Category Archives for Art Therapy Courses

How To Interpret Pictures As The Best Experts Do

How To Understand Any Scribble, Drawing Or Painting

How To Interpret Pictures As The Best Experts Do

How to Interpret the Picture in Art Therapy

A Unique Online Course In 5-Minute Chapters

  • Working with drawings or paintings in psychological assessment and you want to understand them better?
  • Never studied but you always wanted to learn how to understand psychological significance of scribbles, doodles, drawings and paintings?
  • Enjoy learning assessment techniques in 5-minute chapters with your morning coffee – or during travelling hours on your mobile.

Based on the original research of Prof. Zoltan Vass taught in Hungary, Transylvania, Germany, France, Russia, China, USA, Israel

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Yes, it is free and always will be.
  • Only 5 minutes per lesson.
  • Our favorite techniques that we use in our Institute!

What Will You Learn Here?

  • How to understand pictures as the best experts do. 
  • The “anatomy” of lines: The key to understanding psychological meaning of any lines in any drawing, scribble, or painting.
Tipology of spontaneous scribbles and doodles

Tipology of spontaneous scribbles and doodles

Subscribe Here»

  • The psychological significance of scribbles: What is the greatest advantage of scribbles to thematic drawings? A unique collection of best methods for scribble techniques and interpretation.
  • One of the biggest challenges in assessment: Understanding free and spontaneous drawings and paintings. Why is it the most difficult task for many professionals? How should you approach these?
  • The eight types of family drawings and paintings. What are the different techniques? Which one should be applied in which case? What are the hidden meanings they disclose? Emotional and developmental indicators.
Enchanted 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).

Try Now, Cancel Anytime»

  • Tree drawings and paintings: classic and new methods. The biggest problem with the Koch Tree Technique. What is the hidden meaning behind the Tree Test?
  • The Sixty-Second Drawing Technique (SSDT). A new and original method in adult, child and “baby” versions. How can the most simple drawing interpretation method of the world be so meaningful? Why this is the most popular technique in Hungary?
Scribbles and doodles

43 Ideas and Techniques You Get

  1. The 9 worst mistakes that many mental health professionals make when they interpret colour symbolism. 
  2. The Spontaneous Focus of Attention: A technique that shows you what is the most important for the client.
  3. A fast and easy way to boost your quick psychological understanding of any picture.
A family drawing prepared by a 9-year-old girl

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.

  1. The 23 most important features that you should ALWAYS pay attention to in family drawings.
  2. A complete guide to conflict indicators in Mother–and–child depictions.
  3. The 5 most reliable signs of neurotic children's kinetic drawings.

Join The Course»

  1. How to develop your skills to understand psychological significance of the emotional-affective tone.
  2. The Bird's Nest Drawing that helps you to understand how the child feels himself/herself in the family.
  3. The self-psychological analysis of house drawings.
  4. The technique of the kinaesthetic empathy... and how it helps to understand inner feelings.
Methods and techniques of intuitive analysis

Methods and techniques of intuitive analysis

  1. How the method of the empathic questioning can dramatically improve your skills to facilitate understanding of hidden emotions.
  2. The fascinating method of imagining that the figure comes to life: One of the best proven tools of intuitive analysis.
  3. The quickest and easiest way to avoid the one mistake that many mental health professionals make when they interpret the picture's spatial symbolism.
  4. The 7 steps of the SSCA Method: The most comprehensive technique of psychological understanding ever made.
  5. Advanced quick techniques to understand symbols the pros use – but you can master these, too.
  6. The eight types of family drawings and paintings: A detailed guide.

Get All Answers»

  1. Signs of family neurosis in the pictures.
  2. Why you MUST know the Six Personality Levels of human figures.
  3. "Anatomy" of the line: The best tool to understand scribbles.
  4. How the Grätz-Scribble Technique reveals unconscious conflicts.
  5. What NEVER to do when you analyze a spontaneous scribble.
  6. What the Draw-A-Couple Colour Technique reveals about the future of the relationship.
  7. How does a depiction of a house disclose the true origin of neurotic symptoms in the childhood family.
  8. The right way to understand tree drawings and symbolism of root, trunk and branches... and the wrong way that is commonly used.
  9. Non-Existent Animals for couple's therapy: A brilliant way to tell your deepest feelings about your partner.
The primary elaboration of anxiety

