Integrating Play Therapy in the Home-Based Setting Module

Module Sections:

Nondirective Play Therapy

Carl Rogers is recognized as the founding father of client-centered therapy. During his practitioner years, Rogers challenged the more popular psychoanalytic, experimental, and behavioral therapists with his nondirective approach to therapy. Rogers disagreed with the current approaches to therapy arguing that the client was not able to reach self-realization and growth due to the therapists' authoritarian styles. Carl Rogers changed the history of therapy by shifting the focus to reflection of the client.

Non-directive play therapy approach is based on the assumption that the individual is capable of solving one's own problems. The rate of progress differs between individuals; however, successful therapy can only be achieved if the individual is willing to reorganize past experiences, attitudes, thoughts, and feelings (Axline, 2002). The non-directive approach to play therapy offers the individual the freedom to express oneself without judgment or pressure from the practitioner. Axline (2002) explains non-directive play therapy as, "an opportunity that is offered to the child to experience growth under the most favorable conditions. …the child is given the opportunity to play out his accumulated feelings of tension, frustration, insecurity, aggression, fear, bewilderment, confusion"(p. 15).

Axline's Eight Basic Principles of Nondirective Play Therapy

  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 recognize the feelings the child is expressing and reflects those feelings back to him in such a manner that he gains insight into his behavior.
  5. The therapist maintains a 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 recognized 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.

Reprinted from Play Therapy, 2002 by Axline (pp 69-70)

The nondirective approach to play therapy is based on a nonintrusive relationship the therapist establishes with the client. This approach correlates with the client-centered approach first discussed by Carl Rogers. According to Rogers, there are three essential concepts to the child-centered theory of personality structure:

  • The person
  • The phenomenal field
  • The self

(Landreth, 1991)

Axline is recognized for her contributions to nondirective and directive approaches to play therapy in how she applied Rogers' client-centered approach (Gil, 1991).

Carl Rogers' Basic Elements of Therapy:

  1. The individual comes for help.
  2. The helping situation is defined.
  3. The counselor encourages free expression of feelings in regard to the problem.
  4. The counselor accepts, recognizes, and clarifies negative feelings.
  5. When the individual's negative feelings have been expressed they are followed by expressions of positive impulse, which make for growth.
  6. The counselor accepts and recognizes the positive feelings in the same manner as the negative feelings.
  7. There is insight, understanding of the self, and acceptance of the self along with possible courses of actions.
  8. Use of positive action along with the decreasing need for help.

Audio Companion: Integrating Play Therapy