Carolyn R. Fallahi, Ph. D.
• HTP: Draw a house, tree, person, &
opposite sex person.
• Inner view of himself/herself
• the environment
• the things considered important
• Pencil & white paper.
• Patient asked to draw a good house (as
good as possible), take as much time as
needed, erase anything you need to.
• Then the pencil is taken away & you can
use crayons in anyway to shade in or
• The Theory behind Projective
• Why is the HTP ambiguous?
What do the drawings tell
• The inclusion or exclusion of the various
details of the HTP s left wholly to the
• Hammer (1955) looked at the drawings
of normals versus sex offenders.
What does the drawing of a
house tell us?
• Associations concerning home-life
• Intrafamilial relationships
• Attitude toward their home situation
• Relationships to parents and siblings
• Married adults
The Tree & the person
• Paul Schilder (1935): the tree & the
person touch the core of the personality
= body image and self-concept.
• Roof: fantasy area of their lives.
– Bats in the belfry
– Fantasy distorts one’s mental functioning is
spoken of in terms of an impairment in the
• Overly large roof, overhanging &
dwarfing the rest of the house
• Schizophrenic patients or schizoid p.d.
• Patients who do not draw a roof or when
there is no height to the roof
• Reinforced by heavy line pressure
• The strength and accuracy of the
depicted walls of the house are directly
related to the degree of ego-strength in
• Crumbling walls
• Reinforced boundary of walls
• The outline of the walls of the house
drawn with a faint and inadequate line
• Inadequate wall periphery
• Transparent walls
• The door is the detail of the house that
allows direct contact with the
• A door that is tiny in relation to the size
of the windows and the house
• The door placed high above the house’s
baseline and not made more
approachable by steps
• The overly large door.
• The drawing of the door as open
• If the house is said to be vacant, the
open door connotes ?
• Emphasis upon locks and/or hinges
• In the drawing of the house, windows
represent a secondary medium of
interaction with the environment.
• Emphasis upon window locks.
• Shutters or curtains added to the window
and presented as closed.
• Shutters, shades, or curtains put on the
windows but presented as open or
• Windows completely bare, without
curtains or shades nor crosshatching.
• Reinforcement of window outlines, if
similar reinforcement does not occur
elsewhere in the drawing.
• Size of the window.
• Undue importance given to the bathroom
by making the window in that room the
largest of all the windows.
• Placement of the windows.
• Smoke emphasized.
• Smoke veering sharply to one side, as if
indicating a strong wind.
• The house drawn as if the viewer is
above and looking down upon it (the
• Worm’s eye view - in which the house is
presented as if the viewer is below and
looking up at it.
• Absolute profile refers to a house drawn
with only the side presented to the
• The front of the house, including the door
or other entrance, is turned away making
it unseen and less accessible.
• The house drawn from the rear, esp. if
there is no back door.
• The rare rear view depictions.
• The relationship of the drawn house,
tree, person to the groundline reflects the
patient’s degree of contact with reality.
• Whether the contact with the ground is
either firm or tenuous is of major
• difficulty presenting the drawing as a
• For example, choppy or sporadically-up-
rooted (in the tree) from the ground and
• Some patients directly reveal their
feelings of insecurity by having to
surround and buttress their house with
many bushes, trees, and other details
unrelated to the instruction.
• A walkway, easily drawn and well
proportioned, leading to the door.
• A long and winding walkway.
• A walkway excessively wide at the end
toward the viewer and leading in a direct
line to the door, but with the width of the
walkway narrowing too sharply.
• Fences placed around the drawn house
are a defensiveness maneuver.
• The adult mind is capable of voluntarily
assuming different attitudes in its perception
and experience of the environment.
• The person can be at one moment the
detached observer; the next moment be open
receptively to all the impressions from the
environment and the feelings and pleasures
aroused by them; and in the next project
himself or herself in emphatic experience with
some object of the environment.
• The tree has been the symbol for life and
• What if the patient neglects the
• Sometimes patients will draw a tree that
is tossed by the wind and broken by
• The trunk = a patient’s feeling of basic
power and inner strength (ego strength)
• The branch = patient’s feelings of ability
to derive satisfaction from the
environment (a more unconscious level
of the same area tapped by the arms
and hands on the person)
Details of the Tree
– Index of the basic strength of the personality
– Reinforced peripheral lines in this area of the tree.
– Faint, sketchy, or perforated lines employed for the
tree trunk, and not elsewhere in the drawing.
