Axline's Basic Principles of
Non-Directive Play Therapy
Much of current play therapy practice
is based upon Virginia Axline’s work*.
- Must develop a warm and friendly
relationship with the child.
- Accepts the child as she or he is.
- Establishes a feeling of permission in the
relationship so that the child feels free to express his or her feelings
- Is alert to recognise the feelings the
child is expressing and reflects these feelings back in such a manner that the
child gains insight into his/her behaviour.
- Maintains a deep respect for the child’s
ability to solve his/her problems and gives the child the opportunity to do so.
The responsibility to make choices and to institute change is the child’s.
- Does not attempt to direct the child’s
actions or conversations in any manner. The child leads the way, the therapist
- Does not hurry the therapy along. It is a
gradual process and must be recognised as such by the therapist.
- Only establishes those limitations
necessary to anchor the therapy to the world of reality and to make the child
aware of his/her responsibility in the relationship.
These principles emphasise the
importance of a practitioner being able to use a comprehensive 'Play Therapy Tool-Kit'
which will enable the therapist to follow the child's lead.
*Axline was influenced by the person
centred approach of Carl Rogers. She is recognised as the originator of non-directive
Play Therapy. Her well known book 'Dibs: In Search of Self' written in 1964
which describes how she worked with Dibs and how he was able to heal himself
over a period of time is an excellent introduction to the subject. Axline in
turn influenced Violet Oaklander who added a gestalt therapy approach to play
therapy and extended the 'tool-kit' concept as described in her book 'Windows
to Our Children'.