Her insight, comprehension of character, patience, and counseling expertise are apparent throughout, and the book could serve as a manual of clinical counseling strategies.
It seems to me that four key themes run through Dr. Axline’s approach: 1. The individuality of each person, 2. The necessity of possessing an optimistic attitude that the individual can be helped, 3. Respect for the individual as a prerequisite for facilitating mental growth, 4. Allowing the individual – rather than the counselor – to lead.
Possibly, however, those four themes could be collapsed into one: the all-abiding belief that the human individual is unique, that he has potential and that, when listened to and unconditionally accepted, this potential may flourish. Axline, therefore, seems to be a humanistically-oriented psychologist (of the Rogerian school of counseling), even though play therapy is, undoubtedly, behaviorally inclined. Noting her approach, Leonard Carmichel, in his introduction, has this to say:
“No one who reads this book with understanding can ever again think that human psychological growth, success in a schoolroom, or the acquisition of a complex skill can be achieved merely by overt repetition or by the reinforcement of simple patterns of response.” (p. viii)
1. Acknowledging the unequivocal individuality of each person: In a somewhat Leibnizian stance, Axline posits that each person is an individual unto herself, closed off as a Leibnizian monad in his own world, and therefore the therapist (or another) could attempt to empathize with him or gain some sort of understanding of the workings of his personality, but could never fully enter the client’s experience. When first meeting Dibs, Dr. Axline reminisces on the many children she had encountered each of whom had dealt with their challenges in their own way; some had surmounted their difficulties, others had been overcome, but the Doctor realized there was no pat explanation