– Holes placed in the trunk and animals shown
peeping out of them.
• overemphasis upon the roots of the tree
as it makes contact with, and takes hold
of, the ground.
• A talon-like grasps (the roots depicted as
if straining to hold onto the ground).
• Roots drawn as if transparent.
• Employment of the bottom edge of the
paper as the groundline, with the drawn
picture resting on that edge.
• The use of faint lines, reflecting the
depressive’s sapping of energy and
drive, as well as the favorite tree content
– a weeping willow – may provide clues
to aid the differential interpretation.
• Branches represent the patient’s felt resources
for seeking satisfaction from the environment.
• Overly long arms extending away from the
body as if striving manfully, but the tree shows
truncated and broken branches.
• Branch structures presented as tall and
narrow, reaching unduly upward and minimally
outward to the sides.
• At times, a subject will emphasize the upward
reaching of the branch structure to the point
where the top of the tree extends off beyond
the page’s top.
• Occasionally a patient will abruptly flatten the
top of the foliage area or crown of the tree.
• One-dimensional branches, that do not form a
system and are inadequately joined to a one-
dimensional trunk (segmentalization).
• Flexibility of the branch structure, with
the organization of the branches
proceeding form thick to thin in a
• Branches that appear club-like or look
spear-like with excessively sharpened
points at the ends, or appear to have
barb-like thorns along their surface.
• Two-dimensional branches drawn and
unclosed at the distal end.
• Branches that are drawn so that they
actually look more phallic-like than
• Broken branches and cut-off branches.
• If the tree trunk itself is truncated and
tiny branches grow from the stump.
• Branches that turn inward toward the
tree instead of reaching outward toward
• An overly large branch structure placed
on top of a relatively tiny tree trunk.
• If the opposite extreme occurs, e.g. a
tiny branch topping an overly large trunk.
• IF children’s drawings, particularly
branches, are sometimes drawn
reaching appealing to the sun.
• Occasionally, a child will draw a tree as
bending away from a large and low-
• This is rare: secondary branches that
are drawn spike-like and imbedded like
thorns into the flesh of primary branches.
• The points of ordinary branches, rather
than being at the outer end, are at the
point of contact with the tree trunk or with
the branches from which they grow.
These small branches appear to dig into,
rather than grow from, the larger
• In a general way, the overall impression
conveyed by the branches correlates
with the broad personality dimensions of
• The depiction of the trunk and foliage
area as if one continuous line without a
line separating the crown from the trunk,
looks like a keyhole.
• The name for this drawing comes from
the fact that the sidelines of the trunk do
not have any lines connecting them to
each other; they extend upward, each
one forming its own independent branch
• The implication of a sense of doom in the
drawing of a tree with a buzzard
hovering over it.
• Pregnant women often offer fruit trees
and depressed patients, shows a
propensity for weeping willows.
• Young children will frequently draw apple
trees; 35% of kindergarten children; 9%
at the age of 10; and close to none by 14
Age ascribed to the tree
• Draw a tiny sapling rather than a full
Tree Depicted as Dead
• Ask the patient, “is that tree alive?”. If
the patient responds that the tree is dead
has been associated with significantly
• Self-portraits depict what patients feel
themselves to be.
• Abstract ability allows the non-mirror
image depiction (e.g. the patient’s right
side to be portrayed by the drawn
person’s right side).
• In addition to the physical self, the patient
projects a picture of the psychological self into
the drawing of the person. For example:
• Patients of adequate or superior height may
draw a tiny figure with arms dangling rather
helplessly away from the sides and a
beseeching facial expression.
Other examples of person
• Aggressive, devil like person
• Toppling person losing equilibrium
• Mannequin-like clothes dummy
• Adolescent’s drawn person carrying a
baseball bat in one hand, a tennis racket
in the other, and wearing a mustache on
• A drawn woman who exposes a good
deal of her drawn person’s skirt up.
• Drawing of a clown.
• Drawing of a person slumped into an
arm chair rather than standing on feet
• Drawing of a woman with her hands
thrust ecstatically in her hair wile dancing
alone to music.
• Man with rigidly erect body with the
absolute side view presenting.
• Adolescent boys frequently draw
muscular athletes attired in bathing suits,
while adolescent girls draw female movie
star figures wearing evening gowns
• Draw ego-ideal … better prognosis.
• Typically the size tells about the patient’s
• May also be related to self-confidence.
• Unusually large drawings indicate
aggressive and acting-out tendencies.
• May also mean manic or expansive
• Unusually small.
