November/December Newsletter

Martin Leichtman, PhD, Guest Contributor
In spite of the vast body of literature that the Rorschach Test has generated over the last century, remarkably little attention has been given to the nature of the Rorschach task itself and to articulating a rationale for its administration and scoring.  Conceiving of his work as “predominantly empirical,” Rorschach devoted only a few pages of Psychodiagnostics (1921) to outlining his theory of the test and acknowledged that its theoretical foundation was incomplete.  Thirty years later, Holt (1954) quoted Rorschach’s statement about its incomplete foundation and noted that the situation had not changed.  In subsequent decades, citing the same statement, Schachtel (1966) and Exner (1986) made exactly the same point.
What Hertz (1951, p. 308) recognized as “a failure to develop a basic underlying theory for our method” has had a number of unfortunate consequences.  As Exner (1986) noted, it contributed to widely divergent approaches to analyzing and interpreting the test. It also isolated the Rorschach from the broader body of psychological theory and research.  Complicating matters further, it is my belief that the leading theories regarding the nature of the Rorschach Test, ones assuming that it is chiefly perceptual in nature, are untenable and cannot provide a foundation for test procedures or scoring. I would like here to summarize these arguments and outline an alternative view of the Rorschach as a task of visual representation that can address them.   
Perceptual Hypotheses and their Limitations                        
Rorschach believed that his test explored a particular form of perception, “apperception.”  Because “chance stimuli’ (inkblots) do not make a good fit with memory traces of particular objects, he contended, the process through which responses are formed is one that accentuates and makes manifest interpretive aspects of perceptual acts.  Major Rorschach theorists have typically accepted this premise, but offered more sophisticated formulations emphasizing greater interactions of perceptual and associative aspects of the response process (Rapaport, Gill, & Schafter, 1946) and stressing the roles of secondary processes involving censorship and judgment in the selection of responses to be shared (Schachtel, 1966; Exner, 1986). 
All theories that assume that the Rorschach task is basically a perceptual one, however, are subject to three sets of criticisms.  First, perceptual theories are untenable on methodological grounds.  Serious students of perception give no credence to a technique for investigating perceptual processes that relies on the testimony of “untrained introspectionists”  (Levin, 1953; Mooney, 1962).  They would assert that there are also strong reasons for questioning whether Rorschach subjects, trained or untrained, are aware of the factors determining their percepts (Baughman, 1956).  Moreover, they would find laughable the assumption implicit in Rorschach scoring that percepts are typically determined by single aspects of stimuli rather than the convergence of multiple determinants (Zubin, Eron, & Shumer, 1965).
Second, perceptual theories are untenable on theoretical grounds.  The meanings attributed to Rorschach determinants bear only a tenuous relation to theories of perception and have been justified chiefly on the basis of their utility in
distinguishing clinical groups (Mooney, 1962).  Explanations of particular determinants slide back and forth among different meanings of the term “perception,” ranging from ones centering on processing sensory stimuli to ones in which the term is synonymous with experience or cognition.  However, the most decisive argument against perceptual theories is simply a consideration of responses to Card I.  A bat or a jack-o-lantern are both considered perfectly good responses to the card as a whole, yet bats and pumpkins bear little resemblance to one another or to Card I were we to place photographs of them next to it. In fact, most Rorschach cards look so little like the objects they are said to depict that sophisticated theorists have suggested that the test is based on “misperception” or  “misidentification” (Cattell, 1951, Exner, 1986): Weiner, 1986).
Finally, perceptual theories cannot explain the process through which the Rorschach is mastered.  For example, they cannot give an adequate account of the nature and timing of children’s approaches to the test or responses (Leichtman, 1996). Indeed, the phenomena most characteristic of young children’s protocols, perseveration and confabulations, are distinguished by how little they are based on perception.  It is not until the early elementary school years that ways of managing the Rorschach look at all like it is a perceptual task (Klopfer, Spiegelman, & Fox, 1956).     
Over the years, perhaps the strongest reason for retaining perceptual conceptions of the test is that alternatives that have been advanced are, if anything, more unsatisfactory.  For example, some have suggested that it is a test of imagination (Dearborn, 1898; Whipple, 1920; Piotrowski, 1950), projection, and association (Lindzey, 1961).  Others, giving up on any such theories have argued that it is best treated as a disguised interview (Zubin, 1956).  Yet such alternatives to perceptual theories of the Rorschach are problematic because they cannot provide an account of its perceptual aspects or a rationale for scoring systems practitioners have found useful (Leichtman, 1996).
The Rorschach as Visual Representation
Most problems facing perceptual theories can be addressed if we assume that the Rorschach task, like those of other projective tests, is essentially one of artistic representation in which particular media (e.g., language or visual material) are molded into forms that express ideas to an assumed audience (Frank, 1939).  In the case of the Rorschach, inkblots are used in a manner similar to that in which a sculptor handles stone. They are shaped to depict particular concepts that are to be shared with others.           
Representation is an intentional act in which a subject molds a medium to stand for a referent (e.g., an object or concept) in order to share it with an audience that may be internal or external (Werner & Kaplan, 1963).  When the Rorschach is viewed in this way, perceptual and associative processes play important roles (the medium is a visual one and ideas come to mind to be represented), yet these processes function and have meaning only as aspects of a superordinate symbolic act.  Approaches to Rorschach interpretation that focus on the location and determinants of percepts examine the ways in which the medium is used; those that center on content, focus on the choice of referents; and those that stress interpersonal aspects of the response process focus on the addressor-addressee or self-other dimension of the symbol situation (Lerner 1991; Schafer, 1954; Schachtel, 1945).
Viewing the Rorschach as a task of visual representation provides a better understanding of critical aspects of the test.  First, it allows for an appreciation of the distinctive quality of the Rorschach stimuli.  As Schafer (1954) observed, the value of inkblots in this regard do not lie in their lack of structure or ambiguity because they have a clear perceptual structure.  It lies in their plasticity or richness as a medium.                    
Second, representational theory accords better with the tacit ways in which both subjects and examiners interpret the task.  Were subjects to take instructions to tell what the card “looks like” literally and offer a truly perceptual response (“It is an inkblot.”) rather than complimenting them of the accuracy of their perception, we might suspect organicity, marked constriction, or resistance to the task.  All who truly take the test recognize that it is a semiotic task in which stimuli are meant to stand for something.          
Third, representational theory provides a better foundation for scoring practices.  Objections to inquiry procedures based on introspection disappear because, although perception is a private act, representation is ultimately a public one in which a response is not complete until the subject shows the examiner the location of the image and identifies the basis of the representation. Objections to assumptions about scoring on the basis of a single determinant are also easily addressed. Perception may be codetermined by multiple aspects of stimuli, but it is perfectly legitimate to base representation on a single shared attribute of the medium and referent (“It is “smoke” because of the blackness.”).  Moreover, whereas in perception one would not expect the same stimulus array to give rise to numerous, widely differing percepts, a single form such as a curved line might stand for utterly different concepts such as a hill, a breast, or the sun rising.  Conversely, whereas in perception one would not expect different stimuli to give rise to the same percept, in representation, such events are unremarkable.  One may use form, color, or shading to convey the idea of fire on the Rorschach.  Rorschach scores for location and determinants can be easily justified as ways of codifying the manner in which the symbolic medium is used in representational acts.
Fourth, representational theory requires no changes in the interpretation of the meaning attributed to specific Rorschach determinants.  Although perceptual theories about the meaning of determinants such as form color, achromatic color, and movement make some use of the inferences about the sensory qualities of stimuli, they are based chiefly on the role of central cognitive processes in perceptual acts (Schachtel, 1966).  In some cases such as movement responses, traditional explanations of the their meaning are representational theories masquerading as perceptual ones (Blatt, 1991).  The term “representation” can be substituted for ”perception” in almost any existing explanation of Rorschach determinants with no change in meaning.
Finally, representational theory provides a better account of the developmental process through which the Rorschach is mastered.  Although perceptual theories have difficulty explaining why confabulatory protocols appear around the age of three or why the test begins to be taken in its standard form in the early elementary school years, such phenomena can be easily accounted terms of the development of capacities for representation (Leichtman, 1996).  The appearance of the first responses in childhood occurs at roughly the period that Piaget designates as the beginning of the epoch of representational thought; the confabulatory responses and fantasy elaboration that characterize the responses of 3 and 4 year-olds arise at precisely the age at which developmental theorists note a flowering of the capacity for dramatic play and fantasy; and the emergence of standard forms of taking the test corresponds to the shift  to Piaget’s stage of concrete representations.  The major qualitative shifts in children’s Rorschach responses also correspond to similar changes in their capacity for artistic representation Leichtman, 1996).    
In summary, adoption of a representational theory of the Rorschach allows us to overcome the numerous methodological and theoretical objections that plague perceptual theories, provides a basis for understanding the rules that govern its administration and scoring, and allows the Rorschach theory to be integrated into the psychological literature at large.
Baughman, E. E. (1959).  An experimental analysis of the relationship between stimulus structure and behavior on the Rorschach.  Journal of Projective Techniques, 23, 134-183.