The primary elaboration of anxiety

Learn More»

  1. What you must NEVER do when you explore conflicts between parents and children with the Drawing Together Method.
  2. A surprisingly deep and multi-faceted analysis: The Sixty-Second Drawing Technique.
  3. How the most simple circles reveals the current, the ideal and the future relationship.
  4. The Colour Keys Method: Map and meaning of your conscious and unconscious colour preferences.
  5. 10 Signs of neurotic family drawings.
  6. Key features of the healthy family depictions that you MUST know.
  7. The golden rule that you should keep in mind for a deeper understanding of family drawings.
  8. A fascinating truth about the Regressed Family Drawing: A technique for adults that really works.
A Neurotic Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing

A Neurotic Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing

Join The Course»

  1. What does the presence / lack of a smile signifies in the Mother–and–child technique.
  2. How mother-and-child drawings of a child, a preadolescent, an adolescent, and an adult are different.
  3. How healthy, well-functioning adult women draw or paint Mother–And–Child figures.
  4. The most important psychodiagnostic clues of MEN's mother-and-child drawings or paintings.
  5. The three most important aspects to observe in mother-and-child drawings.
  6. The essential symbolism of animal drawings.
  7. The amazing truth about symbolism of animal body parts... and how this helps you to reveal unconscious complexes.
  8. The surprising truth about depiction of the mouth and its psychoanalytic meanings.
  9. How to deal with Animal Family Drawings and their rich symbolism.
  10. Features of healthy kinetic drawings.
  11.  And much, much more…

We love to teach

We are a research and training institute.

Our mission is to spread knowledge.

We are teaching from 1995.

Join us free!

Institute of Projective Drawings:
Where Art Meets Science​

How To Interpret Pictures As The Best Experts Do

How To Interpret Pictures As The Best Experts Do

How To Understand Any Scribble, Drawing Or Painting

How to Interpret the Picture in Art Therapy

A Unique Online Course In 5-Minute Chapters

  • Working with drawings or paintings in psychological assessment and you want to understand them better?
  • Never studied but you always wanted to learn how to understand psychological significance of scribbles, doodles, drawings and paintings?
  • Enjoy learning assessment techniques in 5-minute chapters with your morning coffee – or during travelling hours on your mobile.

Based on the original research of Prof. Zoltan Vass taught in Hungary, Transylvania, Germany, France, Russia, China, USA, Israel

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Yes, it is free and always will be.
  • Only 5 minutes per lesson.
  • Our favorite techniques that we use in our Institute!

What Will You Learn Here?

  • How to understand pictures as the best experts do. 
  • The “anatomy” of lines: The key to understanding psychological meaning of any lines in any drawing, scribble, or painting.
Tipology of spontaneous scribbles and doodles

Tipology of spontaneous scribbles and doodles

Subscribe Here»

  • The psychological significance of scribbles: What is the greatest advantage of scribbles to thematic drawings? A unique collection of best methods for scribble techniques and interpretation.
  • One of the biggest challenges in assessment: Understanding free and spontaneous drawings and paintings. Why is it the most difficult task for many professionals? How should you approach these?
  • The eight types of family drawings and paintings. What are the different techniques? Which one should be applied in which case? What are the hidden meanings they disclose? Emotional and developmental indicators.
Enchanted 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).

Try Now, Cancel Anytime»

  • Tree drawings and paintings: classic and new methods. The biggest problem with the Koch Tree Technique. What is the hidden meaning behind the Tree Test?
  • The Sixty-Second Drawing Technique (SSDT). A new and original method in adult, child and “baby” versions. How can the most simple drawing interpretation method of the world be so meaningful? Why this is the most popular technique in Hungary?
Scribbles and doodles

43 Ideas and Techniques You Get

  1. The 9 worst mistakes that many mental health professionals make when they interpret colour symbolism. 
  2. The Spontaneous Focus of Attention: A technique that shows you what is the most important for the client.
  3. A fast and easy way to boost your quick psychological understanding of any picture.
A family drawing prepared by a 9-year-old girl

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.

  1. The 23 most important features that you should ALWAYS pay attention to in family drawings.
  2. A complete guide to conflict indicators in Mother–and–child depictions.
  3. The 5 most reliable signs of neurotic children's kinetic drawings.

