Articles

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS REGARDING THE RORSCHACH COMPREHENSIVE SYSTEM

1.How long ago did Hermann Rorschach develop the ink blot test?

Hermann Rorschach developed the test in the 1920s. He died of a burst appendix at the age of 37 when only 6 tests had been sold. There is evidence that Rorschach was enamored with inkblots and the parlor game Klecksographie (Blotto). From that interest he developed his test as a series of ten cards which are actually drawings based on actual inkblots. Some previous research had been done with inkblots – usually for the purpose of assessing intelligence, but Rorschach used his test to assess the cognitive and perceptual functioning of psychiatric patients. His research into inkblots is contained in his monograph, Psychodiagnostik. Many of Rorschach’s original codes and scoring guidelines are used today.

2. Why use the Rorschach when other tests are quicker?

The Rorschach gives us information about psychological functioning not obtainable from other assessment procedures. In most cases, it enables us to understand a person much in the way a long-term therapist comes to understand a client. However, the Rorschach gives that information in a few hours compared to weeks of psychotherapy. It would be helpful for many therapists to know about their patients’ Rorschach at the beginning of therapy.

3. How do I obtain a diagnosis using the Rorschach?

The Rorschach was never meant to be a test to obtain a DSM diagnosis. Rather, it is most useful in understanding an individual’s psychological style and functioning. For instance, there are many different ways of being schizophrenic or depressed and the Rorschach usually detects these differences.

4. Why doesn’t Rorschach Training Programs (RTP) teach computer scoring?

The goal of the Beginning Program is to teach psychologists how to administer, score, and interpret the Rorschach with a clear understanding of its underlying principles. All scoring (coding) is done by the psychologist whether they input it into a computer or hand calculate an individual protocol. RTP does briefly introduce computer programs and discuss several different programs available. Because our goal is to have students understand how the scores (codes) are determined and how the structural summary is constructed hand scoring and interpretation is used with the case material. After this Program you will be able to make better use of any computer program. It is still necessary for the psychologist to modify and re-word the computer hypothesis to fit the individual client.

5. Why doesn’t RTP do online training?

We believe that students need face to face feedback and instruction as they work through case protocols, learning from their mistakes to improve their scoring and their ability to construct and understand a structural Rorschach summary. Online instruction may be useful in helping a psychologist to become familiar with a system’s procedures, but it is no substitute for direct instruction with actual protocols and live instructors.

6. I don’t have much time. Why is the beginning training so many days?

The training begins with the simplest patient protocols and, over the course of 4 to 5 days, the protocols increase in difficulty. At the end of the Beginning Program you should be ready to administer, score, and interpret a protocol. We consider the Beginning Program to be the equivalent of a semester’s graduate instruction in the Comprehensive System (CS). The Society for Personality Assessment indicates that at least a semester of graduate instruction is necessary to effectively use any assessment method.

7. Should I feel confident to give the test when the program ends?

Using the Rorschach is a complicated process; however, you should be ready to begin practicing on your own after the Beginning Program. It is important to administer your first ‘real’ Rorschach as soon as possible after completion of the program. The more frequently you give the Rorschach the more competent and confident you will become.

The Beginning Program provides training in Rorschach administration and gives you preparation for coding using the CS. While the Beginning Program introduces you to interpretation, there is no substitute for continued training with the method.

8. How does the CS compare to RPAS?

The two systems are very similar, but not the same. For example, RPAS changed administration to limit the responses to “pull for two and push after four” which precludes individuals from freely giving their responses.

The main problem we have with RPAS is that this method is based on the international norms reported in Amsterdam in 1992. These results differ significantly from the Exner norms. They are less complicated (higher Lambdas) and have less color. We are concerned that people who give complicated Rorschachs with color responses will be seen as psychologically abnormal.

-RPAS has ignored all the Rorschach research conducted prior to 1970.
However, we feel much of this research made a significant contribution to the development of the Rorschach and should not be ignored.

-RPAS findings are based on international norms developed from a variety of international studies – administration and group samples are a concern. The international norms were based on obtaining information from the average person on the street. The Exner norms attempted to identify an average level of psychological functioning which is probably above the level of the average person.