Cattell, R. B. (1951).  Principles of design in “projective” or misperception tests of personality.  In:  An introduction to projective tests, eds. H. H. Anderson & G. I. Anderson.  New York:  Prentice-Hall, pp. 55-98.

Dearborn, G. (1898). A study of imaginations.  American Journal of Psychology, 9 183-190.

Exner, J. E. (1986).  The Rorschach:  A comprehensive system, Vol. 1:  Basic foundations 2nd Ed.).  New York:  John Wiley & Sons.

Frank, L. K. (1939).    Projective methods for the study of personality.  Journal of Psychology, 8, 389-413.

Holt, R. H. (1954).  Implications of some contemporary personality theories for Rorschach rationale.  In: Developments in the Rorschach technique, Vol. 1, ed. B. Klopfer, M. D. Ainsworth, W. G. Klopfer, & R. H. Holt.  New York:  Harcourt, Brace & World, pp.501-560.

Hertz, M. R. (1951).  Current problems in Rorschach theory and technique.  Journal of Projective Techniques, 15, 307-338.

Klopfer, B., Spiegelman, M. & Fox, J. (1956).  The interpretation of children’s records. In:  Developments in the Rorschach technique, Vol. 2:  Field of application, Ed. B.

Klopfer.  New York:  Harcourt, Brace & World, pp.  22-44.
Leichtman, M. (1996).  The Rorschach:  A developmental perspective.  Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press.

Lerner, P. (1991).  Psychoanalytic theory and the Rorschach.  Hillsdale, NJ:  The Analytic Press.

Levin, M. M. (1953). The two tests in the Rorschach.  Journal of Projective Techniques, 17, 471-475.

Lindzey, G. (1961).  Projective techniques and cross cultural research.    New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Mooney, B. (1962).  Personality assessment and perception.  In:  Rorschach science: Reading in theory and method, ed. M. Hirt.  New York: The Free Press of Glencoe, pp. 17-27.

Piotrowski, Z. A. (1950).  A Rorschach compendium, rev. ed.  Psychiatric Quarterly 24, 545-596.

Rapaport, D., Gill, M. & Schafer, R. (1966).  Diagnostic psychological testing:  Vol. 2. Chicago:  Yearbook Publishers.

Rorschach, H. (1921), Psychodiagnostik. Bern: Ernest Bircher (Transl. Psychodiagnostics, 6th ed.  New York:  Grune & Stratton, 1964).

Schachtel, E. (1954).  Subjective definitions of the Rorschach test situation and their effect on test performance.  Psychiatry, 8, 419-448.

Schachtel, E. (1966).  Experiential foundations of Rorschach’s test.  New York:  Basic Books.

Schafer, R. (1954).  Psychoanalytic interpretation of Rorschach’s test.  New York: Grune & Stratton.

Whipple, G. M. (1910).  Manual of mental and physical tests.  Baltimore, MD: Warwick & York.

Weiner, I. B. (1986).  Assessing children and adolescents with the Rorschach.  In:  the assessment of child and adolescent personality. ed. H. M. Knoff.  New York: Guilford, pp. 141-171.

Werner, H. & Kaplan, B. (1963).  Symbol formation: An organismic-developmental approach to language and the expression of thought.  New York:  John Wiley & Sons.

Zubin, J. (1956).  The non-projective aspects of the Rorschach experiment:  I. Introduction.  Journal of Social Psychology, 44, 179-192.

