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Dibs in Search of Self

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,642 Ratings  ·  313 Reviews
The classic of child therapy. Dibs will not talk. He will not play. He has locked himself in a very special prison. And he is alone. This is the true story of how he learned to reach out for the sunshine, for life . . . how he came to the breathless discovery of himself that brought him back to the world of other children.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 12th 1986 by Ballantine Books (first published 1964)
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Jul 06, 2011 jo rated it it was amazing
this book seems to cause strong reactions, so let me first say what i think it is not:

* it is not a book that predicts how a generic child will improve when treated the way virginia axline treats dibs (how does she treat dibs? she mostly describes dibs’ behavior, not hers).

* it is not a book about diagnostics (dibs is given exactly zero labels).

* it is not a book about technique; it is not a manual even in the broadest sense of the word.

* finally, it is not a book about etiology or the genesis
May 23, 2011 Sarah rated it it was ok
I read this for a psychology class and am interested in the commentary, as I know close to nothing about child psych. The book is an easy read and can be completed in a couple hours. It is totally devoid of commentary or technique or explanation as to why Dibs' personality radically shifts and changes in 6 months (it was later explained that this probably took place over years, which just served to confuse me-- why pretend that it took six months?). It is also devoid of any explanation of how th ...more
Jane Matthews
Nov 08, 2007 Jane Matthews rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read this over and over and I will definitely read it again. It's a true story written by a therapist about a little boy who turns out to be autistic but this was when autism was a little known condition. I can't really say much more about it because I'll end up sounding American and all that jazz!! Just read it!
Mar 18, 2010 Meaghan rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs, psychology
One of the earliest case studies of autism. However, it's very dated and, at this point, I think it may do more harm than good. Axline subscribed to the then-prevalent theory that autism was caused by emotionally distant parents, something that has proven to be false. This is useful in the sense that it shows the development of the field of child psychology, but no parent of an autistic child, or person trying to understand the causes of autism, would benefit from it.
This is the book that inspired my career choice, and later influenced my specialization as a play therapist/social worker, along with "Play Therapy" by Garry Landreth.

This is a beautiful story of a child who needed unconditional positive regard and a non-judgmental environment where he was allowed to call the shots in order to heal.

Read this, and you'll know exactly what it's like to be one of my child clients in a play therapy session.
Dec 09, 2007 Candice rated it it was amazing
this book was recommended to me by a dear friend, and i have fallen in love.

It is a story with little hope, but within in the pages is found, a life and a sense of self. It was wonderful to watch this scared little boy grow up and fight his enemies. The pages flew by filled with discovery. In each moment I found myself wanting to find this child and hug them and make everything better.

my favorite: As I said I wanted it. As you said you wanted it. As we said we wanted it.

and a two other favorite
Feb 09, 2009 Heri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Axline, the author said that, he was that boy that she ever met in the classroom who could teach her what it means to be a complete person.

My first impression when I looked at this book was it's a story about a boy who who has a mental problem. But when I read the prologue, then I changed my opinion tremendiously.

Dibs is about the experience of a little boy that has been justified as mentally retarded by his parents. However, his school teachers think different. In reality he was a brilliant, l
Apr 13, 2010 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The little boy in this book, Dibs, clearly was autistic, although they kept saying he was retarded. They didn't know in the 60's what they know now about autism.

I found the boy endearing. I admit I'm biased. Dibs reminded me of my autistic son who has demonstrated several similar or identical behaviors.

Reading this wasn't all wonderful. Dibs was emotionally abused by his parents. I pity them. They didn't know what they were dealing with and were beyond overwhelmed. Despite their wealth and sno
Jun 24, 2011 Rachel rated it really liked it
ya'll, if you are going to come up with a fake name to protect this kid's identity, can you come up with something better than "Dibs"? like, what are you smoking?

sometimes Dibs want to throw paint on the floor and so he does that. sometimes Dibs wants to spray water everywhere and he definitely does that, on like ten different pages. often Dibs wants to kill his mom and dad but he doesn't do that because that is not what people do in uplifting psychological narratives.
Feb 04, 2010 Shannon rated it really liked it
I learned about one form of play therapy through responsive questioning. I appreciated that the therapist gave Dibs the room to discover himself and grow to understand and accept his surroundings and environment rather than pushing him towards a particular conclusion.

