Dibs in Search of Self represents a true story about a young boy who managed to overcome psychological problem through play therapy.
Teachers are reluctant to engage Dibs in the study because of his reserved and indifferent attitude to studying. However, a series of therapy sessions help the boy overcome the difficulties and understand his needs and concerns.
Axline, the physician, manages to choose an emotionally neutral approach to Dibs to help him discover himself without additional emotional support. Unlike other teachers and therapists, Axline (1964) has defined that Dibs is just different from his peers, but not necessarily mentally retarded.
This conception is also supported by Berger who states that assuming difference as deficit or as deviation cannot be regarded as a problem. Instead, specific attention should be given to unconventional methods and techniques to treating such children.
By introducing play therapy, Axline (1964) has allowed the boy to widen the established boundaries of psychologically tense environment and has provided him with much space for himself.
During the therapy sessions, the therapist realizes that Dibs is an incredibly bright personality who is able to read, write, draw, and express his thoughts. The main essence of her studies was ignorance of emotional support. In such a way, Axline (1964) considered it unnecessary to reveal any attachment to her patients (p. 199).
This special relationship, however, helped the boy overcome his social problems and discover his talents and gifts that were not typical of children of his age.
According to Berger (2009), cognitive development can be achieved by means of both engaging into school curriculum and knowledge obtained from external environment (p. 7). Therefore, Dibs received much freedom for making choices in his life that he failed to receive before.
Play therapy consisted in placing dolls in Dibs’s life, as if they were real. In such a manner, the boy could define which roles father and mother dolls should perform and how they should behave (Axline, 1964, p. 18).
Playing with dolls allowed Dibs to discover his feelings and attitudes toward his parents and peers, as well as understand what attitude his wished to feel toward himself from these people. To explain this issue, Berger (2009) refers to the importance of considering social contexts that play a crucial role in personality development.
Specifically, the scholar argues, “interactions between parents and among siblings are part of the context in which each person develops” (Berger, 2009, p. 12). A multinational understanding is the core to solving problems of developmental deviation among children.
In conclusion, consideration of Berger’s concept of cognitive development and multidimensional contexts is essential in understanding Axline’s play therapy.
Depriving the boy of emotional support, the psychotherapist freed Dibs from the boundaries established in a social environment by his parents, teachers, and peers. Introducing play therapy allowed the body discover his personality, understand his concerns, and define further steps for perceiving the surrounding world.
Specifically, using dolls and dollhouse, Dibs managed to define the attitude he wanted to feel from his parents. He could also practice his social and communication skills.
More importantly, the therapy provided the boy with possibilities of understanding his inner world, as well as realizing that his is just different, but not worse than other children. Axline has managed to notice that the boy turned out extremely intelligent, with high IQ level.
Axline, V. (1964). Dibs in search of self. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Berger, K.S. (2009). The developing person through childhood and adolescence (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.