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Projective Testing in Child & Family Therapy, Getting to the Heart of the Matter

One of the most effective methods I use in the therapy process is projective testing. This is a means of assessing the unconscious issues that the person may not express through language. Language is tied up in our culture and the way we wish to project ourselves to the world as dictated by social norms. Projective tests are based in psychoanalysis as developed by Dr. Carl Jung and others, on the belief that humans have conscious and unconscious attitudes and motivations.

A projective test is a personality test designed to let a person respond to ambiguous stimuli, revealing hidden emotions and internal conflicts projected by the person into the test. Through projective testing, we can get beyond what a client cannot/does not express using language and therefore more effectively treat the underlying issues.

Examples of Projective Testing

One example of projective testing is the KHTP (Kinetic House Tree Person) drawing, in which the client is asked to draw a picture of a house, tree and a person and to describe it. I then analyze the drawing’s elements (color, positioning, ratio, description, etc.). In a drawing, the person cannot hide what is really going on inside. The Rorschach inkblot test and word association are two common projective tests you may know.

Another example is the TAT (Thematic Apperception Test), in which an individual views ambiguous scenes and is asked to describe various aspects of the scene. The client may be asked to describe what led up to this scene, the emotions of characters, and what might happen after the scene. The theme and the flow of the story is highly important. For example, a child describes a little rabbit getting lost in the forest, or being chased by a horrible ghost or zombie, and finally got eaten sadly, with lots of blood. This provides me with a clear warning sign of issues that need to be explored further.

Another method is asking a child to describe his or her dreams to uncover subconscious challenges. I also use similar techniques in play therapy/sand box play with children.

Benefits of Projective Testing for Child and Family Therapy

This technique makes the healing process of the therapy much faster. It is a very effective approach for children, who not only may be unconscious of their feelings, but may have difficulty expressing them due to verbal abilities and/or fear. Within family therapy, we’re better able to understand root problems and see family dynamics, communication issues and interaction.

Instead of the 50+ sessions that may typically be needed in therapy, with these techniques we can generally reduce the number of sessions to 20-30. My therapeutic approach combines projective testing, talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy for maximum success.

Next time, I will share more details about the work I do with children and families in Shanghai and when I might be able to help. Bookmark our blog and join us on WeChat to get my upcoming article on play therapy and other ways I can help you and your family live a healthy, happy life here in Shanghai.

Claire Lin is a Child and Family Therapist who offers consultations at our Downtown, Hongmei Road and Pudong clinics. Schedule a consultation today to benefit from Claire’s 20+ years of experience in counseling and training in Canada and China.

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