Join The Course»

  1. How to develop your skills to understand psychological significance of the emotional-affective tone.
  2. The Bird's Nest Drawing that helps you to understand how the child feels himself/herself in the family.
  3. The self-psychological analysis of house drawings.
  4. The technique of the kinaesthetic empathy... and how it helps to understand inner feelings.
Methods and techniques of intuitive analysis

Methods and techniques of intuitive analysis

  1. How the method of the empathic questioning can dramatically improve your skills to facilitate understanding of hidden emotions.
  2. The fascinating method of imagining that the figure comes to life: One of the best proven tools of intuitive analysis.
  3. The quickest and easiest way to avoid the one mistake that many mental health professionals make when they interpret the picture's spatial symbolism.
  4. The 7 steps of the SSCA Method: The most comprehensive technique of psychological understanding ever made.
  5. Advanced quick techniques to understand symbols the pros use – but you can master these, too.
  6. The eight types of family drawings and paintings: A detailed guide.

Get All Answers»

  1. Signs of family neurosis in the pictures.
  2. Why you MUST know the Six Personality Levels of human figures.
  3. "Anatomy" of the line: The best tool to understand scribbles.
  4. How the Grätz-Scribble Technique reveals unconscious conflicts.
  5. What NEVER to do when you analyze a spontaneous scribble.
  6. What the Draw-A-Couple Colour Technique reveals about the future of the relationship.
  7. How does a depiction of a house disclose the true origin of neurotic symptoms in the childhood family.
  8. The right way to understand tree drawings and symbolism of root, trunk and branches... and the wrong way that is commonly used.
  9. Non-Existent Animals for couple's therapy: A brilliant way to tell your deepest feelings about your partner.
The primary elaboration of anxiety

The primary elaboration of anxiety

Learn More»

  1. What you must NEVER do when you explore conflicts between parents and children with the Drawing Together Method.
  2. A surprisingly deep and multi-faceted analysis: The Sixty-Second Drawing Technique.
  3. How the most simple circles reveals the current, the ideal and the future relationship.
  4. The Colour Keys Method: Map and meaning of your conscious and unconscious colour preferences.
  5. 10 Signs of neurotic family drawings.
  6. Key features of the healthy family depictions that you MUST know.
  7. The golden rule that you should keep in mind for a deeper understanding of family drawings.
  8. A fascinating truth about the Regressed Family Drawing: A technique for adults that really works.
A Neurotic Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing

A Neurotic Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing

Join The Course»

  1. What does the presence / lack of a smile signifies in the Mother–and–child technique.
  2. How mother-and-child drawings of a child, a preadolescent, an adolescent, and an adult are different.
  3. How healthy, well-functioning adult women draw or paint Mother–And–Child figures.
  4. The most important psychodiagnostic clues of MEN's mother-and-child drawings or paintings.
  5. The three most important aspects to observe in mother-and-child drawings.
  6. The essential symbolism of animal drawings.
  7. The amazing truth about symbolism of animal body parts... and how this helps you to reveal unconscious complexes.
  8. The surprising truth about depiction of the mouth and its psychoanalytic meanings.
  9. How to deal with Animal Family Drawings and their rich symbolism.
  10. Features of healthy kinetic drawings.
  11.  And much, much more…

We love to teach

We are a research and training institute.

Our mission is to spread knowledge.

We are teaching from 1995.

Join us free!

Institute of Projective Drawings:
Where Art Meets Science​

How To Interpret Pictures As The Best Experts Do

How To Understand Any Scribble, Drawing Or Painting

How To Interpret Pictures As The Best Experts Do

How to Interpret the Picture in Art Therapy

A Unique Online Course In 5-Minute Chapters

  • Working with drawings or paintings in psychological assessment and you want to understand them better?
  • Never studied but you always wanted to learn how to understand psychological significance of scribbles, doodles, drawings and paintings?
  • Enjoy learning assessment techniques in 5-minute chapters with your morning coffee – or during travelling hours on your mobile.

Based on the original research of Prof. Zoltan Vass taught in Hungary, Transylvania, Germany, France, Russia, China, USA, Israel

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Yes, it is free and always will be.
  • Only 5 minutes per lesson.
  • Our favorite techniques that we use in our Institute!

What Will You Learn Here?