His mothers transformation was also fascinating. I'm not sure how much the reader doesn't know about the extent of the therapy, but it seems like Dibs' mom found herself at the same time.
A Severs
Jul 26, 2016 A Severs rated it it was amazing
A wonderful story of transformation. I learned of how to talk to children in a way that allows them to explore their own complex feelings and of the importance of simple, unstructured play and how revealing it can be.
Sep 10, 2011 Michelle rated it it was ok
cant help but think this is all made up by the author. i havent researched on it but it seems fishy. what 5 yr old speaks that way... even in the 60's and everything falls perfectly into place for psychology.
Aug 09, 2015 Sabrina rated it it was amazing
Gracias a este libro re afirmé mis deseos de ser terapeuta infantil.

El trabajo que hace Axline es maravilloso.
May 14, 2015 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Very interesting read by the developer of play therapy. Dibs' response to play therapy, and the results, seemed almost too good to be true -- that's how beautiful and amazing they were. I was most struck by how empowered Dibs felt in the play therapy room and by how little of herself the therapist put into their conversations and interactions. She did very little but reflect back to Dibs exactly what he was saying, with no judgment, no commentary, and no attempt to make Dibs feel better. The ver ...more
Jan 12, 2015 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
In the year 2015 the words autism, expressive/receptive language disorder, and ADHD are not uncommon diagnoses. They are often found on the mouths of worried mothers that are waiting for their next appointment. Although parents are working closely with both psychiatrists and educators to better understand their children, there is still a need for support. Today the special needs community is not defined by labels or those that are concerned to be deemed ‘severe low IQ’. It consists of a mix of c ...more
Feb 24, 2014 Sadaf rated it it was amazing
This book was an additional reading in my course, as its about both play therapy and Rogerian counseling. I was having doubts with regards to the helpfulness of my profession as a therapist, but this book definitely did re-instill my faith.
The book is a beautiful journey of the complicated emotional unfolding of a child. The book portrays very well what a safe and trustworthy environment can do for the unraveling of a person, be it an adult or a child.
It delicately explores the many meanings h
Rachael Quinn
Jun 16, 2012 Rachael Quinn rated it really liked it
A number of months ago, a friend of mine handed me this book and told me to read it. She said it was a quick read and really good, especially if you like happy endings.

Child psychology has never been a subject that I was likely to pursue. I work with children on a daily basis and I've often thought it would be beneficial to put some studying in but for the most part my readings in psychology center on self help. I was a little doubtful. The first two chapters were slow but after that it really t
Neeraja S
Apr 19, 2011 Neeraja S rated it really liked it
Every child is born different. But some are more different than others, that understanding them requires a special skill-set comprising of patience, insight, faith, the ability to look at the world through the child's eyes, the courage to look into ourselves as seen by the child, and above all, an unending well of unconditional love and empathy. Perhaps one needs to get in touch with one's self, before even trying to comprehend how the other person is reacting to us, and what it really means. A ...more
Apr 25, 2008 Laurelina rated it really liked it
Ok, so what can I say about this book? Virginia Axline is another play therapy pioneer who adopted the non-directive methods of play and guided herself from the phenomenological personality theories of Carl Rogers.
When you first read this book, you get this sense that as a therapist or one at heart, your work would really be valid and that it would really make a difference. Sometimes a very romantic angle to view things, but reading it a second time would actually make you look at things in diff
Mar 05, 2010 Mary rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book sat on the bookshelf at home when I was a kid and I read it a few times. Lord knows where it came from as nobody in my family was especially interested in psychology that I'm aware of. It's about a form of play therapy meant to assist emotionally troubled children. The kid she describes (and gives the very weird alias "Dibs") is the child of affluent but apparently clueless and emotionally distant parents. The therapy seems to have a fairly dramatic effect on him in a short period of t ...more
Oct 20, 2015 Sally rated it really liked it
Having read this at an early age, it was very educational regarding the self. I have not forgotten it - it left quite an impression on me. May read it again to see what I find in it now that I'm older!
Erik Graff
Dec 01, 2013 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: child psychologists, persons w/"autistic" children
Recommended to Erik by: Dr. Bell
Shelves: psychology
Being a psychology major at Union Theological Seminary in New York I had to take development courses. This book was read for the general course entitled "Human Growth and Development". It was taught by a physician-psychiatrist, Dr. Bell, employing the standard textbook on the subject commonly used, he claimed, in medical schools as well as a number of supplementary books and articles of which Dibs in Search of Self was one.

