All Posts by Katalin Gyermán

Potential Applications of Kinetic Drawings

Chapter 12

A Free Course About Interpretation

Institute of Projective Drawings

Kinetic family drawing

In this part the main characters will be the children themselves.

(1) Possibilities of the individual drawing technique

Previously we focused on emotional distress signals the child may show during the individual method. Now the other information hidden in these drawings will be revealed.

The child’s perception

  • how do they present themself;
  • how do they like to appear in the eyes’ of the group or the world;
  • what is their role in relation to their peers;
  • and how they feel in kindergarten or school?

Their relationship to the social and physical environment

  • how do they relate to authority, rules, external expectations (reward or punishment, acceptance or rejection);
  • which experiences, roles, friendship or social conflict are important for the child (communal or solitary meals; mutual games or rivalry);
  • what events, happenings are referred to by the illustrated, emphasised people, (birth or death; victory or defeat);
  • what location or locations are shown by the drawing (classroom, playground);
  • is the position of their own figure in the physical space relevant?

(2) Possibilities of the group drawing technique

So far I have shown you how individual drawings may be interpreted, now we will turn to drawing techniques that can be carried out in groups.

Give the usual instructions, and the hidden world of the group will be revealed to you! You can discover the following:

  • how the students see each other and the teacher;
  • who are in the drawing;
  • who is drawn the most, who is left out, and which people belong together according to the group;
  • who is repeatedly associated with positive or negative roles;
  • how the children see the teacher, what model they provide, and their relationship with the children (e.g. whether they like the children, or the children like them).

The Ingenious Technique Of Kinetic Drawings And Paintings

Chapter 10

A Free Course About Interpretation

Institute of Projective Drawings

The order of family drawings

Kinetic school drawing of 12-year-old child with behavioral problems

Note that the child is not the large figure (called Pali), but the carelessly drawn stick figure (Gábor). His classmates taunt him a lot and he responds with severe bouts of acting out and fits of rage; he has to take medicine to control them. 

"At all too rare an interval a very bright star appears in the projective technique sky... Burns and Kaufman's Kinetic Family Drawing Technique appear to be another."

This was written by L. B. Ames, Ph.D. Chief Psychologist, President of the Society for Projective Techniques (see Burns & Kaufman, 1972, pp. v-vii).

He continues: "Anyone using the K-F-D technique can enjoy the excitement of being the beginning of a marvellously effective new way of measuring human behavior".

We absolutely agree that this technique is one of the most important and useful drawing method ever published.

Why this technique is particularly interesting?

Kinetic drawings reveal hidden aspects of interaction dynamics between client and family, kindergarten, school, or even in the workplace.

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The Kinetic Technique: Tools And Instructions

You will need the following tools:

  1. B or 2B pencil (tip: try also with paints on a big sheet)
  2. A sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper (in Europe: A4 size)
  3. Eraser

In kinetic drawings the client is requested to depict movement or action.

(1) Kinetic Family Drawing

Ask the client to draw their family so that everyone is doing something!

Kinetic Family Drawing: “Draw a picture of everyone in your family, including you, doing something, some kind of action."

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The drawing will reveal the family relations and who is connected to whom, who distances themselves from whom.

The order of family drawings

Remote and overlapping figures in a kinetic family drawing by 7-year-old children

On the left, the individual figures are far from each other, while in the drawing on the right, they are so close that they overlap. The drawings reveal how the child experiences the family: emotionally remote and cold OR close, warm and trustful.

(2) Kinetic Animal Family Drawing

Use this with children:

Kinetic Animal Family Drawing: “Draw a picture of a family of animals doing something."

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After the drawing is completed the subject is asked to identify the family members and their ages as well as the following: “If you were an animal (child) in this drawing, which one would you be?”

This is less disturbing for the sensitive child, but at the same time reflects the real, unconscious feelings (Jones, 1985).

The order of family drawings

Kinetic Animal Family Drawing by a 13-years-old boy

Note the isolated groups. The animals were associated with anxiety, aggression and sibling rivalry

(3) Kinetic School (Kindergarten) Drawing

This is one of the most exciting and useful techniques.

Kinetic School Drawing: “Draw yourself, your (kindergarten) teacher, and a friend or two in the picture. Have everyone doing something."

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From this you can know how the child perceives themself, their social environment, the school expectations and their attitude towards learning.

(4) Kinetic Business Drawing (For Adults)

Kinetic Business Drawing: “Draw your boss, two or more employees and yourself doing something.”

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Kinetic Business Drawings show how the client see their adult self,  social environment, work expectations and attitudes towards work.