• Patient’s energy level.
• Heavy pressure = high energy.
• Light pressure = low energy
• Heavy pressure.
• Unusually light.
Stroke & Line Quality
• Long pencil strokes.
• Short strokes.
• Horizontal movement emphasis.
• Vertical movement emphasis.
• Discontinuous line quality, e.g. many
breaks in the outside boundary of the
• Drawings, where the outline of the figure
seems to be so discontinuous that it
appears as a series of disconnected
• Straight, uninterrupted strokes.
Lack of Detail
• Indicates withdrawal tendencies with an
associated reduction of energy.
• Excessive detailing.
• Placement in the middle of the page=
typical of most normal patients.
• On the right side of the page.
• On the left side of the page.
• Orientation and concern with the past.
• High on the page.
• Low on the page.
• Upper left-hand corner.
• Upper right-hand corner.
• Excessive erasure.
• Excessive shading.
• Some shading (& erasure) is an adaptive
mechanism – an attempt to give the
drawing a sense of 3 – dimensionality.
Distortions and Omissions
• Gross distortion.
• Moderate distortions and omissions.
• Transparency can indicate poor reality
ties, except, of course in the drawings of
young children who are typically normal.
Sex of First Drawn Figure
• Most drawn same sex first (85 – 95%).
What if they don’t?
– Symbol of intellectual & fantasy activity
– Symbol of impulse & emotional control
– Symbol of socialization and communication
– Unusually large?
– Unusually small?
• Over-emphasis of facial features.
• Unusually large or strongly reinforced
• Unusually small or closed eyes.
• Considered a phallic symbol or a symbol
of power motive.
• Large nose.
• Nose drawn as a button or a triangle.
• Shaded, dim, or truncated.
• Regressive defenses; oral emphasis in
• What if the mouth was omitted?
Other features of the mouth
• Slash line?
• Tiny mouth.
• Mouth with large grin.
• Teeth (adult)?
• Ears are often omitted by normal
• What if they are drawn in?
• Over-emphasized chin.
• Link between intellectual life and affect.
• Unusually short, thick neck.
• Unusually long neck.
• Neck omitted?
• Well-drawn and neatly rounded
shoulders – typically normal.
• Broad shoulders.
• Absence of shoulders.
• Tiny shoulders.
• Large or broad shoulders.
• Unusually large breasts drawn by male.
• Unusually large breasts drawn by
• A heavy line separating the lower body
from the rest of the body.
• Unusually high or low waistline.
• Excessively tight waist.
• Elaborate belt.
• Body symbolizes basic drives and
therefore, attitudes related to the
development and integration of these
drives in the personality indicated by the
manner in which the trunk is drawn.
• If body drawn in fragmented fashion?
• How do children typically draw the trunk?
• Large trunk.
• Trunk omitted by an adult.
• Small trunk.
• Genitalia = rarely drawn.
• What does it mean if it is drawn?
• Normal for art students and persons in
psychoanalysis & sex therapy patients.
Arms, Hands, Fingers
• Arms = type and quality of the patient’s
contact with environment.
• Arms relaxed & flexible.
• Arms folded.
• Arms behind the back.
• Hands placed behind the back.
• Large hands.
• Small hands.
• Hands drawn as mittens suggest repressed or
suppressed aggressive tendencies with the
aggression expressed indirectly.
• Clenched figures = aggression and
rebelliousness, or conscious attempts to
• Fingers without hands, or large fingers in adult
drawings indicate regression; or infantile
aggressive assaultive tendencies.
• Long figures.
• Omission of fingers.
• Talon-like fingers or spiked fingers.
• Legs or feet.
• Crossed legs.
• Long legs.
• Short legs.
• Elongated or large feet
• Emphasis on feet
• Omission of feet
• Small feet
Evaluation of the HTP
• Nonverbal technique = greater
applicability to children.
• Also good for patients with limited
education, limited intellectual ability, low
SES, culturally deprived backgrounds, or
those who are shy and withdrawn; those
who dk speak English, or who are mute.
• Requires little time and is simple to
• Culture-free technique – do not need
elaborate command of language to get
• Verbal patients are less responsive to
graphic techniques than to other
projectives, like the TAT or Rorschach.
• Psychomotor difficulties such as physical
handicaps or tremulousness (geriatric
patients) impede the analysis. Their
personality expression is held back by
their motoric handicap.
• Patients with a paucity of inner life, such
as the schizoid patient, provide a barren
personality profile. These patients need
something external to stimulate their