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Virginia Axline's Principles of Play Therapy

by Shivonne Cammell

Posted on January 23, 2016 at 09.30am


Much of current play therapy practice is based upon Virginia Axline’s work. See “Dibs in search of self” for a good starting point.

Her eight principles state that the therapist:

(1) Must develop a warm and friendly relationship with the child.
(2) Accepts the child as she or he is.
(3) Establishes a feeling of permission in the relationship so that the child feels free to express his or her feelings completely.
(4) 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.
(5) 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.
(6) Does not attempt to direct the child’s actions or conversations in any manner. The child leads the way, the therapist follows.
(7) Does not hurry the therapy along. It is a gradual process and must be recognised as such by the therapist.
(8) 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.

Friedrich Frobel

"... play is the highest development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child's soul...children's play is not mere sport. It is full of meaning and import."

(Frobel, The Education of Man, 1903, p.22)

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