9. How is RPAS and the CS Similar?

Both systems follow similar coding (scoring) principles. Both use same words of instruction “What might this be?” Both use many of the same variables. Both construct structural summaries. While RPAS may work as well as the CS in some cases, there is no evidence that it is better.

10. I have heard that Dr. Exner and his family will not allow changes.

Dr. Exner always said that the CS is a “work in progress.”
What the family does not want changed is what Dr. Exner wrote and copyrighted in his workbooks and articles. Research should continue to expand our understanding of this complex test, and meaningful findings will be integrated into our use of the CS.

11. Will I get confused between systems if I attend an RPAS Program?

Psychologists tell us that they have found parts of the RPAS system helpful. Once you understand the process you will benefit from using whatever seems to be most helpful in your practice. Since RPAS uses many of the CS guidelines, it is doubtful that attending an RPAS workshop will confuse you. Just keep in mind that the RPAS programs are much briefer and more statistically oriented than the CS; and, consequently, do not allow participants to fully learn an interpretative approach to the Rorschach.

12. What is needed for the future?

Psychologists should continue to do and publish research on both the CS and the RPAS. To date one system has not been proven better than the other, but more clinical research would be helpful. It will be important that the research be conducted by psychologists who have not developed and do not favor a particular system.

THE RORSCHACH COMPREHENSIVE SYSTEM USE IN THE FORENSIC SETTING

Anthony D. Sciara, PhD, ABPP

Published: August 24, 2010

In 1966 Weiner, Exner and Sciara published an article “Is the Rorschach Welcome in the Courtroom?” [1] The article reported on a survey of almost 8000 federal and state court cases in which psychologists presented Rorschach testimony. That survey revealed in only six cases was the appropriateness of the Rorschach challenged and in only one case was the testimony not admitted. The conclusion of the study was clearly that the Rorschach is welcome in the courtroom. That study is now 14 years old and a similar study should be initiated to explore if there are different rates of acceptance now.

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Rorschach Comprehensive System: Current issues

by Anthony D. Sciara, Ph.D., ABPP and Barry Ritzler, Ph.D., ABPP

Published: December 9, 2009

The Rorschach Comprehensive System as developed by John E. Exner, Jr., Ph.D. has been the predominant system in use for administration, coding and interpretation of the Rorschach since shortly after its inception in 1974. Dr. Exner died in 2006 leaving Rorschach Workshops, the legal rights to all his writings, and all his files to his family. While Rorschach Workshops still continues to sell his books and forms, there is no psychologist in the family to continue research, writing, and publication of new information.

This article will look at the impact his death will have on the Comprehensive System (CS). For whatever reason, Dr. Exner did not appoint a successor. The lack of an identified successor to continue CS research has left a leadership void. There is a current initiative by some psychologists to develop a new system for use with the Rorschach. This plan for the development of a new system will be discussed along with how the CS will continue to grow and change in the future.

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Rorschach Comprehensive System International Norms: Cautionary Notes

Barry Ritzler and Anthony Sciara

In December, 2007, a supplement to the Journal of Personality Assessment was published with the stated purpose of “…provid(ing) CS users with a compendium of country-specific or locale-specific norms…”  (Meyer, Erdberg, & Shaffer, 2007, p S201).  Even though this statement indicates the motivation behind the Supplement was to  establish a set of country-specific or locale-specific norms, the editors, in their conclusions manuscript state that “…these projects also introduce the possibility of creating a composite set of international norms…”  (Meyer, Erdberg, & Shaffer, 2007, p. S201)

It practically goes without saying that this is a legitimate project in that collecting norms for different countries and cultures is an important undertaking.  The development of a set of norms that are country or culture-specific is meaningful in that they may increase the strength of the Comprehensive System (CS) in multiple sites. We commend the amount of effort that went into these projects and the concerns the investigators demonstrated regarding important issues of reliability and correct procedures for using the CS.  A general result from these studies is well worth noting:  i.e., there is remarkable consistency across most of the international studies.  The editors of the Supplement emphasize this consistency and Ritzler (2004), the first author of these cautionary notes, has also suggested that this international consistency is an indication that the Rorschach method is relatively culture-free.  Nevertheless, there are some difficult-to-explain differences, especially those between studies from the same country reported in the Supplement.  Furthermore, we are concerned that some of the consistency across nations may be the result of methodological deficiencies that we will discuss in this manuscript.

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