI sessions when it is safe to do so, but probably not before October of 2021.

Can you provide PDI sessions in my geographic location?

Yes. If you would like to engage in intensive, face-to-face dream interpretation work, with sufficient advance notice we can make arrangements to do so in your geographic location. You will need to pay for my travel and lodging expenses in advance, as well as for the costs of renting a suitable space for us to meet, such as a quiet office or small conference room. Also, in addition to the fee for the hours we actually work together you will need to pay a fee for my travel time and a per diem. Unless there are extenuating circumstances (e.g., mobility issues), I don’t provide home-based PDI services.

Do you provide PDI sessions in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospices?

Yes. Dream scholars have found that if cognitive functioning is intact, persons residing in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospices can remember and learn from their dreams. If the location is more than 30 miles from my home or office, you will be charged a fee for travel time, and if my ability to reach the location requires an overnight stay, you will need to pay a per diem as well as the costs of my travel and lodging. Often, dreams that are remembered and interpreted near the end of life are especially meaningful to the dreamer as well as to his or her loved ones.

What is a “PDI Intensive Experience”?

You may have an unusually lengthy, elaborate dream that would require several hours to properly interpret. Or, you may be a prolific dreamer for whom it’s not unusual to remember two or three dreams per night. Or, you may have had several related dreams over a period of time and you wish to work with them as a series. In these situations, it can be frustrating to only have an hour or two per week to devote to your dreams. A “PDI Intensive Experience” (abbreviated as “PDINE”) is an arrangement whereby we schedule up to four hours per day to intensively work with your dreams and/or to work with your dreams for several consecutive days for periods ranging from one to two weeks. To make it feasible for me to set aside such large amounts of time, intensives must be booked with sufficient notice and must be paid for in advance. After the COVID pandemic abates, and it is safe to do so, I will resume offering PDINES in a few different locations in New England: Kingston Rhode Island, Farmington Maine, New Haven CT, and New York City, or at your location.

For my PDI session, should I work on a recent dream or an older dream?

In the vast majority of cases, it’s more fruitful to work on a “fresh” dream, preferably a dream that is not more than a few weeks old. Usually, we will endeavor to connect the dream with events, experiences, feelings and thoughts that occurred for you in the day that preceded the dream. With older dreams, this is a challenge, because it is usually difficult to remember what was going on in your mind and in your life at the time you had the dream. Nevertheless, it is sometimes possible to derive benefit from working on a non-recent dream, particularly if you sense that the dream is important.

If I didn’t write down my dream, can I still benefit from a PDI session?

Research and experience have shown that if you do not write down your dream shortly after awakening, you are very unlikely to remember it accurately or completely. Thus, to obtain maximum benefit from your PDI session, you should make every effort to write down your dream upon awakening. However, there have been rich, productive PDI sessions when the only available dream material was a single fragment or image. Thus, if you are able to remember any portion of your dream, and you’re confident that that portion is accurate, you may benefit from a PDI session.

What is your theoretical framework?

I have a variety of paradigms for working with dreams, each of which has contributed to my overall repertoire. The insights of Carl G. Jung, and his foremost student and close collaborator Marie Louise von Franz, have been important, but I also draw on non-Jungian perspectives. For example, my views are informed by literary studies, object relations theory, and existential philosophy. In addition, theology has had an influence on my approach. I have read extensively about the ways that dreams were interpreted in religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. I view Joseph, a sophisticated dream interpreter portrayed in the Hebrew Bible (and known as “Yusef” in the Koran) as one of my role models, and have learned from the dream interpretations he provided. My framework is further enriched by anthropology, in particular non-Western views about dreams. For example, I have benefited from the insights of traditional practitioners across the African continent, a continent where I spent over four years living, working, traveling, and conducting research. Additionally, my framework is informed by my study of history, including the observation that in the ancient Near East (e.g., Egypt, Mesopotamia, Sumeria, Babylon), as well as in classical Greece and Rome, dreams were revered as a source of profound and soul-nourishing wisdom. In sum, I do not use a “cookie-cutter”, “one-size-fits-all” approach. You and I will explore your dream in a spirit of curiosity and collaboration. I trust that you will bring a sincere desire to learn from your dream. I will bring a wealth of knowledge, as well as sophisticated skills, to the process of interpreting your dream.

Paul Gauguin, 1896

What is your confidentiality policy?

