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Preliminary Drawings Art All Levels

Resource: Using Drawings in Assessment and Therapy

Gerald D. Oster and Patricia Gould

Note: The following series of drawings can be used for gathering information about student¶s maturity levels, art skills, and to
assess what competencies have been achieved. As a clinical tool they have been helpful in spotting problems before they
occur, but I would suggest that you receive much more research and experience before taking much value in the analysis of
these drawings. Remember the guide below is for professionals and is used with additional information, including the artist¶s
own interpretation of their results. Through the years students drawings that seemed particularly disturbing have been referred
to counselors and mental health professionals for further evaluation and many students in at-risk situations have been helped.

House-Tree-Person Test

The House-Tree-Person [HTP] was developed as an ancillary to intelligence test that was being constructed. The HTP
was originally and is still used as a technique to aid the clinician in gathering data regarding an individual¶s degree of personality
integration, maturity, and efficiency. The discovery that free drawings of these three stimuli provided emotionally constricted
persons an avenue for greater freedom of expression also proved to be clinically advantageous.
These three objects were chosen due to their familiarity to very young children, their acceptance by persons of all
ages, gender, culture and their ability to stimulate a greater fund of associations in comparison to other objects. Besides their
use in assessment, drawings of these objects have also been found to be useful as screening devices in group testing for
detecting maladjustment, as a evaluative aid for children entering school, as an appraisal devices in screening applicants for
employment, and as a research instrument to locate common factors in an identified sample.
Instructions simply specify that the examinee is request to draw a house, a tree and then a person, without any
additional comments as to type, sized, condition and so on. The examinee must draw these three objects in any fashion from
among their numerous personal experiences he or she has had. The ordering of the HTP always remains the same because
this sequence is viewed as gradually more psychologically difficult, with the tree and human figure appearing the most likely to
produce personal responses.
The following indicators that might appear in the drawings are just a small sample of possible interpretations and initial
guide for exploring emotional hypotheses related to the examinee. Any specific interpretations should only be made in the
context of all factors of the combined HTP, along with confirmation from the clinical history, presenting problems, and other
assessment data.

The drawing of the house tends to elicit connections regarding the examinees
home and the interpersonal dynamics being experienced within the family setting. The
house, it has been theorized, represents the place wherein affection and security are sought.


1] Details
a] Essentials [normal drawing]
At least one door, one window, one wall, a roof, a chimney
b] Irrelevant [e.g., shrubs, flowers, walkway]
Needing to structure environment more completely, which is sometimes
associated with feeling of insecurity or needing to exercise control in interpersonal
2] Chimney
Symbol of warmth, intimate relations and sometimes associated with phallic symbol of significance.
a] Absence of chimney
Lacking psychological warmth or conflicts with significant male figures
b] Overly large
overemphasis on sexual concerns and / or possible exhibitionistic
c] Smoke in much profusion
Inner tension
3] Door
a] Above baseline, without steps
Interpersonal inaccessibility
b] Absence of door
Extreme difficulty in allowing accessibility to others
c] Open
Strong need to receive warmth from external world
d] Very large
Overly dependent on others
e] With lock or hinges
4] Fence around house
Need for emotional protection
5] Gutters
6] Drawn on base of paper
Basic home or intimate insecurities
7] Perspective, from below
Either rejection of home or feelings of an unattainable desirable home situation
8] Perspective, from above
Rejection of home situation
9] Roof
a] Unidimensional [single line connecting two walls]
Unimaginative or emotionally constricted
b] Overly large
Seeks satisfaction in fantasy
10 Shutters
a] Closed
Extremely defensiveness and withdrawal
b] Open
Ability to make sensitive interpersonal adjustments
11 Walkway
a] Very long
Lessened accessibility
b] Narrow at house, broad at the end
Superficially friendly
12] Wall [adequacy of]
Directly associated to degree of ego strength
13] Window [s]


a] Absence of window [s]
Hostile or withdrawing
b] Present on ground, absent from upper story
Gap between reality and fantasy
c] With curtains
Reserved and controlled
d] Bare
Behavior is mostly blunt and direct


1] Extremely large tree

Aggressive tendencies
2] Tiny Tree
Inferior, feelings of insignificance
3] Faint lines
Feelings of inadequacy, infectiveness
4] Tree composed of just two lines for trunk and looped crown
Impulsive, variable
5] Exaggerated emphasis on trunk
Emotional immaturity
6] Exaggerated emphasis on crown
Inhibited emotionally, analytical
7] Exaggerated emphasis on roots
Emotional responses shallow, reasoning limited
8] Scar, Knothole, Broken Branch
Associated with trauma, e.g., Accident, illness, rape [time determination in relation to length of tree]
9] No ground line present, no roots
Repressed emotions
11] Shading, excessively dark or reinforced
Hostile defenses or aggressive behaviors
12] Fine, broken lines
Overt anxiety
13] Knotholes
Sexual symbolism
a] Small or diamond-shaped
b] Small and simple
Sexual assault or initial sexual experience


c] Outline reinforced
Shock impact greater
d] Circles inside
Experience in the past and ³healing´
e] Blackened
Shame associated with experience
f] Large
Preoccupation with procreation
g] Small animal inside
Ambivalence surrounding childbearing

The Person
1] Arms
Used to change or control surrounding environment
a] Fold over chest
Hostile or suspicious
b] Held behind back
Wanting to control anger, interpersonal reluctance
c] Omitted
Inadequacy, helplessness
2] Feet
Degree of interpersonal mobility
a] Long
Striving for security or virility
b] Tiny
Dependency, blunted feelings
c] Omitted
Lack of independence
3] Fingers
a] Long and spike like
Aggressive, hostile
b] Enclosed by loop or single dimension
Wish to suppress aggressive impulse
4] Head
a] Large
Preoccupation with fantasy life, focus on mental life
b] Small


Obsessive-compulsive, intellectual inadequacy
c] Back to viewer
Paranoid or schizoid tendencies
5] Legs
a] Absent
Constricted, possible castration anxiety
b] Size difference
Mixed feelings regarding independence
c] Long
Striving for autonomy
d] Short
Emotional immobility
6] Mouth
a] Overly emphasized
Immaturity, oral-aggressive
b] Very large
Orally erotic
7] Shoulders
a] Unequal
Emotionally unstable
b] Large
Preoccupied with the perceived need for strength
c] Squared
Overly defended, hostile towards others