Dibs in Search of Self
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Dibs in Search of Self is a book by clinical psychologist and author Virginia Axline published in 1964. The book chronicles a series of play therapy sessions over a period of one year with an emotionally crippled boy (Dibs) who comes from a wealthy and highly educated family. Despite signs that he is gifted, his mother, father, and most of his teachers perceive him as having an emotional or cognitive disorder. Dibs presents abnormal social behavior by continuously isolating himself, rarely speaking, and physically lashing out at those around him. When Axline first meets Dibs's parents, they describe her as their son's last hope. The book details the interactions between Dibs and Axline and utilizes actual session transcripts for dialogue.
In their weekly sessions together, Axline incorporates the principles of non-directive play therapy. Her approach to children was based on the humanistic concepts of Carl Rogers and person-centered therapy. Dibs is able to do and say whatever he wants during his hour in play therapy, while Axline provides patience and support. In this nurturing environment, Dibs slowly opens up and begins exploring his feelings. Axline's responses to Dibs are primarily reflections, demonstrating to Dibs that she is listening to him without judging him. By the end of the book, which spans the course of one full year, Dibs makes notable strides in his ability to express himself, identify and cope with his feelings, and interact socially with his peers and family. Dibs was subsequently tested at the end of his therapy and was found to score in the extremely gifted range, with an IQ of 168 on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test.
The book has become required reading in many counselor training programs, especially courses focusing on work with children and families. Violet Oaklander, a child therapist who utilizes Gestalt psychology, cited Dibs in Search of Self as an influence on her development.
- Axline, V. (1964). Dibs in Search of Self. New York, NY: Ballatine.
- Axline, V. (1947). Play Therapy. New York, NY: Ballatine.
- Rogers, C. (1942). Counseling and Psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.