Projective Techniques in Psychology: The ‘Family in Animals’ Test
It is helpful to distinguish between the following in psychological testing: subjective, objective and ‘in-between’ methods—such as projective techniques, which are mainly used in art therapy.
- Subjective: A type of self-analysis where the client talks about their life and problems and is helped to interpret them. This is typically used in initial assessments!
- Objective: Using clear criteria that can be objectively assessed and measured such as Intelligence Tests.
- Projective: Working with the symbols and images in order to reveal unconscious inner processes. In projective techniques, the client puts meaning into their picture, play or dream; their inner emotions and internal conflicts are ‘projected’ into the art or activity in which they’re engaged.
There are typically three different types of projective analyses:
- Projections in the behaviour: Using drama and play therapy, puppets, dollhouse and the like.
- Verbal projections: Using pre-designed pictures that the client is asked to interpret.
- Projections in the image: Asking the client to engage in drawing, painting and sculpture and then interpreting what they have created.
One such projective method used in art therapy is the House-Tree-Person Test. Another is the Family in Animal Test, a psychological test that was designed in the 1980s by Luitgard Brem-Graeser.
Animals have symbolic meaning. These are frequently expressed in fairy tales, fables and myths and appear in every human culture. Every animal has general and subjective attributes, which can be positive, negative or sometimes a mixture of both. Ideally, you look at all these aspects and encourage the client to explore the a sense of ‘meaning’ for themselves.
For example, a client could be asked, “What are lions like? What do they do all day long? In what way might a lion be a little like you? What is your lion doing in the image? How does this relate to you?”
Projective Techniques: Further Ideas and Questions to Explore:
- How does the child respond to the idea of drawing the family in animals?
- How do they draw? (Are they happy, defensive or disinterested?)
- Are specific animals used for the different family members? Or is it more a stereotypical expression?
- Which qualities are expressed in the chosen animals by the child?
- How does the image look formally? (Spatial aspects?)
- What overall content impression do I get?
- What are the main themes?
The Family in Animals Projective Techniques
In the Family in Animals Test, we normally consider three main themes: Mother, Father and Siblings.
These themes symbolically stand for trust/mistrust and relationship, and they help the client explore areas such as guilt, hurt, identity and the sense of personal power or the lack thereof. In the hands of a patient, compassionate and skilled therapist, projective techniques are invaluable tools.
Robert GrayDirector and Senior Lecturer at CECAT
Registered Art Therapist and Psychologist
MA A. Th., AThR; B. Soc. Sc. (Psych.) (Hons.), MAPS.; BA. Theol. (Hons), MA Theol.
A highly regarded art therapy lecturer from Germany, Robert Gray has become a much sought-after art therapy lecturer and practising art therapist in Australia. His unique approach spanning psychodynamic, humanistic, spiritual and cognitive behavioural frameworks has distinguished him as a thought leader who is frequently invited to present at conferences in Australia and abroad.
Trained overseas and multilingual, German-born Robert shares the benefits of his international affiliations and access to cutting-edge research published in various languages with his students and readers. Robert is a professional member of the Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association (ANZATA) and the Australian Psychological Society (APS).