Axline's book is basically a therapeutic narrative and, so, read very qui
Doug Cannon
Jan 27, 2009 Doug Cannon rated it really liked it
I first read this when I was pretty young (recommended by my mother), and a few times since then. Dibs is so much like myself, that I find the book very intriguing. It is almost like I know what he is thinking, because I would be thinking that same thing myself.

I was not nearly as introverted as Dibs, and I was not nearly as socially backwards, but in some ways, I almost was.

I love the story of how a loving and caring teacher (or therapist, or whatever she was) was able to reach inside of Dibs a
Feb 27, 2015 Emily rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 26, 2014 Ely added it
I'm not really sure how I feel about this book. It was recommended to me by my clinical supervisor, and although the story is compelling, I don't think I learned much from it that I was not already aware of as a clinician.

If you're looking to read to get some insight into the beginnings of play therapy, this is not the book. There are no techniques. There are no clear interventions. It's a narrative, in its most literal sense, but in my opinion, in no way clinical.

Dibs, goes from an SED child
Lezlee Hays
Mar 07, 2015 Lezlee Hays rated it it was amazing
Written in 1964, it is difficult to tease out whether or not Dibs may have been highly functioning autistic or what exactly might have been going on with this kiddo beyond his obvious emotional difficulties. The understanding of autism at that time was much different than it is today. Setting that issue aside, Axline's report of the therapy sessions between Dibs and herself is a fantastic example of the pure process of child play therapy and the growth and psychological impact that can result. I ...more
Mar 22, 2015 Isis rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015

Dibs is a quiet, isolated boy. No one really knows why he behaves that way. His parents think he's mentally retarded. His teachers are on the verge of giving up on him. But a psychologist becomes intrigued by his case and offers to meet with him, without any promises of a change.

This story was truly compelling. Dibs is an incredibly intelligent boy who is clearly repressed and afraid. This book recounts every therapy sessions in the playroom with the psychologist. Dibs was allowed to talk
Nicola Wilson
I started off really enjoying this book. I was very interested in Dibs and what the outcome was going to be. The middle of the book however was quite boring as it was all about the same thing. The end of the book was quite good as Dibs developed and improved in himself. There were no real answers though and the book does not explain how to be good at play therapy and didn't talk about what the play therapist thought of the sessions. In this case the child was just left to play and what he wanted ...more
Jan 25, 2014 Spa rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: favorites
This is a book that I would recommend to everyone. Although it is technically a psychology book, it does not use psychology jargon. It simply relates the tale of Dibs finding himself. The book is a nonfiction, but it reads like a novel.

I started reading this book when I had an hour free, and a friend of mine had this book with her. I picked it up although I am not a fan of nonfiction or psychology books. When I began reading it,I was hooked. I took it out from the library soon afterward, and f
John Baker
Jun 03, 2016 John Baker rated it it was amazing
The book dibs is a book that just keeps getting better and better and never stops. Dibs was a 5 year old boy who was an emotionally crippled child. He belonged to a wealthy and highly educated family who could think of him only as a "mental defective" as he exhibited strange social behavior when in reality he was actually very gifted. "This is the story of a little boy named, Dibs." As a child, dibs would isolate himself from people; avoiding all physical contact from friends or family. He would ...more
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Virginia M. Axline was a psychologist and the creator of Play Therapy. She wrote the book Dibs In Search Of Self. She was also the author of Play Therapy.
More about Virginia Mae Axline...

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“Perhaps there is more understanding and beauty in life when the glaring sunlight is softened by the patterns of shadows. Perhaps there is more depth in a relationship that has weathered some storms. Experience that never disappoints or saddens or stirs up feeling is a bland experience with little challenge or variation of color. Perhaps it's when we experience confidence and faith and hope that we see materialize before our eyes this builds up within us a feeling of inner strength, courage, and security. We are all personalities that grow and develop as a result of our experiences, relationships, thoughts, and emotions. We are the sum total of all the parts that go into the making of a life.” 33 likes
“Sometimes it is very difficult to keep in mind the fact that the parents, too, have reasons for what they do-- have reasons, locked in the depths of their personalities, for their inability to love, to understand, to give of themselves to their children.” 2 likes
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