If you decide to undergo a dream interpretation with me, my policy is to refrain from sharing the content of your dream or anything we discuss during the session with anyone unless I obtain your advance written permission. I have very few exceptions to this policy. Namely, although a dream interpretation session is not a form of mental health care, if during the course of our work together you indicate that you have a serious intention to harm yourself or another person, or that you are abusing a child, I may need to inform appropriate authorities. Also, if there is a billing issue, I will not provide details of your dream or the interpretation(s) that we generated, but I may need to inform the appropriate agency of the dates and times of our session(s). For further details on the exceptions to confidentiality, please refer to Disclaimer 3 on the scheduling page. As my dream interpretation practice is not a form a health care, I am not bound by the rules of HIPAA. Nevertheless, out of respect for you and for the importance of your feelings of safety and trust during the dream interpretation process, I take every reasonable precaution to ensure that your confidentiality is protected. Also, I do not share my mailing list.

What is the difference between Professional Dream Interpretation and psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a form of health care and is intended to treat emotional, cognitive, and/or behavioral disorders. It uses diagnosis and clinical treatment methods. Professional dream interpretation is not a form of health care. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any physical or mental disorder. Furthermore, the provision of PDI services does not create or entail a doctor-patient relationship. PDI is based on the recognition that all human beings dream, and that all human beings can enrich their lives, further their personal growth, and gain new wisdom by paying attention to their dreams.

Is Professional Dream Interpretation part of your clinical psychology practice?

No. I am licensed as a clinical psychologist in Massachusetts, New York, and Maine. However, in those states where I practice psychotherapy, PDI is entirely separate from my psychotherapy practice. PDI is not health care or psychotherapy.

Is Professional Dream Interpretation a mental health treatment?

No. PDI is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any form of mental disorder. PDI is a way for any human being to benefit from the insights and wisdom that are contained in nighttime dreams.

I am currently in psychotherapy. Is it appropriate for me to also have a PDI session?

Usually there is no inherent conflict or incompatibility between your being in psychotherapy with a provider of your choosing and your also accessing professional dream interpretation services. It is possible for you to work on your mental health concerns with your therapist while learning to understand your dreams with a professional dream interpreter. However, it is advisable for you to inform your therapist that you are obtaining PDI services. Moreover, if you have had current or recent thoughts of harming yourself or others, if you are currently hearing voices that other people don’t hear or are having other symptoms associated with psychotic disorders, if you have a history of committing acts of violence, or if you have recently been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons, it is advisable for you to see a mental health provider and to concentrate on strengthening your overall mental health rather than working with a professional dream interpreter.

I habitually abuse alcohol and/or other substances. Is it appropriate for me to seek PDI services?

Alcohol and other substances can have a substantial impact on your dreams, as well as on your ability to examine and learn from them. If you are actively abusing alcohol or other substances, it is advisable for you to address your addiction prior to undergoing PDI. PDI is not a substance abuse treatment.

Is it possible to use PDI to work with a nightmare?

Many nightmares can be worked with productively and interpreted just as can other dreams. (Click here for the page on FAQ about Dreams, which includes information about nightmares.) If you suspect or have been told that your nightmares are a symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or any other physical or mental illness, it is advisable for you to discuss your nightmares with a health care provider before consulting a professional dream interpreter.

Do you provide referrals to mental health professionals such as psychotherapists, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists?

No. Because my time is limited and I devote as much of that time as possible to providing dream interpretation services, I do not maintain a referral list. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, it is advisable for you to call 911 or to go to your nearest emergency room. If you feel a desire or need for non-emergency mental health care, these are some ways that you might be able to find a provider: contact your health insurance company (if you are insured) to ask for a list of in-network providers, speak with your physician, ask a friend (or teacher, coach, clergyperson, or mentor) to recommend a good therapist, reach out to your Employee Assistance Program if your workplace has one, call your community mental health center (or school counseling center if you are a student), contact your local VA (if you are a veteran), or use the Internet to obtain contact information for a Jungian or psychoanalytic institute near you, most of which offer psychotherapy on a low-fee or sliding-scale basis.

On what basis do you determine your fees?

I have 3 Master degrees, a PhD, four postdoctoral certificates, two-dozen publications in peer-reviewed journals, and have had over 30 years of experience interpreting dreams. In order to focus on PDI, I accept very few new patients in my clinical practice. I have a variety of professional responsibilities, including research, teaching, and writing. Thus, I am at a stage of my career, and my life, in which time has become very precious. I am usually only able to devote about 10-20 hours per week to PDI sessions. This means that in order to keep my PDI practice viable, I must be adequately compensated for every hour. Moreover, professionals with my level of experience and training who provide consultation, coaching, and other personal growth services typically charge fees that are much higher than mine, generally at least $200 to $250 per hour. Additionally, in the past I devoted a substantial portion of my time to providing services for low and moderate-income persons. For example, my private practice of psychotherapy included many Medicare patients and offered a sliding scale for those without insurance. While I am proud to have honored my commitment to social justice and to providing care for the underserved, and while I believe that all professionals should devote a portion of their time to pro bono work during the early to middle stages of their careers, at this point I am keenly aware of the importance of receiving a fee that is commensurate with my skills and expertise.

