The story of the successful use of play therapy with an emotionally disturbed child named Dibs.

Abandonment, Art of Medicine, Children, Doctor-Patient Relationship, Father-Son Relationship, Human Worth, Loneliness, Mental Illness, Mother-Son Relationship, Patient Experience, Professionalism, Psychotherapy.)

An educational and therapeutic tale told in the first person by the author, Virgina Axline. The story is unusually engaging in part because Dibs himself is an extraordinary human being, not only a mistreated innocent. He is five, and is very withdrawn; resisting his teachers' attempts to engage him. Dibs' parents and teachers had basically given him up as mentally retarded, and Axline is brought in as a last resort. In a series of play therapy sessions over a period of several months, she cures him. Axline takes an emotionally neutral approach to the patient, in spite of his obvious need for emotional support, in order not to interfere with his discovering of the self that had been severely repressed at home.

This book is particulary interesting as Axline is the originator of play therapy, and we can read her notes as Dibs emerges as a genius whose precocious (verbatim) words are amazingly accurate and heartbreakingly expressive of his shifting thoughts and feelings in the various stages of therapy.

In addition to this is the emotional distance Axline maintains with this obviously love-starved child, understanding that what the patient needs is to find himself by himself and in ways that are satisfying to him without the confusion of adult approval. This book is a lucid portrait of a little boy achieving, under therapy, a successful struggle for identity.

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