Axline (1964) 'Dibs: Personality Development in Play Therapy'


Background: Dibs would not speak/interact with others and could be aggressive if challenged. Teachers thought they were failing him, so asked Axline for help. No one knew why he was silent. They just knew that his mother picked him up from school, they did not see his father, and he did not want to go home. 

Aim: To help Dibs find a way to express himself and 'unlock' his personality, as his teachers thought he had a low mental ability, despite displaying very able behaviour patterns. Also, to see if play therapy would help Dibs to find his 'self'.

Procedure: Observations of Dibs at school, weekly play therapy with Axline and with parental consent for study and confidential/anonymous publication. Dibs could play as he wanted and behaviour and comments were recorded. Axline did not ask questions - input data came from parents, teachers and Dibs himself. Axline let Dibs discover his own personality - she responded to him as a non-directional therapist and not as a researcher. The case study was more of a description than an explanation.

Description of Themes: Dibs showed that he was actually a gifted child who could read, spell and understand complex concepts. He used dolls and toy soldiers in the play therapy room to act out situations with his family. He showed hatred for his father by burying a toy soldier he called 'Papa' in the sand. He said he did not like locked rooms or walls. He was angry with his family. He had a lack of emotional support, resented by his parents and thought of as stupid by his scientist father.

Case Study Analysis: Dibs worked out his anger through play…


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