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!


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...

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