“Miss A,” as Dibs calls her, believes that Dibs already knows the answers and can show her what he needs if she is patient enough, accepting enough, and observant enough. Dibs’ parents think she’s wasting her time trying to watch him play. He doesn’t play and he doesn’t talk. Dibs’ mother finally agrees to let Miss A try her methods, but she’s not holding her breath.
“Miss A” then introduces Dibs and us to her special play room, where children can be just exactly who they truly are. The room is not magical, but the relationship between therapist and child is. In the safety and freedom of this special relationship, we begin to see what Axline meant when she first encouraged therapists to offer children the opportunity to “play out these feelings” and “realize the power within [themselves]”.
“A ‘must read’ classic for play therapists!” — Charles E. Schaefer, PhD, RPT-S, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Fairleigh Dickinson University; Co-Founder and Director Emeritus, The Association for Play Therapy
“Dibs: In Search of Self is a timeless account of Axline as play therapist, advocate, and partner in Dibs’ therapeutic journey. I marvel at Axline’s ability to encompass multiple roles while demonstrating integration in all of her interactions; whether in the playroom, conducting classroom observations or working with Dibs’ parents. This is essential reading for play therapists, child development and counseling practitioners.” — Natalya Ann Lindo, PhD, LPC, CCPT-S, CPRT-S, Associate Professor & Counseling Program Coordinator, University of North Texas
“There are many books on play therapy theory. There are many books on play therapy techniques. There is only one book that goes beyond theory and technique, getting to the heart of what play therapy is all about. Dibs captures the depth of connection and life-changing impact that play therapy can engender between a child and a therapist.” — Nick Cornett, PhD, LPC, LMFT, RPT, Assistant Professor, John Brown University
Virginia Mae Axline (1911–1988) was born in Fort Wayne Indiana and grew up in Columbus, Ohio. After teaching elementary school for several years, she became a graduate student at Ohio State University where she began collaborating with Carl Rogers.
In 1945, Rogers opened the University of Chicago Counseling Center and Axline served as one of his research associates, developing her own approach to child counseling, grounded in the person-centered principles Rogers set forth for working with adults. Axline’s approach came to be known as Nondirective Play Therapy and later, Child-Centered Play Therapy. In 1947, Axline published Play Therapy in which she explained her groundbreaking theory of child psychotherapy. In 1950, Axline completed her Doctor of Education degree at Columbia University Teachers College, where she would teach for several years before returning to Ohio.
In 1964, Axline published Dibs: In Search of Self, which became popular among professionals and parents alike. While the story of a young boy breaking out of his self-imposed silence gained recognition, Axline slipped into a quieter life for herself. She continued both her teaching career at Ohio State University and her private practice, but declined opportunities to be in the spotlight. Virginia Axline was buried next to her mother, father, and older sister.