  • How to understand pictures as the best experts do. 
  • The “anatomy” of lines: The key to understanding psychological meaning of any lines in any drawing, scribble, or painting.
Tipology of spontaneous scribbles and doodles

Tipology of spontaneous scribbles and doodles

Subscribe Here»

  • The psychological significance of scribbles: What is the greatest advantage of scribbles to thematic drawings? A unique collection of best methods for scribble techniques and interpretation.
  • One of the biggest challenges in assessment: Understanding free and spontaneous drawings and paintings. Why is it the most difficult task for many professionals? How should you approach these?
  • The eight types of family drawings and paintings. What are the different techniques? Which one should be applied in which case? What are the hidden meanings they disclose? Emotional and developmental indicators.
Enchanted 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).

Try Now, Cancel Anytime»

  • Tree drawings and paintings: classic and new methods. The biggest problem with the Koch Tree Technique. What is the hidden meaning behind the Tree Test?
  • The Sixty-Second Drawing Technique (SSDT). A new and original method in adult, child and “baby” versions. How can the most simple drawing interpretation method of the world be so meaningful? Why this is the most popular technique in Hungary?
Scribbles and doodles

43 Ideas and Techniques You Get

  1. The 9 worst mistakes that many mental health professionals make when they interpret colour symbolism. 
  2. The Spontaneous Focus of Attention: A technique that shows you what is the most important for the client.
  3. A fast and easy way to boost your quick psychological understanding of any picture.
A family drawing prepared by a 9-year-old girl

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.

  1. The 23 most important features that you should ALWAYS pay attention to in family drawings.
  2. A complete guide to conflict indicators in Mother–and–child depictions.
  3. The 5 most reliable signs of neurotic children's kinetic drawings.

Join The Course»

  1. How to develop your skills to understand psychological significance of the emotional-affective tone.
  2. The Bird's Nest Drawing that helps you to understand how the child feels himself/herself in the family.
  3. The self-psychological analysis of house drawings.
  4. The technique of the kinaesthetic empathy... and how it helps to understand inner feelings.
Methods and techniques of intuitive analysis

Methods and techniques of intuitive analysis

  1. How the method of the empathic questioning can dramatically improve your skills to facilitate understanding of hidden emotions.
  2. The fascinating method of imagining that the figure comes to life: One of the best proven tools of intuitive analysis.
  3. The quickest and easiest way to avoid the one mistake that many mental health professionals make when they interpret the picture's spatial symbolism.
  4. The 7 steps of the SSCA Method: The most comprehensive technique of psychological understanding ever made.
  5. Advanced quick techniques to understand symbols the pros use – but you can master these, too.
  6. The eight types of family drawings and paintings: A detailed guide.

Get All Answers»

  1. Signs of family neurosis in the pictures.
  2. Why you MUST know the Six Personality Levels of human figures.
  3. "Anatomy" of the line: The best tool to understand scribbles.
  4. How the Grätz-Scribble Technique reveals unconscious conflicts.
  5. What NEVER to do when you analyze a spontaneous scribble.
  6. What the Draw-A-Couple Colour Technique reveals about the future of the relationship.
  7. How does a depiction of a house disclose the true origin of neurotic symptoms in the childhood family.
  8. The right way to understand tree drawings and symbolism of root, trunk and branches... and the wrong way that is commonly used.
  9. Non-Existent Animals for couple's therapy: A brilliant way to tell your deepest feelings about your partner.
The primary elaboration of anxiety

The primary elaboration of anxiety

Learn More»

  1. What you must NEVER do when you explore conflicts between parents and children with the Drawing Together Method.
  2. A surprisingly deep and multi-faceted analysis: The Sixty-Second Drawing Technique.
  3. How the most simple circles reveals the current, the ideal and the future relationship.
  4. The Colour Keys Method: Map and meaning of your conscious and unconscious colour preferences.
  5. 10 Signs of neurotic family drawings.
  6. Key features of the healthy family depictions that you MUST know.
  7. The golden rule that you should keep in mind for a deeper understanding of family drawings.
  8. A fascinating truth about the Regressed Family Drawing: A technique for adults that really works.
A Neurotic Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing

A Neurotic Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing

Join The Course»