Zubin, J., Eron, L. D. & Schumer, F. (1965).  An experimental approach to the projective techniques.  New York:  John Wiley & Sons.
Thank You – B. Ritzler
Martin Leichtman is a distinguished member of the Society for Personality Assessment.  He has been a significant contributor to the field of personality assessment for many years.  His association with the Menninger Clinic has kept him in touch with the psychoanalytic approach to assessment, but he has been a meaningful contributor to other approaches through the years, particularly in regard to the assessment of children.  We appreciate his contribution to this Newsletter.
We wish to thank all of the contributors to our newsletters this year.  We want to acknowledge the important contributions of Drs. Weiner, Kleiger, Choca, Rossini & Garside, and Brabender.  We are grateful for their thoughtful and provocative articles related to Rorschach issues.  We hope you have found these contributions to be significant and helpful additions to our newsletters. 
Rorschach Training Programs continues its goal to develop the Newsletter as a useful tool for our readership which is now over 900 subscribers.  Please let us know how we can be of additional service to those of you in the Rorschach community. 
As we approach the holidays and a New Year we wish every success.

September/October Newsletter


Identity Facets as a Lens for Rorschach interpretation

Guest Contributor, Virginia Brabender

In assessing a client with the Rorschach or any other personality tool, we are never assessing the generic client. Indeed, the premise of Rorschach assessment is that individuals possess personality traits and areas of dynamic concern that individually and interaction with one another shape experiences and behavior. Whether it is comfort with intimate relationships, capacity to appreciate reality as others do, ability to control impulses, or capacity to take initiative in solving problems, assessors know that the variability among human beings on these dimensions is great, and the variability makes a difference in fully understanding the individual client in a way that would enable us to plan interventions. Although personality assessors give great attention to personality features as a means of capturing individuality, an area of relative neglect is the set of multiple facets that constitute each person’s identity.

What are these facets? In the last 15 years, social psychologists and social-clinical psychologists have increased focused on identity. An example of a model that captures the multi-dimensional aspects of identity is that of Pamela Hays (2008). According to Hayes, those identity-based sectors of the self that have been shown to be most influential in affecting experiences and behaviors are summarized in the ADDRESSING acronym with ‘A’ corresponding to Age and Generational influences; DD to Developmental and Acquired Disability, R, Religion and Spiritual Orientation; I, Indigenous Heritage, N, National Origin; and finally G, Gender. If these domains broadly influence how a person sees the world and him or herself in it, then we would expect these factors to reveal themselves in some fashion as a client is participating in the Rorschach task.

Yet, whether these areas have high, moderate, or minimal effects on the processes engaged by the Rorschach test is known for some areas, dimly, and others, not at all. Probably that identity facet that has been given greatest focus in Rorschach research is gender. Early in the development of the Comprehensive System, separate statistics were collected for male and female samples in an effort to ascertain whether men and women differed in systematic ways on the structural variables. In general, differences were exceedingly modest, and the prevailing conclusion was that gender was not all that important in Rorschach interpretation. Subsequently, studies were undertaken to consider race and nationality. For example, Meyer (2002) undertook a study to see if the Rorschach was biased against minority groups relative to European American vis-à-vis the prediction of psychotic disorders. He did find some evidence of bias but it was in the direction of increased diagnosis rates of European American individuals. Presley, Smith, Hilsenroth, and Exner (2001) compared 44 White Americans and 44 African Americans and found fairly minimal with only one of 23 structural variables reflecting a difference. Such a pattern suggested that the Rorschach is legitimately employed with White Americans and African Americans alike. This, though, was not the finding that was of greatest interest to me. The one variable that did reveal of difference was in a lower number of cooperative responses for African Americans. The authors interpreted this finding as reflecting the lived experience of racial minorities-contending with discrimination and stigma might give rise to a weaker expectation that human interactions will be cooperative. This interpretation considers not only the personality of the client but also, the personality of the environment, in dynamic interaction with the person. What I think is so important about this study, and other studies of its ilk, is its demonstration of the utility of the Rorschach in highlighting the lived experiences of a client in a way that can be linked back to that person’s identity status. In a sense, an individual’s identity status serves as a context for the interpretation of Rorschach variables in a way that allows us to think about the person in even greater particularity than were we to consider the individual independently of that person’s gender, gender identity, nationality, race, and so on.

What we need is a greater fund of research on all important identity facets, including those that are relatively under-researched such as gender identity (an individual’s self-perceived gender), sexual orientation, religion and spiritual, and so on. However, even before research accrues, we can, in our analysis of individual Rorschach protocols, pay greater heed to a person’s identity status. An example of such sensitivity to identity is seen in the case of Blair presented by Bullock and Wood in a chapter in a book I recently co-edited with Joni Mihura titled Handbook of Gender and Sexuality in Psychological Assessment. Blair was a 39-year old Latina transwoman who was pursuing a psychological assessment in the context of an evaluation for participation in bariatric surgery. Out of her 24 responses, Blair produced instances of combinative thinking on 9 of them. The investigator was surprised at this finding given that there were no instances of thought pathology either in the assessment interview or in her sessions with the therapist. The authors argue that given her status as a transwoman, the customary interpretation that she has a thought disorder is not the only possibility. They point out that Blair’s proclivity to engage in combinative thinking might be rooted in the complexity of her gender experience-that is, experiencing the incongruity between her assigned gender and her experienced gender. For example, Blair sees on Card I a two-headed person and incorporates shading into the clarification of the response. The authors ask, “Does this illustrate her unconscious sense of her own multiple layers of duality or that she is in the process of changing not just her physical body in terms of sex but also with the pending bariatric surgery?” (p. 501) What Bullock and Wood are not doing is suggesting that the usual interpretation of the combinative thinking instances fails to apply because the participant is a transwoman. Instead, what they are saying is that this interpretation must exist alongside other interpretations that have their roots in the client’s identity status. It is reasonable to believe that one’s experiences as a transwoman provide her with a unique sense of how elements and objects relate to one another, a sense that might well different from that of the cisgendered person (i.e., the person whose assigned gender matches his or her felt gender). Along the lines of such a hypothesis, combinative thinking reveals not thought pathology but one’s identity and the experiences accompanying it. Bullock and Wood go on to suggest still another hypothesis-the notion that this unusual thinking is emerging specifically in relation to the anxieties stimulated by Blair’s sexual minority status as well as the specter of the bariatric surgery. Bullock and Wood go on to consider how the assessor might use all of the data generated in the assessment to garner support for one or more of these hypotheses. They also develop the implications of combinative thinking for Blair’s everyday experience as a transwoman, “…while this type of thinking could be viewed as a strength as it has greatly contributed to her adjustment as she has transitioned from seeing herself as a man to seeing herself as a woman, it is also a source of psychological pain in that it causes her greater loneliness because she feels that others do not understand her.” (p. 503).