Always pay attention to:

  • the drawing order (sequence),
  • which figure is erased and corrected,
  • or made worse by comparison with the first attempt,
  • or even not redrawn at all,
  • the spontaneous focus of attention.

Once the drawing is finished, ask the client to:

  • number the human figures in the order they were drawn,
  • label themself with a star,
  • label the people on the drawing with their names and ages,
  • label who is doing what,
  • write their own name and age on the back of the paper.

After the kinetic animal family drawing ask:

  • who are the members of the animal family,
  • how old they are, what they are doing,
  • which one would they most like to be?

Now It's Your Turn

  • Draw your own kinetic drawings!
  • Try all the methods with your clients (if applicable).
  • Search for psychological meanings in the ARTIES online scientific interpretation software.
  • Did you find the kinetic technique useful? Let me know in the comments below!

References:

Vass, Z. (2012). A psychological interpretation of drawings and paintings. The SSCA Method: A Systems Analysis Approach. Budapest: Alexandra.

Vass, Z. (2012). A psychological interpretation of drawings and paintings. The SSCA Method: A Systems Analysis Approach. Budapest: Alexandra.

In the next chapter we go on with the psychological interpretation of drawings and paintings.


What is a Neurotic Family Drawing Like?

Chapter 9

A Free Course About Interpretation

Institute of Projective Drawings

The order of family drawings

A neurotic family drawing

A German researcher, Schetty (1974) collected an extremely useful list of features frequently observed in neurotic family drawings.

​If you are interested in children’s drawings, these are worthwhile knowing. However, don't forget that pictorial features can only be understood in context (according to the first theorem of the SSCA method, see Vass, 2012).

A single disorder can be expressed visually in many different ways and any pictorial feature may have multiple interpretations.

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When focusing on specific features in family drawings, Schetty compared healthy, well-adjusted children to a group of children with behavioral disorders, learning difficulties, or showing neurotic symptoms.

The order of family drawings

Family drawing of a 6-year-old depressed girl.

The figures are not only tiny, they are also close together and only occupy a small part of the sheet. Note the low quality of the human figures and the very basic depiction of the arms.

What she found was really interesting. The family drawings of neurotic children exhibited the following features:

  • Rarely have extraneous elements such as the sun, the sky, flowers.
  • The drawing as a whole lacks specific details.
  • Frequently draw profile view of the human figure.
  • The family is organized as an incoherent group.
  • They use fewer colors.
  • Black is used to express dark shades, as opposed to well-adjusted children who use use grey for this purpose.
  • The colors used are generally less realistic.
  • They use less space on the paper and the drawings are smaller.
  • Motifs are frequently drawn at the edge of the paper.
  • Human figures contain few specific details, e.g. hands and fingers are frequently omitted, shoulders are missing or the feet are depicted vaguely.

(Hint: Check the Nonexistent Animal Technique, the Draw-A-Couple Technique, the Five Step Intervention, the Drawing Together Method and the Color Keys.)

In our academic research we also found the following:

Five General Warning Signs In Children's Drawings

  1. Incoherent, disorganized drawing.
  2. Few details together with gross distortions or omissions.
  3. Disharmonious and confuse picture.
  4. Compression: the picture is constricted to a very small size.
  5. Depression, sadness or hopelessness projected into the picture.

IMPORTANT: Pictorial features can only be understood in context. This means they are related to case history, test behavior, current conditions, the subject’s self-interpretation, as well as other items in the picture.

Elisabeth Münsterberg Koppitz (1968, 1984) found similar results. She explained the observations by claiming that well-adjusted, integrated children do not express their emotions to the world if they can cope with them in other ways.

However, emotionally disturbed or poorly adjusted children project their problems involuntarily. They reveal a great deal about themselves in their pictures.

This is particularly true if they are in a situation where they can draw alone – or in the presence of a psychologist with an accepting attitude, who likes to work with them and is also capable of understanding their messages.

Now It's Your Turn

  • Download the "Frequently Observed Features Of Neurotic Family Drawings" below.
  • Research psychological significance of the features above in ARTIES, the online interpretation tool.
  • What was the most problematic drawing like that you ever seen? Let me know in the comments below!

References:

Koppitz, E. M. (1968). Psychological Evaluation of Children’s Human Figure Drawings. New York: Grune and Stratton.

Koppitz, E. M. (1984). Psychological Evaluation of Human Figure Drawings by Middle School Pupils. London: Grune and Stratton.

Schetty, S. A. (1974). Kinderzeichnungen: Eine entwicklungspsychologische Untersuchung. PhD Dissertation. Zürich: Universität Zürich.

