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  • Brad Ploof, MS, ALC

Book Review

Bookcover with little sad boy

"Dibs: In Search of Self" by Virginia Axline"

By: Virginia Mae Axline

Publication Year: 1964

Genre: Psychology, Case Study, Self-Discovery


Dibs: In Search of Self, by Virginia Axline, is a poignant and insightful book published in 1964. Axline, a renowned child psychologist, presents a heartwarming and transformative case study centered around a young boy named Dibs. The book delves into Dibs' journey of self-discovery and the transformative power of therapy. Through Axline's compassionate narrative, readers understand Dibs's psychological challenges and the therapeutic methods employed to help him find his true self.


The book narrates the life of Dibs, a young boy who appears withdrawn and unresponsive in his classroom and at home. Dibs is the son of affluent and successful parents, but his behavior becomes increasingly concerning as he exhibits signs of being mentally and emotionally detached. Axline, a skilled child therapist, becomes involved in Dibs' life to uncover the reasons behind his behavior and provide the necessary therapeutic intervention.

As the narrative unfolds, Axline employs various therapeutic techniques to engage Dibs, creating a safe and nurturing environment for him to express himself. Through play therapy, Axline allows Dibs to communicate his inner world, fears, and anxieties without the pressure of direct questioning. This approach allows Dibs to gradually open up and reveal his struggles, fears, and frustrations.

Throughout the therapeutic process, Axline uncovers that Dibs' seemingly withdrawn behavior stems from a lack of attention, emotional neglect, and an inability to conform to his parents' high expectations. The book highlights how Dibs' experiences have led to feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness, which have shaped his self-perception and behavior.

As Axline continues to build a trusting relationship with Dibs, he begins to explore his feelings and emotions, gaining a deeper understanding of himself. Through her patient and empathetic guidance, Axline helps Dibs develop self-awareness and self-acceptance. The transformation in Dibs' behavior and emotional well-being is evident as he connects with his peers, engages in social interactions, and demonstrates a genuine interest in learning.


"Dibs: In Search of Self" provides valuable insights into the field of child psychology and therapy. Virginia Axline's skillful approach to therapy is a testament to the importance of creating a safe and nurturing environment for children to express their feelings and emotions. The book underscores the significance of patience, empathy, and understanding in facilitating meaningful change in a child's life.

Axline's depiction of Dibs' transformation emphasizes counselors addressing the underlying emotional issues contributing to a child's behavior. By helping Dibs explore and understand his feelings, Axline demonstrates the potential of therapy to facilitate personal growth and self-discovery, even in the most challenging cases.


In "Dibs: In Search of Self," Virginia Axline presents a remarkable case study that showcases the power of therapy in aiding a child's journey of self-discovery and emotional healing. The book's compassionate narrative, combined with Axline's expertise, sheds light on the potential for positive change when a child is provided with a supportive and understanding environment. This work is an enduring testament to the transformative impact of psychological intervention and its profound effects on a child's life. "Dibs: In Search of Self" remains a timeless exploration of human resilience, self-awareness, and the essential role of empathy in fostering personal growth.


This is the best book on therapy I have read in a long time. The following is a link to get the book yourself:

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