Dusk, Serengeti
Photo by Shanee Stepakoff, 1986

Can I use my credit card to pay for Professional Dream Interpretation sessions?

In 2021, I stopped accepting payments by credit card. I accept payment by Venmo to Shanee-Stepakoff (please remember the hyphen between first and last names) and by Zelle to [email protected]. You can also mail a check to me in advance, at PDI, PO Box 212, Farmington ME 04938.

Can you waive the fee for my initial PDI consultation?

No. Because I have only a limited number of hours available for PDI, I need to be paid for every hour.

Can I use my health insurance to pay for Professional Dream Interpretation sessions?

No. I am an in-network provider for several health insurance companies as part of my clinical psychology practice. My work as a professional dream interpreter is entirely separate from that, and I do not accept insurance for PDI sessions.

Can I undergo the PDI session and then send you a check afterwards?

No. Unfortunately, I am not able to reserve the time for your PDI session without advance payment. If you wish to pay by check, please allow sufficient time for your payment to reach me before your session.

Can I obtain a refund on a scheduled PDI session?

No. Because I plan my schedule days or weeks in advance, and I set aside a minimum of an hour for every session, it is not possible for me to offer refunds on scheduled sessions except in very unusual circumstances. Such circumstances are limited to the following: illness, injury, or hospitalization shortly before or on the date of our scheduled session, documented with an original health care provider’s note sent to my postal address and that includes a completed, signed HIPAA form in which you authorize me to contact the provider by e-mail or phone to verify the note’s authenticity; legal proceedings that you are required to attend on the date and time of our scheduled session (with documentation sent to my postal address); a death or major illness of a close family member or pet shortly before or on the date of our scheduled session, with the original documentation sent to my postal address; required participation in military duties (with documentation sent to my postal address); and documented loss of electricity, telephone, or Internet service due to inclement weather. For face-to-face appointments, further circumstances where you would not be charged include inclement weather sufficient to result in school cancellations or unsafe travel or the documented cancellation of your flight, bus, or train. Unless one of these conditions is met, you are financially responsible for your scheduled session regardless of whether you keep the appointment. However, if you are unable to make the session and you would like to give your time to another suitable person, you may arrange for your time to be given to that other person. The designated person would need to sign the consent and disclaimer forms prior to the session.

What sorts of occasions would be appropriate for a PDI Gift Certificate?

A PDI Gift Certificate is a thoughtful, generous way to enrich the life of a friend, relative, colleague or other special person by creating an opportunity for that person to learn from his or her dreams. Such opportunities can be beneficial at any time, but there are occasions when working with dreams can be particularly helpful as a potential source of wisdom and guidance. Situations in which a PDI session may be especially meaningful include pregnancy, the birth of a child, graduation, engagement, marriage, a milestone birthday (e.g., 21st, 60th, 80th), geographic relocation, career change, a young adult leaving home, or retirement. Along with these positive occasions, working with dreams can also be fruitful during periods of uninvited change, such as the break-up of an intimate relationship, a physical injury, a medical diagnosis, losing a job, or suffering the death of a loved one. In fact, research and experience have shown that in the midst of unwanted transitions and periods of loss and grief, dreams can be a source of strength and sustenance.

Are your Professional Dream Interpretation gift certificates refundable?

Gift certificates are only refundable in the unlikely event that I become unable to provide dream interpretation services. However, the certificates are transferable. This means that if for any reason the recipient of the gift certificate does not wish to use it, he or she can give the certificate to another person. Original or subsequent recipients of PDI gift certificates will need to sign the relevant disclaimers.

Can you guarantee that I will benefit from my PDI session?

In my experience, the vast majority of people who devote an hour to working with me on their dreams feel they have gained valuable new insights and self-awareness as a result. However, I cannot guarantee that at the end of your PDI session, you will feel you have benefited. Sometimes it is only after several days or weeks that people have an “aha moment” in which they feel positively impacted by the work we have done. I am deeply and wholeheartedly committed to doing everything in my power to make our PDI session as valuable as possible for you.