Axline 1947- Dibs in Search of Self

Background, Therapy, Interpretation, Evaluation

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Dibs in Search of Self
Axline ­ 1947
Dibs was referred to a clinical psychologist for therapy at age 5.
He was displaying a range of odd behaviours; as school he played alone, attacking other children
who attempted to interact with him, he would particularly be violent to adults who tried to take
him home.
Dibs thought his behaviour was because of a biological problem, like mental health or learning
However his teacher thought it was an emotional disorder because of a poor relationship with his
In the first session it was revealed that Dibs could read. He was painting and read out the labels of
the paint. At the end of the session he showed reluctance to go home.
A week later, he played with a Dolls House and closed all the shutters and doors, drawing a lock
on the door.
He said: "a lock that locks tight with a key, and high hard walls, and a door that locks tight". He
then played with finger paint and spoke: "Dibs come away it's a silly kind of paint, come away".
In another session he told his therapist he liked his sessions and was glad to come, but was
unhappy when he returned home. His therapist asked if he took any gladness home with him.
Dibs responded by burring 3 soldiers in the sand. `This makes them unhappy, they can't see or
hear". He picked one of them up and named it Papa, and then punched it repeatedly.
His father picked him up and seemed embarrassed of Dibs. His dad said he was speaking
senseless jabber, Dibs attacked him, but he was the locked in a room at home.
Dibs' mother went to see the psychologist, explaining that Dibs was a mistake that had ruined her
career, and annoyed his father greatly so they found it hard to relate to Dibs.
In the next session Dibs took down the locked front doors. "I hate the walls and the doors that
lock and the people that shove me in them, I hate the angry words and the tears and I'll kill them
with my hatchet and hammer their bones and spit on them"
During therapy his behaviour improved, and at school he spoke to the adults and showed interest
in playing with other children, although he was still angry with his father.
One time Dibs was asked to play in the therapist's office and dictate into a tape recorder.
He told a story; "Once upon a time live a boy who lived in a bit house with his Mum Dad and a
sister. One day the father came into his study, but the boy went in with out knocking. "You're a
Mean Man" the boy said "I hate you I hate you!" The Father cried, I am sorry for everything I am
sorry, please forgive me"
Outside therapy the relationship between Dibs and his father improved. His IQ was in the top 1%
of the population and had no symptoms of emotional difficulties.
His behaviour resulted from a bad relationship with his parents (mostly his father).
He placed his anger towards them onto other children. Becoming very violent.
During therapy Dibs expressed anger, as well as his dislike of being locked up. Once he had
expressed this and built a relationship with his therapist, the was able to build a better
relationship with his parents and regulate his emotions.
Strengths Weaknesses
Dibs parents gave consent for him to take part, so it was The case is unreliable as it would be hard to replicate and
ethical. get the same results.
Dibs was playing with toys, which is normal for children, Qualitative data was collected which is hard to analyse,
so it has ecological validity/mundane realism. Rich data results are not generalisable.
was gained so it would be valid. Issues with interpretation making findings subjective,
There were no leading questions, so there would have invalid and biased.
been low experimenter bias and demand

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The findings show that play therapy can be used to Case studies are difficult to replicate, but the study has
help children overcome issues. more validity that Little Hans as there were no leading
questions.…read more


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