Changes in the affect regulation of dreams during psychoanalytic psychotherapy with patients with borderline personality organization

From 2019 to 2022; Lead: Prof. Dr. Lutz Wittmann, PD Dr. med. Werner Köpp
Research assistants: Simon Kempe, M.A., Eva Blomert, M.A.

Founded by: Heigl-Stiftung, Köhler-Stiftung, Hamburger Stiftung zur Förderung von Wissenschaft und Kultur

Short Project Description
There is rather little scientific work on dreams of low structured patients. Nonetheless, authors have repeatedly emphasized the important distinction between “classic” neurotic dreams and dreams with a low structure. This differentiation mainly refers to the clinical handling and the dream content, and less to the affect regulation within dreams. In addition, a psychoanalytic understanding of disorders related to borderline personality organization is typically associated with traumatizing object relationships and impaired affect regulation. At the interface between empirical dream and psychotherapy process research, this study therefore examines the following questions:

  • Does the affect regulation differ within the dreams of patients with borderline and those with neurotic personality organization?
  • Do dreams change over the course of the psychotherapeutic process?
  • Do specific patient and process variables covariate with the possible change in dreams in the course of therapy?

Here, research faces an exciting parallel between the re-enactment of early relationship experiences underlying psychic complexes in interactive psychotherapeutic events on the one hand and the micro-world dream (Moser & Hortig, 2019) on the other.

Fully audio- or video-documented psychoanalytic treatments serve as data basis from which dream reports are transcribed. Affect regulation within dreams is assess applying the Zurich Dream Process Coding Systems (ZDPCS; Moser & Hortig, 2019; Moser & von Zeppelin, 1996). Within the therapeutic process, the main focus is on the defense mechanisms used by the patient, and the therapeutic alliance


  • Moser, U. & Hortig, V. (2019). Mikrowelt Traum. Affektregulierung und Reflexion. Frankfurt am Main: Brandes & Apsel.
  • Moser, U. & von Zeppelin, I. (1996). Der geträumte Traum: wie Träume entstehen und sich verändern. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.

Simon Kempe, M.A.