  1. What does the presence / lack of a smile signifies in the Mother–and–child technique.
  2. How mother-and-child drawings of a child, a preadolescent, an adolescent, and an adult are different.
  3. How healthy, well-functioning adult women draw or paint Mother–And–Child figures.
  4. The most important psychodiagnostic clues of MEN's mother-and-child drawings or paintings.
  5. The three most important aspects to observe in mother-and-child drawings.
  6. The essential symbolism of animal drawings.
  7. The amazing truth about symbolism of animal body parts... and how this helps you to reveal unconscious complexes.
  8. The surprising truth about depiction of the mouth and its psychoanalytic meanings.
  9. How to deal with Animal Family Drawings and their rich symbolism.
  10. Features of healthy kinetic drawings.
  11.  And much, much more…

We love to teach

We are a research and training institute.

Our mission is to spread knowledge.

We are teaching from 1995.

Join us free!

Institute of Projective Drawings:
Where Art Meets Science​

Editors’ Choice: The Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing Technique

The order of family drawings

Chapter 7

A Free Course About Interpretation

Institute of Projective Drawings

In contrast to the widely held misconception, the family drawing cannot only be used for children, it is also applicable to adults – with slight modifications.

For adults, use the Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing Technique (Furth, 1993). 

For adults use the Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing: “Draw your family as you saw it when you were 5 ys old, with everyone doing something”

Click to Tweet

Instructions For The Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing

Instruction: “Draw your family as you saw it when you were five years old, with everyone doing something.”

Tools: a sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper and color drawing utensils.

Comments: Stick figures are not accepted.

Author: Gregg M. Furth (1993)​

Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing: A Case Study

The order of family drawings

Lack of interaction in a Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing (RKFD)

Source: Vass (2012)

This drawing was made by a 37-year-old named Rita, who came to the psychology clinic with somatisation complaints.

According to the instruction, she drew her family as she saw them at age five. She said she was not happy at that time: her parents, who divorced nine years later, had already begun arguing continuously.

The drawing features lonely, isolated actions; everyone is doing something, but they have nothing to do with each other.

  1. The first figure in the drawing is the father, who turns towards the edge of the page, with his back to the others. He is working in the garden, and Rita said his facial expression was red and angry.
  2. The second figure is the mother, who paid more attention to her brother than to Rita, and whom Rita remembered as always being nervous (she is baking something in the picture). The signs of eraser use around the mother indicate an emotional conflict.
  3. The brother, “poor thing, he was just there”, and his facial expression is sad.
  4. The figure at the right edge of the paper is Rita, who used to go swimming on her own when she was at nursery school. She was doing what she was told to do, on her own.

Note that every figure is isolated from all the others in the drawing. 

The figure representing the subject...

  • has a different orientation compared to the others (horizontal, rather than vertical), which emphasizes her separation;
  • she appears in a different element (in the water) and
  • in a different space (the swimming pool) than the family home.

Although she could be looking towards the viewer, she turns her back in the drawing.

The activity depicted precludes social interaction entirely: swimming is done

  • with the eyes and
  • the mouth closed,
  • with the face towards the water.

The emotional-affective tone and the emotional atmosphere of childhood memories lacks the warmth of love.

Rita is swimming in cold water, discharging a hated obligation, instead of being with her mother or playing.

Now It's Your Turn

  • Download the instruction sheet below and start experimenting with Regressed Kinetic Family Drawings.
  • Draw your own RKFD and try it with your clients.
  • Check ARTIES: our online scientific interpretation software.
  • What are your thoughts on this technique? Let me know in the comments below!

References:

Furth, G. M. (1993). Heilen durch Malen. Olten und Freiburg im Breisgau: Walter.

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

In the next part: The ultimate collection of the best questions to ask after a family drawing!

The Ultimate Collection Of The Best Questions To Ask

Chapter 8

A Free Course About Interpretation

Institute of Projective Drawings

This family drawing features the mother, the child and the younger sibling. The father is missing from the drawing because “he has gone to work”. The omission of individual family members is a proven indicator of conflict with the person concerned (e.g. Corman, 1965, 1970).

Who is missing in the picture?

The father – because “he has gone to work” (according to the child). The omission of individual family members is a proven indicator of conflict with the person concerned (e.g. Corman, 1965, 1970).

Family drawings are always followed by a post-drawing interview (just as many other projective tests). During the discussion, the therapist discusses the drawings with the client.

It is an important rule that we should ask the client about everything that we do not understand in the drawings. 