In this past year, psychological assessment lost Richard Dana, its most passionate spokesperson for diversity awareness, that is, our collective responsibility to consider all aspects of identity as we pursue our assessment activities. Through not only our research but also our careful exploration of identity facets of our assessment clients, we can at long last make progress on his vision for a more inclusive, comprehensive, diversity-sensitive form of psychological assessment.

Bullock, W., & Wood, N. (2016). Psychological assessment with trans people. In V. Brabender and J. Mihura (Eds.) Handbook of gender and sexuality in psychological assessment. (pp. 489-510). New York, NY: Routledge.

Hays, P. (2008). Addressing cultural complexities in practice: Assessment, diagnosis, and therapy (2nd. Edition). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Meyer, G. J. (2002). Exploring possible ethnic differences and bias in the Rorschach Comprehensive System. Journal of Personality Assessment,78(1), 104-129.

Presley, G., Smith, C., Hilsenroth, M., & Exner, J. (2001). Clinical utility of the Rorschach with African Americans. Journal of Personality Assessment, 77(3), 491-507.


In August, Dr. Ritzler attended the two-day business meeting of the Comprehensive System International Rorschach Association (CSIRA) at Nanterre University in Paris. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Anne Andronikoff, the president of the association. Psychologists from several countries attended the meeting-Italy, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Belgium, and the United States.

At the meeting, several research projects were presented from Italy, Denmark, and France. Anna Maria Rosso from Italy presented her research that indicated the clinical usefulness of the Comprehensive System. Kim Hansen from Denmark presented his work on a marker of human sensitivity based on the human movement response. Patrick Fontan, from France, presented a study critiquing R-PAS and his dissertation which statistically analyzed the Comprehensive System using a large number of protocols to yield ten clinically meaningful components.
A portion of the meeting was used to plan the Comprehensive System symposium to be submitted for the United States Society for Personality Assessment meeting in March, 2017 in San Francisco.
Finally, the meeting organized a series of presentations to be made at the International Rorschach Congress to be held in Paris in the summer of 2017. In addition to several clinical presentations, the series will feature Dr. Fontan’s critique of R-PAS. This conference is being co-sponsored by CSIRA and will be held July 17-21, 2017 at “Les Cordeliers” in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Online registration opens October 1, 2016. Submissions for symposia and posters will open December 1, 2016.


July/August Newsletter

Guest Contributors


James P. Choca, Edward D. Rossini, Dan Garside

There has been a significant decline in graduate training on projective techniques, a diminution due both to managed care and/or insurance reimbursement policies, and recent negative attitudes toward projective assessment instruments (Piotrowski, 2015). Of the projective tests, the Rorschach, with its intricate scoring, demands much time and effort to learn and use. Those of us who value this test have to find ways of adapting this instrument to the 21st Century. In our presentation at this year’s meeting of the Society for Personality Assessment (Choca, Rossini, & Garside, 2016) we proposed three complimentary ideas: (1) reducing the number of cards administered, (2) simplifying the routinely-used scoring system, and (3) obtaining more clinically relevant person-specific information when the test is administered.

Following the structure behind the Zulliger (2012), a test with only three inkblots, we developed Herm (short for Hermann). Herm consists of four Rorschach cards, two chromatic and two achromatic (cards I, III, VI, and X). Using archival data from 906 psychiatric patients, we compared 286 measures from the Comprehensive System Structural Summary of the four Herm cards to the same measures from the usual ten. The overall Pearson correlation was .94, the overall Spearman Rank Order correlation was .97, and all single correlations were significant to the .01 level or better. To put these correlations in perspective, the test-retest values for the full test administered twice does not approximate this level of equivalence (see table in Exner, 2003, page 179). In other words, for all practical purposes we obtained the same results as those of the full Rorschach by using only four cards. Our results were supported by similar conclusions reached by others (e.g., Carpenter et al., 1993, Grønnerød & Hartmann, 2010). Our discussant, Gregory J. Meyer, asserted that there was a loss of information when the Rorschach is shortened. He presented R-PAS data comparing results using the ten cards to those derived from only five cards. The correlation for the Perceptual & Thinking Composite he presented was .91, the validity of this composite decreased from .43 to .39; the correlation for M was .86 with the validity decreasing from .35 to .29; the test-retest correlation went from .59 to .53. The data obviously supported Meyer’s point: some information is indeed lost. And yet, we were thrilled with his data. If the “loss” we have to accept for doing something in half the time is in the realm of 0.06, clinicians should not give another thought to using a Rorschach short form. You can use Herm with any scoring system you desire and simply multiply your results by 2.5.

Secondly we proposed a simpler coding system that reduces the number of variables routinely scored. The proposal is to have an Essential Rorschach, containing a much smaller number variables to be scored for every client; this Essential Rorschach would then allow the addition of other variables, as appropriate for a specific examinee. We propose disregarding, as a matter of routine, variables that typically have a modal frequency of zero, and variables that lack interpretative distinctiveness. In this manner, the Essential Rorschach requires the scoring of only 33 variables: location codes W, D, d, S (with D and d distinguished only by the size of the area); determinant codes M (without active or passive indicators), FM (without active or passive indicators), FC, CF, C, C’ (for any achromatic association), Y (for any association involving shading), T (for any texture response), F; popular code P (nine possible, just based on content and location); Form Quality codes o, u, – (just based on the opinion of the examiner as to how easily the response can be seen); content codes H (to include Hd), (H), A (to include Ad), (A), An (to include Xy), Sx, Bl, Na (to include Bt), Cg, Fd, Cl, Ge (to include Ls), Fi (to include Ex), Ob (human-made object, to include Art, Ay, Sc, Hh); the code of SS (to include any Special Score); and a code NB (nota bene) to flag any unusual response that needs further attention.