Vass, Z. (2012). A psychological interpretation of drawings and paintings. The SSCA Method: A Systems Analysis Approach. Budapest: Alexandra.

In the next chapter: The ingenious technique of kinetic drawings and paintings...

What Does A Family Drawing Reveal?

Chapter 5

A Free Course About Interpretation

Institute of Projective Drawings

Family Drawings And Paintings: Why Are They So Important?

Family depictions open a window into the deep layers of the client's personality, providing sudden insight into the deepest, innermost, most basic aspects of psychodynamics and personality functioning.

They can be applied both for children or adults (with certain modifications, discussed in the next post).

They are routinely used for ​the examination of

  • defence mechanisms, traumas and neurotic conflicts,
  • relationship with parents and family,
  • attachment to parents,
  • sexual or physical abuse*,
  • self-image and body scheme,
  • intellectual maturity and level of cognitive development,
  • school aptitude etc.

*For the assessment of sexual or physical abuse, see also the Color Keys Method.

What is special about family drawings is that they convey a condensed emotional experience of the family – instead of a snapshot.

Family drawings or paintings can explain psychological causes of mental illness and symptoms.

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Family drawings compress emotional content, desires, fears and memories related to the most significant people for child.

During the process of emotional compression, the child gives shape to the tension of the experience so that the emotional components of the experience are also compressed in the image.

The primary elaboration of anxiety in a free drawing

A drawing by a five-year-old boy who is terrified of dogs. In the drawing, he depicted a dangerous wolf with his frightening mouth open very wide (Vass, 2012, p. 648)

We do not see reality in the drawing, but how the child experiences the family, how the parents, sibling effect them, what they are missing, what they most need.

Family drawings show how the child experiences the family, how the parents, sibling effect them, what they are missing, what they most need.

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This cannot be revealed by any other method, since a child is usually unable to or unwilling to put these feelings into words.

A family drawing

How these two children experience the family?

In the kinetic family drawing on the left, the individual figures are far from each other, while on the right, they are so close that they overlap. The drawings reveal how the child experiences the family: emotionally remote and cold (LEFT) or close, warm and trustful (RIGHT).

There are several variations of family drawings and each brings something else to the surface.

The Main Three Types Of Family Drawings

  1. Draw Your Family (one’s own family drawing),
  2. Draw A Picture Of A Family (a general family),
  3. Changed family (in some way, e. g. enchanted or animal family).

1. In the case of the first type, ask the child to draw their own family ("Draw your family", e.g. Hulse, 1951, 1952).

2. For the second type say: ”draw a family that you imagine" (e.g. Corman, 1965). This instruction also results in the child illustrating their actual family.

3. For the third type: stay tuned...​

Now It's Your Turn

  • Collect family drawings using the two main instructions: "Draw your family" and "draw a family that you imagine". Compare them!
  • Compare them!
  • What are your thoughts, remarks, experiences on family drawings? Let me know in the comments below!

References:

Corman, L. (1964). Le test du dessin de famille dans la pra que médico-pédagogique. Paris: P.U.F.

Hulse, W. C. (1951). The emotionally disturbed child draws his family. Quaterly Journal of Child Behaviour, 3, 152-174.

Vass, Z. (2012). A psychological interpretation of drawings and paintings. The SSCA Method: A Systems Analysis Approach. Budapest: Alexandra.

In the next chapter: If you mix-up the order of the 8 most important family drawings, they may become uninterpretable. Learn the recommended sequence. Also: How to compare subsequent pictures?

In Which Order Should Family Drawings Be Made?

Chapter 6

A Free Course About Interpretation

Institute of Projective Drawings

The order of family drawings

This family drawing was prepared by a 9-year-old girl. In the drawing, the mother (left) holds a cane in her hand and wears a stern expression.

The girl ("Manó") identifies with her father instead of her mother: they are standing next to each other in similar stances, the direction of the arms, the form and direction of the shoes and the bows are all similar.

One Drawing Is No Drawing

A fundamental principle of interpretation is that ”one drawing is no drawing” (see Sehringer, 1992, p. 58).

It means that more than one drawing or paintings should always be made.

A fundamental principle of art therapy interpretation: "one picture is no picture".

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The more pictures by a client the therapist looks at, the more certain and complex an assessment they are able to produce.

The more pictures that are made on different occasions the better the chances are of finding a specific psychodiagnostic meaning.

How To Compare Subsequent Pictures?

As a general rule, the examiner should look for similarities, differences and changes in subsequent pictures. Pictures made one after the other are rarely independent.

In subsequent pictures, look for similarities of form or content, as well as contradictory, changed characteristics.

