Medard Boss (1903–1990) was a mid-twentieth-century therapist who took what he referred to as a phenomenological approach to dreams. The term phenomenology has more than one meaning, but in this context it refers to an early twentieth-century philosophical movement that attempted to describe the essential structure of an observed phenomenon—as it is, so to speak—without compelling it to fit any existing theory about what the phenomenon should be. As such, phenomenology is more of a method than what we traditionally think of as a philosophy. While subsequent philosophers have realized that the ideal of “presuppositionless” inquiry advocated by phenomenology’s founder, Edmund Husserl, is probably impossible, the descriptive method which he formulated has stimulated many fruitful analyses.
For Boss, a phenomenological approach to dreams meant that the therapist analyzed patients’ dreams in terms of their given content—without making a distinction between their surface content and some unobserved, deeper content postulated by Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, or someone else. Boss believed that by so analyzing dreams one could discover the issues with which the dreamer was grappling. Once the issues were found and clarified, the patient would then be in a position to make choices that would improve the situation.