Finally, we would like to step back from the antisceptic (empirical) obsessive-compulsive handling of the Rorschach to recover the more clinical approach that has been mostly disregarded in the United States during the last forty years. In our view, the over-emphasis on empiricism and actuarial interpretation is misdirected in the case of an instrument that, in actual practice, is never going to achieve a high level of scientific accuracy. This over-emphasis has the detrimental effect of precluding a more useful interactive administration. Frank J. Kobler, the professor who taught the Rorschach to the first two authors, asserted that the aim of the Rorschach was not to “measure” but to “understand” the individual (1983, pg. 136). Following that philosophy, we emphasize a highly idiosyncratic Follow-Up, a third step to be taken after the Free Association and the Inquiry or Clarification phases are done. At this point in the test administration we ask questions and encourage the examinee to talk about the responses, how the ideas came to mind, what feelings were present, and anything else that would allow a deeper understanding of the individual, and a more accurate interpretation of the test results (for more information on this approach see Choca, 2013).

We hope that following these three recommendations will help restore the Rorschach to something close to the position it had in a previous era. The Rorschach should be seen as an important instrument in our clinical armamentarium that quickly and cleanly magnifies the idiosyncratic operations of the person before us.

Carpenter, J. T., Coleman, M. J., Waternaux, C. M., Perry, J, Wong, H., O’Brian, C., & Holtzman, P. S. (1993). The Thought Disorder Index: Short form assessments. Psychological Assessment, 5, 75-80.
Choca, J. P. (2013). The Rorschach Inkblot Test: An interpretative guide for clinicians. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Choca, J. P., Rossini, E. D., & Garside, D. (2016, March). The Practical Rorschach: Adapting the Rorschach to the 21st century. Symposium conducted at the annual convention of the Society for Personality Assessment, Chicago.
Exner, J. (2003). The Rorschach: A comprehensive system (Vol. 1, 4th ed.). New York: Wiley.
Grønnerød, C., & Hartmann, E. (2010). Moving Rorschach scoring forward: The RN-Rorschach Scoring System as an exemplar of simplified scoring. Rorschachiana, 31, 22-42. DOI: 10.1027/1192-5604/a000003
Kobler, F. J. (1983). The Rorschach test in clinical practice. Interdisciplinaria Revista de Psicología y Ciencias Afines, 4, 131-139.
Piotrowski, C. (2015). Clinical instruction on projective techniques in the USA: A review of academic training settings 1995-2014. Journal of Projective Psychology & Mental Health, 22, 83-92.
Zulliger, H. (2012). Test proyectivo de Zulliger. Spain: Dwarf.


It is with sadness that we mention the passing of Philip Caracena this April. Phil was a good friend and excellent psychologist and a long-time member of the Society for Personality Assessment.

He developed RORSCAN – a computer program for use with the Rorschach Comprehensive System. He refined and distributed RORSCAN for thirty years. Many students and Rorschach psychologists benefitted from the availability of RORSCAN. Phil kept in touch with Comprehensive System developments and was quick to add any research supported changes to RORSCAN.

Phil died in Edmond, Oklahoma and is survived by his life partner, Margot Holaday, who, in her own right, is an accomplished assessment psychologist and a member of the society for Personality Assessment. It is important to note that because of Phil’s death, RORSCAN is no longer available for purchase.


Thursday August 11 and Friday August 12, 2016, a two Day Advanced Program, Enhancing Your Rorschach Skills, will be held for psychologists who are already familiar with the Rorschach. Drs. Barry Ritzler and David Shmerler will be presenting challenging case protocols and discussing coding and interpretation. This is an opportunity to improve your Rorschach skills meet other experienced Rorschachers, and enjoy the offerings of the “Big Apple”. The Program will be held at the NYC Health+Hospitals|Kings County, 451 Clarkson Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11203, and will be providing 12 Category 1 CE credits for this Program. All information and details for registration are published on

For over-night accommodations a courtesy room block has been established at the Comfort Suites Hotel, 599 Utica Avenue, Brooklyn,, NY, 11203, (within a mile of the hospital). To take advantage of the discount call the hotel at 718-774-0018, ask for “Christi” and mention “Kings County Training.” She will offer the best rate possible. Summer dates fill quickly so make your reservation as early as possible. You can always cancel if plans change.


May/June Newsletter

James H. Kleiger, PsyD, ABPP, ABAP

Thinking About Thought Disorder on the Rorschach
The major Rorschach systems, past and current, include procedures for identifying and scoring individual examples and composite measures of disordered language and thinking. Special Scores and Indices capture diverse forms of disordered verbalization and thought that, with proper training, can be reliably scored. However, despite some effort to group scores into broad categories, according to levels of severity or whether they pertain to language, reasoning, or visual image combination, to date there has been little attempt to organize existing scores in a manner that is both conceptually coherent and consistent with what is known clinically about thought disorder.

From a conceptual perspective, a deeper understanding of what different categories of thought disorder might signify about an individual’s internal world, in terms of cognitive functioning, typical modes of reasoning, and experiences of self and others, is lacking. Too often, diagnosticians become stuck at the level of test scores or indices and have difficulty linking these test-based metrics to broader conceptual and clinical reference points concerning the nature of thought disorder or broader aspects of the patient’s functioning. The scores become reified to the point that we often settle for the knowledge that a patient has a DR or tends to give FABS or INCS. These labels become endpoints in our psychodiagnostic thinking, instead of serving as starting points for trying to understand the psychological, developmental, clinical, and even psychodynamic concepts that might be associated with the test scores. In this sense, typical approaches of assigning different “thought disorder” scores to Rorschach responses often leads to the circular conclusion that the respondent has a thought disorder. Useful diagnostic questions such as what might these scores suggest about our patients’ abilities to focus and filter their thoughts, how they organize information, or what kinds of errors they make when they reason with complex and ambiguous information are left unexplored.

To move beyond static score-bound thinking, diagnosticians can organize Special Scores in terms of three dimensions of thought disorder: (1) Disorganization, (2) Illogicality, and (3) Impoverished Speech and Thinking. Disorganization describes what is often referred to as “formal thought disorder” or “disorganized thinking (speech)” in the DSM 5. The Disorganization dimension provides a way of understanding DV’s and DR’s.

Illogicality reflects the inferential and reasoning process that silently takes place, as the patient tries to form conclusions and attribute meaning to the inkblots. Illogical thinking, or “errors in reasoning,” is represented by combinative responses (INC and FAB), certain types of embellished or over-interpreted DR’s, ALOG’s, and CON responses.