With children’s drawings and paintings, the therapist needs to ask a great deal more than with the picture by adults because with them, it is increasingly true that...

...pictorial expression is only a fragment of behavior, and hence it only possible to interpret it in its individual context.

Click to Tweet

With family drawings, it is compulsory to ask about the identity of each figures.

Corman (1964) asks the following questions:

  • ​tell me about the family you have just drawn,
  • where are the family members and what are they doing there,
  • the name everyone on the drawing,
  • the roles of all the figures in the family,
  • their age.

Corman also suggested four ingenious questions.

Corman's Four Brilliant Questions That You Should Always Ask

  • ​who is the nicest in the family,
  • who is the least nice,
  • who is the happiest,
  • who is the least happy.

Try them and for each answer, also ask the reason!

Finally we also need to know who the child would prefer to be in the drawn family.

In all cases, after the drawing has been completed, the following should be recorded:

6 Things You Should Absolutely Know Before Assessment

  • the order the figures were made
  • the names of the figures
  • their role in the family (e.g. mother, brother)
  • their age
  • in the case of any symbolic family drawing: the name and meaning of the symbol for the child
  • in the case of kinetic drawing: the illustrated activity (in the subject’s own words)

For any picture in general (drawings, paintings, scribbles etc):

  • ask the client to give a title,
  • ask for the client’s description of the picture,
  • what is most important about the picture,
  • how it speaks about them?

Don't worry if you are feeling overwhelmed by information –you can download every questions below.


A Short Case Study

This family drawing features the mother, the child and the younger sibling. The father is missing from the drawing because “he has gone to work”. The omission of individual family members is a proven indicator of conflict with the person concerned (e.g. Corman, 1965, 1970).

A Freudian primal scene?!

(Source: Vass, 2012)

The picture above is a kinetic family drawing of a six-year-old girl. Note the following:

  • The parents are lying in bed.
  • The child is the third figure from the left,
  • the next one is her brother: they are both asleep.
  • In this drawing, encapsulation of their figures indicates belonging together. It is an additional interesting feature of the drawing that may be related to the Freudian primal scene.
  • The left most figure is the father, who, according to the child’s words, “is looking for his trousers because he is blind, though they are there in his hand. Mother is holding her shawl.”

Notice the separately drawn and shaded (!) genitals of the parents.

Perhaps the child entered the bedroom at an inopportune moment, and that is why the father is grabbing his trousers while the mother picks up a cover of some sort?

However, without more data, this only remains conjecture!

Now It's Your Turn

  • Download the instruction sheet below and start experimenting with it.
  • Make a habit of always discussing the picture with the client.
  • Check "Feelings or thoughts projected into drawing" in ARTIES: the online scientific interpretation software. Click on a feature to quickly find its psychological significance!
  • Are there exceptions that prove the rule? 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.

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

In the next chapter: What is a neurotic family drawing like – The scientific list of conflict indicators!

How To Interpret Pictures As The Best Experts Do

How To Interpret Pictures As The Best Experts Do

How To Understand Any Scribble, Drawing Or Painting

Join The Online Class Of Prof. Vass»

Tipology of spontaneous scribbles and doodles

Tipology of spontaneous scribbles and doodles

Online Course For Mental Health Professionals

  • Working with drawings or paintings in psychological assessment and you want to understand them better?
  • Never studied but you always wanted to learn how to understand psychological significance of scribbles, doodles, drawings and paintings?
  • Study in 5-minute chapters with your morning coffee – or during travelling hours on your mobile.

Based on the original scientific research of Prof. Zoltan Vass taught in Hungary, Transylvania, Germany, France, Russia, China, USA, Israel

What Will You Learn Here?

  • How to understand pictures as the best experts do. 
  • The “anatomy” of lines: The key to understanding psychological meaning of any lines in any drawing, scribble, or painting.

Subscribe Here»

  • The psychological significance of scribbles: What is the greatest advantage of scribbles to thematic drawings? A unique collection of best methods for scribble techniques and interpretation.
  • One of the biggest challenges in assessment: Understanding free and spontaneous drawings and paintings. Why is it the most difficult task for many professionals? How should you approach these?
  • The eight types of family drawings and paintings. What are the different techniques? Which one should be applied in which case? What are the hidden meanings they disclose? Emotional and developmental indicators.
Enchanted 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).

