Virginia Axline was influenced by Carl Rogers Person Centred Therapy, that recognised that an individual has an innate impulse to reach a state of 'self actualisation'.  Having self confidence allows a person's self concept to be fulfilled, and without shame and their behaviour is adjusted accordingly.  She recognised the positive effect of Non Directive Therapy, which gives an individual the opportunity to solve their own problems and work towards a growth impulse that makes more appropriate behaviours more satisfactory (Axline, 1969).  For this to be most successful Axline developed eight principles to guide the therapist to ensure that the therapy room is a growing ground, where the client is at the centre.  'The principles are as follows:

  1. The therapist must develop a warm, friendly relationship with the child, in which good rapport is established as soon as possible.
  2. The therapist accepts the child exactly as he is.
  3. The therapist establishes a feeling of permissiveness in the relationship so that the child feels free to express his feelings completely.
  4. The therapist is alert to recognise the feelings  the child is expressing and reflects those feeling back to him in such a manner that he gains insight into his behaviour.
  5. The therapist maintains deep respect for the child's ability to solve his own problems if given an opportunity to do so.  The responsibility to make choices and to institute change is the child's.
  6. The therapist does not attempt to direct the child's actions or conversation in any manner.  The child leads the way; the therapist follows.
  7. The therapist does not attempt to hurry the therapy along.  It is a gradual process and is recognised as such by the therapist.
  8. The therapist establishes only those limitations that are necessary to anchor the therapy to the world of reality and to make the child aware of his responsibility in the relationship.' (Axline, 1969 p. 73/4).

With the development of modern technology, we now know the effects that early trauma and negative life experiences have on the brain, its structures and its functioning (i.e. limbic and cortex areas-high brain functioning).  Social and emotional trauma occurs within lower brain regions (which respond before the information reaches the cortex), affecting language, motor output and sensory input.   Therapies such as Play Therapy focus on emotional material, rather than being rooted in verbal communication (based within higher brain functioning). It's effectiveness is due to using strategies aimed at increasing understanding and awareness, which promotes cognitive functioning (Gaskill, 2008).  Play uses metaphors and is symbolic using fantasy, this can provide new experiences that develop brain structure and functioning.  Therefore new neural pathways are forming within play because of its use of metaphor, which is more significant than other forms of communication (Levin, 1997 and Modell, 1997).

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The theoretical principles that underpin Play Therapy


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