Finally, Impoverished Speech and Thinking, which can be found in the Rorschachs of psychotic patients who suffer from negative forms of thought disorder or cognitive impairment, is more difficult to capture by individual scores alone. However, when examiners begin to understand the nature of these symptom dimensions of psychosis, it becomes possible to identify manifestations of speech and cognitive impoverishment in Rorschach responses.

This excerpt is from Disordered Thinking and The Rorschach: A Second Look, due to be released in 2017 by Routledge. Jim Kleiger, with Ali Khadivi, is author of Assessing Psychosis: A Clinician’s Guide (Routledge, 2015) and Disordered Thinking and the Rorschach: Theory, Research and Differential Diagnosis (Analytic Press, 1999).


The last 2016 Five Day Beginning Program for the Rorschach Comprehensive System is being offered at the University of Hartford, West Hartford, Connecticut Monday through Friday, July 27-July 1, 2016. This Program offers 35 contact hours of training in administration, coding and interpretation of the Rorschach. It is the equivalent of a semester’s training. There is no better way to learn the foundational structure of the Rorschach. The Program takes participants through a series of case protocols that increase in complexity. Practice in administration and inquiry are included because these facets of the Rorschach are vital to standardized administration. To obtain the graduate student discount send your request in an email to or go to “contact us” on the website. Full details are published under Beginning Training Programs at

Thursday August 11 and Friday August 12, 2016, a two Day Advanced Program, Enhancing Your Rorschach Skills, is being planned for psychologists who are already familiar with the Rorschach. Drs. Barry Ritzler and David Shmerler will be presenting challenging case protocols and discussing coding and interpretation. This is an opportunity to improve your Rorschach skills and enjoy the offerings of the “Big Apple”. The Program will be held at the NYC Health+Hospitals|Kings County, 451 Clarkson Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11203, and will be providing 12 Category 1 CE credits for this Program. All information and details for registration are published on

For over-night accommodations hospital personnel suggest a Comfort Suites Hotel, 599 Utica Avenue, Brooklyn,, NY, 11203, (within a mile of the hospital). The hotel is holding a discounted room block. To take advantage of the discount call the hotel at 718-774-0018, ask for “Christi” and mention “Kings County Training.” She will offer the best rate possible. Summer dates fill quickly so make your reservation as early as possible. You can always cancel if plans change.

We look forward to seeing many of you at the upcoming Programs and hearing from you via email. We have three E-Newsletters remaining for 2016 – July/August, September/October and November/December. Guest contributors for each of these newsletters will be writing on topics of interest to assessment psychologists.




A new resource for Rorschach clinicians and researcher is a book on Rorschach Assessment of Adolescents authored by Shira Tibon-Czopp and Irving Weiner. The book begins with reviewing the development and continuing evolution of the Rorschach Comprehensive System, with attention to newly developed variables and interpretive strategies that have produced an RCS-based system useful for assessing adolescents in the 21st century. A second chapter discusses in general terms the assessment of adolescents, with particular attention to differentiating patterns of psychopathology from normal developmental variations. A third introductory chapter presents general considerations in utilizing performance-based assessment instruments in the assessment of personality functioning in adolescence, including the importance of integrating the structural, thematic, and behavioral data in Rorschach interpretation.

Following these introductory chapters, the text continues with three chapters that discuss the current status of the Rorschach with respect to theoretical formulations, research findings, and practice guidelines. Attention is paid to how and why Rorschach assessment provides indications of what people are like and how they are likely to behave; to psychodynamic perspectives on Rorschach interpretation; to research evidence that the Rorschach is a reliable and valid assessment instrument; and to when and with whom Rorschach assessment can facilitate diagnostic and treatment planning decisions.

The next three chapters present eight varied case illustrations showing how Rorschach data can help identify the presence, nature, and severity of internalizing and externalizing psychological disorders. Special attention is paid to determining whether problem behavior in young people reflects a transient developmental crisis, is symptomatic of some underlying condition, or indicates the emergence of a maladaptive personality disorder. Also illustrated is the utility of Rorschach assessment in resolving psycho-legal issues, with particular respect to sentencing decisions in cases of juvenile misconduct.

A notable feature of the book is new adolescent reference data based on the responses of an international sample of 581 non patients age 11-18. These Rorschach reference data, not yet published elsewhere, will be helpful in identifying adolescent deviations from normative expectation. The book is available from Springer publishers ( and from


The last 2016 Five Day Beginning Program for the Rorschach Comprehensive System is being offered at the University of Hartford, West Hartford, Connecticut Monday through Friday, July 27-July 1, 2016. This Program offers 35 contact hours of training in administration, coding and interpretation of the Rorschach. It is the equivalent of a semester’s training. There is no better way to learn the foundational structure of the Rorschach. The Program takes participants through a series of case protocols that increase in complexity. Practice in administration and inquiry are included because these facets of the Rorschach are vital to standardized administration. Full details can be found on the RTP website.

Thursday August 11 and Friday August 12, 2016, a two Day Advanced Program, Enhancing Your Rorschach Skills, is being planned for psychologists who are already familiar with the Rorschach. Drs. Barry Ritzler and David Shmerler will be presenting challenging case protocols and discussing coding and interpretation. This is an opportunity to improve your Rorschach skills and enjoy the offerings of the “Big Apple”. The Program will be held at the NYC Health+Hospitals|Kings County, 451 Clarkson Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11203, and will be providing 12 CE credits for this Program. Full details and registration will be available on the RTP website in a few weeks. Also watch for details in the next newsletter.


“The Forensic Client History and Checklist (FCHC) – Anthony D. Sciara, PhD
The Forensic Client History and Checklist (FCHC) provide a structured history questionnaire and a checklist for collecting information regarding criminal competency. It was designed out of 35 years of practice. Frequently there are times when the interview ends; the client is gone, and essential information is found lacking. This Checklist and Manual offers guidance for taking a history and recording background information that will provide the most thorough foundation for a personality assessment report.

The FCHC comes as a packet of the manual and 10 checklists. It can be ordered from the RTP website –



The World of Forensic Assessment

For many friends and clients the word ‘forensic’ conjures up a vision of dead bodies and autopsies. When I tell them that I do forensic work it generally begins an interesting conversation. Forensic psychological evaluation is the application of scientific methods and techniques to answer questions which arise in a legal proceeding.