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The order of family drawings

Family drawing of a 6-year-old depressed girl.

The figures are not only tiny, they are also close together and only occupy a small part of the sheet. Note the low quality of the human figures and the very basic depiction of the arms (Vass, 2012).

Always look for the following:

  • Similar formal-structural features
  • Similar motifs, partial motifs or content
  • Contradictory, opposing features
  • Signs of continuous transformation​

Fortunately, there are several family drawing techniques which you can apply in a sequence.

The order of family drawings

Enchanted family drawings by a 14-year-old boy, sent to the psychology clinic by his school due to his aggressive behavior. The first figure is a purple octopus (his brother). Next: a carnivorous plant (his father), followed by himself as "Swamp Man". The last figure is his mother, the scarecrow (Vass, 2012).

Sequence Of Family Drawings: Why Does It Matter?

Before going into the analysis, you need to know in which order the subject should draw the family drawings.

The two main rules:

  • Start with general methods and progress to more specific tests.
  • Questionnaire-type tests should not be performed before the drawing test. 

If you mix-up the order of the 8 most important family drawings, they may become uninterpretable.

The Recommended Sequence Of Various Family Drawings

  1. Traditional Family Drawing
  2. Enchanted Family Drawing
  3. Animal Family Drawing
  4. Projective Mother And Child Drawing
  5. Kinetic Family Drawing
  6. Animal Kinetic Family Drawing
  7. Kinetic School or Kindergarten Drawing
  8. Bird’s Nest Drawing or Tree Family Technique

For adults, instead of the above, use the Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing – one of the most interesting and revealing technique (coming in the next chapter).

Now It's Your Turn

  • Download the instruction sheet below.
  • Start collecting different types of family drawings.
  • Try them also in colors.
  • Which are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below!

References:

Sehringer, W. (1992). Principles for the Psychodiagnostic Analysis of Children’s Drawings. In: Jakab, I., Hárdi, I. (Eds.). Psychopathology of Expression and Art Therapy in the World. Budapest: Animula, 46-81.

Vass, Z. (2012). A psychological interpretation of drawings and paintings. The SSCA Method: A Systems Analysis Approach. Budapest: Alexandra.

Next: Instructions and examples for the Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing – An especially revealing technique for adults...

How Unconscious Reveal Itself In Scribbles: A Classical Method

Chapter 3

A Free Course About Interpretation of Pictures

Institute of Projective Drawings

A Classical Scribble Test

Even more exciting than spontaneous scribbles are the classical scribble methods, in which we ask the respondent to scribble in a predefined way.

The Grätz Scribble Method: Why It Is Our Favourite Technique?

​Try one of the classical methods, namely the Grätz Scribble Technique!

The psychoanalyst Eva Grätz (1978) asked her patients to prepare nonfigurative depictions of specific stimulus words. The method is used as a part of exploratory therapy for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

According to the instruction, the therapist lists a few words and asks the subject

  • to depict the impressions or internal movements
  • elicited by those words
  • using spontaneous lines or shapes
  • that do not depict objects.

Grätz’s Scribble Technique: The client depicts a total of 16 stimulus words with nonfigurative scribbles.

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Required tools: 16 sheets of size A6 plain, white paper (I usually fold a sheet of A4 in half, and then fold that in half again) and a soft pencil.

Required time: 5-10 minutes altogether.

The following instructions should be given:

Instructions:

  1. ”I will say a few words. Please, depict the impression or inner motion you experience in response to the words, using spontaneous lines or shapes that do not depict the objects. You can use one folded cell for each word. "
  2. "When you have done this, faintly write the word on the reverse side of the paper, so that it does not show through.” (modified instruction by Zoltan Vass, 2012)

To make the scribbles we should say the following stimulus words one by one (always waiting for the client to finish before proceeding to the next word):

Stimulus Words:

  1. anger
  2. fear
  3. hate
  4. forgiveness
  5. attraction
  6. jealousy
  7. desire
  8. despair
  1. resistance
  2. safety
  3. aggression
  4. loneliness
  5. a conflict word (chosen by the therapist or the client)
  6. dance
  7. father
  8. mother

Summary: In this method, the subject depicts a total of 16 stimulus words on four A4 sheets of paper nonfiguratively, with scribbles. The sheets are folded in four, resulting in four rectangles on each sheet; the subject uses those to draw.

The order of family drawings

The Graetz Scribble Technique (click to enlarge)

Click on the picture above!

On the left you find the original list of the sixteen stimulus words suggested by Grätz. The bottom two lists of four words are possible versions of the fourth sheet (they feature the patient’s conflict word, chosen by the examiner or, alternatively, a word chosen freely by the subject).

