Book Review - Dibs in Search of Self

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Dibs in Search of Self by Virginia Axline, is an engaging chronological record of the psychotherapy of a troubled five year old boy who through the course of the therapy progresses from a state of severe isolation, regarded as “mentally retarded” (p.12), through to showing and proving to be a “brilliant boy” (p.196). It is written as a near verbatim account (p.197) of the dialogue during the sessions with a well rounded descriptive narrative to keep the reader interested and to set the scene of the story. The author “Miss A” is a clinical psychologist who is invited to look at the case of this young boy and his family, and because of the needs of her research work and the peculiarities of the case she decides to record and analyse the sessions in a play therapy room at the Child Guidance Centre. Dibs is a five year old who will not talk or play in school, who appears almost oblivious to the teachers and children, and who is given to “fits of violence” (p.9) and “temper tantrums” (p.11). Dibs has a sister Dorothy who whilst not discussed in great depth in the book, appears to be normally adjusted. Dibs’ parents are wealthy (enough to have a chauffeur, maid and educate Dibs in a private school), well educated professionals and socially detached. They seem to have substituted toys, books and “things” for emotional involvement (p.76) with their son. The mother has given up a career as a surgeon, and the father has escaped into his “important” work so that he can be absent. The father appears to have been particularly harsh with his deprecation of the boy’s every action and effort. I would guess that this constant disapproval has lead to a withholding of the “signs of intelligence” by Dibs as an effective way to cause pain and therefore deeply attack the father. In keeping with the linear format of the book each chapter covers one therapy session. The form of Axline’s
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