For much of the past 35 years I have been performing forensic evaluations in a variety of settings including criminal, custody, personal injury, malpractice cases, and other legal and quasi-legal settings. The use of the Rorschach Comprehensive System (CS) has been invaluable in developing an extensive description of the individual being evaluated.

The practice of personality assessment in a legal (forensic) setting is different from a general clinical practice. As psychologists we enter a different world, with different rules, and different stressors. If we perceive our role as describing and teaching, it makes the transition to the forensic arena much easier.

I have never treated or evaluated an ‘insane’ person! In our profession, that is a word that is not often used to describe what psychological process is occurring. On the other hand, when you enter the world of criminal psychological assessment you must address the issue of ‘insanity’.

This is where the practice of forensic psychology gets interesting. In effect, the psychologist must translate from one language (psychology) to another language (legal) and explain complex psychological processes. To make matters more interesting, each state and the federal jurisdictions have different definitions of insanity.

This is where the CS can be an invaluable tool. Exner, Weiner and Sciara (1996) published a survey of forensic psychologists using the CS in 32 states including various state and federal court systems. In over 7934 reports of use, on only one (1) occasion was the use of the Rorschach CS denied by the court!

While the CS and other psychological tests do not have a direct correlation to diagnoses (a la DSM), it does provide extensive information on how a person functions psychologically. With the CS we can answer questions about accuracy of perception, level of disturbed thinking, adherence to social norms, narcissistic-like qualities, controls, affective functioning, etc. When
used as part of a multi-method evaluation procedure, including an extensive history, records review, other psychological testing, and other documents, the forensic evaluation becomes an invaluable resource in the courtroom to assist the ‘trier of fact’ in making decisions about the individual being evaluated.

Available for Purchase Online – February 1, 2016: The Forensic Client History and Checklist (FCHC), Anthony D. Sciara, PhD

The Forensic Client History and Checklist (FCHC) is a structured history questionnaire and a checklist for criminal competency. It was designed out of my 35 years of practice in both the forensic and general clinical fields.

In both the forensic setting and the clinical setting there were many times when the client was gone and I recognized that I did not have information about specific areas of functioning or of their history which would be essential to a complete evaluation. At first I attempted to outline questions before the evaluation, but found that I always forgot something. Finally, I worked for
several years on a written outline that I would fill out with the assistance of the client. It worked incredibly well and clients were very helpful in following along with the structure of the interview.

The FCHC has recently been updated and revised along with an updated and revised Manual. The manual reviews each section of the FCHC and describes the type of information to be gathered. It also describes how to ask certain questions and the importance of developing a positive response set on the part of the client. For the clinician or forensic practitioner the FCHC provides a real time documentation of a client’s history and background that provides a foundation for any personality assessment report

Time to Register for 2016 Programs

Details and registration are available at – “training programs – beginning.”

The first option is to assist those with challenging work schedules. We will have a 4 Day Beginning Program, February 18-21, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. The Program includes the same number of teaching contact hours as the five day program but is condensed into longer hours over a weekend. This Program will be held at the Comfort Suites, Frisco, Texas, that is north of Dallas, convenient to airports (Love Field and DWI) and is within walking distance of Frisco Square that offers a wide range of restaurants, cinema, etc.

The second option is the regular 5 Day Beginning Program to be held at the University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT, Monday – Friday, June 27- July 1, 2016. A courtesy room block is being held at the Marriott Residence Inn, downtown Hartford.


2016 Beginning Programs Open for Registration

This year, similar to last year, we are offering two beginning program options.
Details and registration are available at – “training programs.”

The first option is to assist those with challenging work schedules. We will have a 4 Day Beginning Program, February 18-21, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. The Program includes the same number of teaching contact hours as the five day program but is condensed into longer hours over a weekend. This Program will be held at the Comfort Suites, Frisco, Texas, that is north of Dallas, convenient to airports (Love Field and DWI) and is within walking distance of Frisco Square that offers a wide range of restaurants, cinema, etc.

The second option is the regular 5 Day Beginning Program to be held at the University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT, Monday – Friday, June 27- July 1, 2016. A courtesy room block is being held at the Marriott Residence Inn, downtown Hartford.

Psychologists ask why online training is not offered, or why the beginning training cannot be shortened.
Rorschach Training Programs has found that to have a solid foundation of understanding how to administer, code, and interpret the Rorschach CS training needs to occur through face to face interaction and feedback. This Program is equal to a semester’s training in the Rorschach CS. It is important that psychologists have an in-depth understanding of how scores are derived and how the structural summary is developed. Many psychologists rely on computer programs as time becomes a factor; however, it is vital that psychologists know the underpinnings of the systems they are using.

WE CONTINUE TO OFFER A DISCOUNT FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS. Before attempting to register send an email requesting instructions. Detailed information is posted on the website.

This 2 Day Program is being planned for early August, 2016, in the New York City area. It is an opportunity to refresh and refine your Rorschach CS skills. Participants will be able to experience a variety of challenging protocols that will enhance their Rorschach abilities and increase their confidence in using the Comprehensive System. It will also provide the opportunity to network with colleagues, and enjoy the ambience of the “Big Apple.” This is a program for experienced Rorschachers. It is not a program for beginners. More information will be available when the program details are confirmed later in the year.

Coming – January/February 2016
Forensic Client History and Checklist (FCHC)

The foundation for any evaluation is a good history. Historical information provides a context for test findings and clarifies behavioral patterns. Whether you are involved in a clinical treatment practice, a clinical evaluation practice, or a forensic practice the value of a structured history cannot be overstated.

The January/February Newsletter 2016 will be offering just such a tool developed by Anthony Sciara PhD. The Forensic Client History and Checklist (FCHC) will be available online at that time. See the January/February 2016 RTP Newsletter for ordering instructions.

Remember that comments and questions are always welcome.

As the holidays approach we wish everyone the best of the season.




For some time it has been reported that the Exner family has stated that the Comprehensive System should not change. We recently spoke to Andrea Metts, the daughter of John Exner and the director of Rorschach Workshops in Asheville, North Carolina, to clarify their position. She indicated the Exner family never intended that the Comprehensive System could not change. She believes that another member of the family who was previously active in Rorschach workshops may have voiced that position to other people; however, that is not the official position of Rorschach Workshops.