The centre picture shows part of the scribble method of a 21-year-old female. This is a typical scribble in contrast to the next one.

The right picture is a very interesting second sheet of the method of a schizophrenic patient. Instead of abstract scribbles, she used small, identical human figures to depict the concepts. This reaction is called "concretization" (Vass, 2012).


The Two Main Pitfalls – And How To Avoid Them?

Main Pitfall #1: The client does not understand the task or how to scribble.

Solution: Show them a few examples of what a non-figurative scribble means. For example draw the following: "cotton-wool" (circular light doodle) or "glass" (sharp, pointed lines).

Main Pitfall #2: The respondent draws a symbol or pictogram (heart, sun etc.) instead of a nonfigurative scribble.

Solution: Ask them to redraw it but only without making a figurative scribble.

Starting with anger is a good introduction to this scribble method, since it brings out easily very dynamic motor impulses, which gives an initial feeling of success.


Now It's Your Turn

  • Download the instruction sheet below and start experimenting with this technique.
  • Draw your own Graetz-scribbles! In the next chapter you will learn two methods of interpretation.
  • I'm curious to read your comments about this method.

References:

Grätz, E. (1978). Zeichnen aus dem Unbewußten. Stuttgart: Hippokrates.

Vass, Z. (2012). A psychological interpretation of drawings and paintings. The SSCA Method: A Systems Analysis Approach. Budapest: Alexandra.

In the next chapter: The Grätz scribbles reveal, what it is the subject has a problem with, how serious the conflict is and how they combat this. Next time you will learn two interpretation methods!

Assessment Of The Grätz Scribble Technique

Chapter 4

A Free Course About Interpretation

Institute of Projective Drawings

A classical scribble test

The Graetz Scribble Technique

We have reached a very exciting chapter, since we will analyze the Grätz Scribble Method (see the previous chapter in which anger and other emotions were drawn.)

Step #1: Latent Meaning Of Movement Similarity

A classical scribble test

First of all, place all the scribbles face-up in front of your clients on a table or on the floor randomly (makes sure there is ample room for this).

We ask the client to group the scribbles according to similarity of movements patterns.

For instance put circular scribbles in one group, the straight and sharp lines in another group, the geometrical forms in a separate group, etc.

WARNING: Do not look at what is on the other side of the paper! 

Look only looking for phenomenological similarity (e.g. line pressure, movement patterns, shapes).

Remember? The subject wrote the word that was illustrated on the reverse side of each paper.

When this is ready you get to the main point. Turn the pieces of paper over and see which words were placed next to each other!

Why are we looking for similarity? What does it mean if we find it?

Things that we depict in a similar manner, we think of in a similar way. Therefore, their representation contains mutual components.

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(See in details in "The Psychodiagnostic Interpretation Of Associations" in Vass, 2012, A Psychological Interpretation Of Drawings And Paintings, Budapest: Alexandra, pp. 658-673.)

Important: the therapist does not offer his or her own explanation for the similarity.

Ask the client in a non-directive way: "Why do you think these scribbles resemble each other?"

If you have carried out the method correctly, this will result in the subject's positive recognition of components of the unconscious coming to the surface (e. g. father, anger, aggression, jealousy and hate scribbles may be grouped together).

(See also the Color Keys Technique for revealing the unconscious).

Step #2: Anatomy of Lines Using Motor Empathy

You remember the motor empathy method, don’t you?

Now we are looking for an answer to what the scribble says about the individual experience of the expression.

The Grätz Scribbles reveal, what it is the subject has a problem with, how serious the conflict is and how they combat this.

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For instance, with what intensity, with what pressure, to what degree of spatially extension a scribble was made? How much was it controlled?

As the energy component of a scribble increases, so does the psychological energy become concentrated.

As the lines become more and more controlled (for instance they are small, made with moderated, withheld movements) then the subject is increasingly controlling (or suppressing) an emotion.

Now It's Your Turn

  • Draw your own Graetz-scribbles.
  • Start collecting them with your clients.
  • Make groups of them based on movement similarity.
  • Apply the motor empathy analysis method.
  • What are your thoughts on this technique? Your results? Let me know in the comments below!

References:

Grätz, E. (1978). Zeichnen aus dem Unbewußten. Stuttgart: Hippokrates.

Vass, Z. (2012). A psychological interpretation of drawings and paintings. The SSCA Method: A Systems Analysis Approach. Budapest: Alexandra.

In the next chapter: Family drawings or paintings can explain psychological causes of mental illness and symptoms. Learn what is so special about family drawings?