Try Now, Cancel Anytime»

  • Tree drawings and paintings: classic and new methods. The biggest problem with the Koch Tree Technique. What is the hidden meaning behind the Tree Test?
  • The Sixty-Second Drawing Technique (SSDT). A new and original method in adult, child and “baby” versions. How can the most simple drawing interpretation method of the world be so meaningful? Why this is the most popular technique in Hungary?
Scribbles and doodles

43 Ideas and Techniques You Get

  1. The 9 worst mistakes that many mental health professionals make when they interpret colour symbolism. 
  2. The Spontaneous Focus of Attention: A technique that shows you what is the most important for the client.
  3. A fast and easy way to boost your quick psychological understanding of any picture.
A family drawing prepared by a 9-year-old girl

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.

  1. The 23 most important features that you should ALWAYS pay attention to in family drawings.
  2. A complete guide to conflict indicators in Mother–and–child depictions.
  3. The 5 most reliable signs of neurotic children's kinetic drawings.

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  1. How to develop your skills to understand psychological significance of the emotional-affective tone.
  2. The Bird's Nest Drawing that helps you to understand how the child feels himself/herself in the family.
  3. The self-psychological analysis of house drawings.
  4. The technique of the kinaesthetic empathy... and how it helps to understand inner feelings.
Methods and techniques of intuitive analysis

Methods and techniques of intuitive analysis

  1. How the method of the empathic questioning can dramatically improve your skills to facilitate understanding of hidden emotions.
  2. The fascinating method of imagining that the figure comes to life: One of the best proven tools of intuitive analysis.
  3. The quickest and easiest way to avoid the one mistake that many mental health professionals make when they interpret the picture's spatial symbolism.
  4. The 7 steps of the SSCA Method: The most comprehensive technique of psychological understanding ever made.
  5. Advanced quick techniques to understand symbols the pros use – but you can master these, too.
  6. The eight types of family drawings and paintings: A detailed guide.

Get All Answers»

  1. Signs of family neurosis in the pictures.
  2. Why you MUST know the Six Personality Levels of human figures.
  3. "Anatomy" of the line: The best tool to understand scribbles.
  4. How the Grätz-Scribble Technique reveals unconscious conflicts.
  5. What NEVER to do when you analyze a spontaneous scribble.
  6. What the Draw-A-Couple Colour Technique reveals about the future of the relationship.
  7. How does a depiction of a house disclose the true origin of neurotic symptoms in the childhood family.
  8. The right way to understand tree drawings and symbolism of root, trunk and branches... and the wrong way that is commonly used.
  9. Non-Existent Animals for couple's therapy: A brilliant way to tell your deepest feelings about your partner.
The primary elaboration of anxiety

The primary elaboration of anxiety

Learn More»

  1. What you must NEVER do when you explore conflicts between parents and children with the Drawing Together Method.
  2. A surprisingly deep and multi-faceted analysis: The Sixty-Second Drawing Technique.
  3. How the most simple circles reveals the current, the ideal and the future relationship.
  4. The Colour Keys Method: Map and meaning of your conscious and unconscious colour preferences.
  5. 10 Signs of neurotic family drawings.
  6. Key features of the healthy family depictions that you MUST know.
  7. The golden rule that you should keep in mind for a deeper understanding of family drawings.
  8. A fascinating truth about the Regressed Family Drawing: A technique for adults that really works.
A Neurotic Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing

A Neurotic Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing

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  1. What does the presence / lack of a smile signifies in the Mother–and–child technique.
  2. How mother-and-child drawings of a child, a preadolescent, an adolescent, and an adult are different.
  3. How healthy, well-functioning adult women draw or paint Mother–And–Child figures.
  4. The most important psychodiagnostic clues of MEN's mother-and-child drawings or paintings.
  5. The three most important aspects to observe in mother-and-child drawings.
  6. The essential symbolism of animal drawings.
  7. The amazing truth about symbolism of animal body parts... and how this helps you to reveal unconscious complexes.
  8. The surprising truth about depiction of the mouth and its psychoanalytic meanings.
  9. How to deal with Animal Family Drawings and their rich symbolism.
  10. Features of healthy kinetic drawings.
  11.  And much, much more…

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Institute of Projective Drawings:
Where Art Meets Science​

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?