Andrea also indicated that the family never agreed with certain proposals set forth by the R-PAS group. She characterized those proposals as including a surrender of the Comprehensive System to R-PAS to manage. The family feels strongly that it is important to protect the work of John Exner and for the copyrighted materials to stay as it is. That is not to exclude research suggesting changes to the System. Those who knew Dr. Exner can recall that he said that the Comprehensive System was a “work in progress”.
Andrea also stated that Rorschach Training Programs (RTP) has long been given permission to use Rorschach workshop protocols in their programs. However, no such permission has been given to any other group, including R-PAS. Dr. Exner’s wife, Doris, and Ms. Metts requested RTP clarify their position in this newsletter in an effort to encourage ongoing research and publication on the use of the Comprehensive System.


Dr. Ritzler recently attended a conference on the Comprehensive System held by the Comprehensive System International Rorschach Association (CSIRA) in Milan, Italy. The association president is Anne Andronikoff from France and the vice president is Noriko Nakamura from Japan.

The conference ran for three days and contained many interesting papers and posters. Two workshops were conducted at the end: One on the forensic use of the Comprehensive System and another on CHESSS – a computer program based on the Comprehensive System developed by Patrick Fontan from France.

The conference was an indication that the Comprehensive System is practiced extensively throughout the world and that much research is being conducted on additions to, and changes in, the Comprehensive System. In 2017, CSIIRA will co-sponsor the International Rorschach Congress in Paris.

CSIRA also is developing a data base for the Comprehensive System. Protocols, coding, and background information can be sent to Patrick Fontan at or by snail-mail at 36 rue de Chinon, 94110 Arcueil, France.


We have very much appreciated the great responses to our Coding book. Among the many responses were a couple of individuals who noted an inaccurate example on Page 9. To correct the inaccuracy please go to our website – “Materials to Purchase” and there you will find a replacement for Page 9 that can be downloaded and printed.

As always, we welcome your comments about our publications and strive to keep them as accurate as possible.



All 2015 Programs have been completed and we are now looking toward planning for 2016.
The International Convention of the Rorschach Comprehensive System will be held in Milan, Italy, the last week of August. Dr. Ritzler will be attending and presenting a paper on the reliability of Comprehensive System variables and a poster on teaching workshops in the United States. The next newsletter will have a summary of the convention.

Below are frequently asked questions we answer during our training programs. We hope you find the information helpful.

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 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 (coding) 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 generated report 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 Rorschach structural summary. Online instruction may be useful in helping a psychologist to become familiar with the 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 method is based on the international norms reported in Amsterdam in 1992. Those results differ 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.
We believe 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 are RPAS and the CS similar?
Both systems follow similar coding (scoring) principles. Both use the 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 research be conducted by psychologists who have not developed and do not favor a particular system.

We appreciate the support of our many newsletter subscribers and program participants. Feel free to send an email or call at any time with your comments, questions, or suggestions.

Enjoy any remaining vacation or travel time and best wishes for a successful start to the new academic year.




Anthony Sciara, PhD, ABPP


While the Rorschach has been around since the early 1930’s, uses of the Rorschach in the practice of assessment have not always been clear.  For those of us who treat patients/clients the Rorschach can be a valuable tool for identifying both short term and long term therapy goals.  It also helps to clarify the personality traits that may be less amenable to psychological treatment.

When consulting with other psychotherapists the Rorschach can provide the foundation for a discussion of what the psychotherapist might focus on and what the patient/client may have in the way of strengths and weaknesses for moving forward in therapy.

The Rorschach is really NOT a good tool for defining a diagnostic category (a la DSM).  In fact, there is not a lot of crossover between the DSM and the findings on the Rorschach.  The DSM categories and the Rorschach were developed using very different methods and with different goals in mind.  While the Rorschach is excellent in describing an individual’s personality functioning, something like the Million Clinical Multiaxial Inventory would be much better suited for diagnosing (categorizing) an individual with a psychiatric disorder.

The Rorschach is a very good tool to use in conjunction with a neuropsychological evaluation.  If you accept the concept that the Rorschach is a complex, cognitive, perceptual, problem solving task then its capability to help describe the impact of tumors, neurocognitive diseases and traumatic brain injury is incredible.  The combined information from neuropsychological testing and the Rorschach provides an extremely rich data pool from which to direct treatment.

In the forensic setting the Rorschach has been well received by many judicial jurisdictions.   When used within the context of a comprehensive forensic evaluation the Rorschach can provide insight into an individual’s cognitive makeup both at the current time and at the time of the commission of a crime.

In the school setting the Rorschach can be helpful in describing the developing status of students and, when used in serial administrations over time, it helps to demonstrate changes with age.  The Rorschach has also been helpful in developing programs for studying based on the student’s information processing strategies.  Potential for violence in schools also is a problem with which the Rorschach has been helpful.

Patient/clients in medical or physical rehabilitation facilities can be helped to move forward in their medical treatment by understanding their reaction to their symptoms, the role that anxiety and depression plays in their recovery, and how accurately they interpret their physical symptoms.

There have also been strategies for using Rorschach findings as an ongoing part of therapeutic intervention.  As the results are discussed they help to inform treatment goals and patient understanding.  Creative therapeutic uses of the Rorschach have been researched when having a couple complete a ‘joint, mutually agreed upon’ Rorschach protocol.

In many ways, the uses of the Rorschach in clinical practice are only limited by the clinician’s willingness to use those results in creative and novel ways.

In order to use the Rorschach however, the clinician must have a thorough understanding of coding, administration and interpretation.  While ongoing use of the Rorschach helps, it is direct training that jump starts the clinician’s skill and creativity.

We hope to see you at one of the Rorschach Training Programs to help you get that jump start!


The final Program for 2015 is a “Two Day Advanced Program on Risk for Suicide” scheduled for Thursday, August 13 and Friday, August 14, at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut.   All the details can be found on the website at

This Advanced Program offers the unique opportunity to hear Dr. Christopher Fowler discuss his in-depth research on suicide and the Rorschach.   He is currently the associate director of Clinical Research and staff psychologist at The Menninger Clinic in Houston, Texas.  Dr. Fowler’s presentations provide valuable information based on robust research that can be important for any clinician treating patients/clients in or out of a clinical setting.  At the end of the Program attendees will be able to identify characteristics indicating a risk for suicide and describe potential treatments and outcomes.    This Program may not be offered again so don’t miss this exceptional opportunity.

As always, thanks for your interest and support.