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July/August Newsletter


It is a pleasure to have Piero Porcelli,, PhD, as our guest contributor for this issue of the RTP Newsletter. Dr. Porcelli is a full professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Chieti, Italy. He has authored a number of articles, books, and chapters on psychosomatic medicine and psychological assessment, including clinical research on the assessment and utility of alexithymia and the Rorschach test. He is a member of the editorial boards of international journals such as Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics and Rorschachiana, and served as Editor of the Bulletin of the International Rorschach Society.

Piero Porcelli
I have always been intrigued by the human movement response to the Rorschach. After form, color, and shading, movement is the fourth class of determinants that is, however, particular because what “determines” (hence the name “determinant”) the response is not there in the blot but in the mind of the subject. Blots have indeed relatively unstructured shapes, different colors, and nuanced shades but surely do not move. Technically, the movement response is more a Special Score than a true determinant. What is charming in the M response is not only the fact that the subject imagines a movement that s/he does not see, an event that pertains to the wider class of phenomena of visual illusions, as reversible figures, perceptual art or FM/m responses to the Rorschach. Visual illusions can be explained by activity of the middle temporal complex (MTC) in the visual cortex and by laws of perception, namely it is a phenomenon occurring in the mind of the subject. M response is not limited to that, though. It goes further; it involves the body of the subject.

The story began with Hermann Rorschach, specifically with his famous dream made in the night after he was present at an autopsy for his first time as young medical student and saw a brain that was dissected in transverse slices. He dreamt of his own brain being cut in transverse slices. “One slice after the other was detached from the mass of the hemispheres and fell forward, exactly as had happened at the autopsy. This bodily sensation was very clear, and the image of this dream experience in my memory is even today quite vivid; it has the quality of a lived, experienced perception”, (Searles, 2017, p.78; my italics), he wrote. He was always convinced that this primary feeling of movement, without actual bodily movement, is necessary to consider M as a true determinant of the response, not a mere visual illusion of a form that is secondarily interpreted as moving. As I understand it, M is different from the other 3 classes of determinants because it indicates not only an interaction between the external reality (structural features of the blot) and the subject’s mind (psychological functions involved in the response process), but mainly a dialectical tension between reality, mind and body.

As Schachtel (1959, p.71) said, “the subject knows not merely from the outside, but from the inside, how the human figure seen in the blot moves or holds his posture. It was as if he were for a moment and to some extent inside the figure”. In other words, M includes the mental activity needed for summarizing complex psychological functioning into a verbal response to the “what might it look like?” question as well as the implicit sense of my own body, the body that I feel as myself in my lifelong living experience (the body that I am) as opposed to the objective body that everyone can see from the outside (the body that I have) (Porcelli & Kleiger, 2016).

From this perspective, M responses open the doors for multiple research and integration of separate pathways, beyond the controversies and even the fences the Rorschachers have been able to build through the one-century history of the test. Below, I am briefly mentioning some fields that are potentially involved in explaining the M response or in which M can play a major role in explaining phenomena.

Empirical validity.
Construct validity of M, namely the degree to which an index measures what it claims to be measuring, has been widely investigated in last decades. M responses have been consistently associated with higher psychological processes including field independence, creativity, dream recall, effective interpersonal relations and behaviors, ego strength, intelligence, planning, imagination, treatment outcomes, and empathy, as well as negatively associated with deficits in higher psychological functioning including diagnoses of attention-deficit hyperactive, Alzheimer and Asperger disorders, closed head injury, and alexithymia (Mihura et al., 2013). Construct validity is greatly important because we can be reasonably sure that any hypothesis on M is grounded on the solid basement that the way M has been historically conceived is evidence-based psychology.

Clinical validity.
Even though statistical numbers make us confident in theoretical constructs, they do not tell the whole story. As a clinician, I do not need to know only the strength to which an index is associated to a construct but also why it is, since I need to be aware of the process and the functioning behind the patient’s overt behavior. The effectiveness of the diagnostic process increases to the extent that it achieves some interrelated purposes, including enhanced knowledge (providing clinicians with a meaningful framework that recognizes the underlying clinical condition beyond the presentation of symptoms, and identifying potential or unrecognized problems) and clinical utility (enhancement of decision making to improve the patient’s health status) (Barron, 1998).

The presence of M responses by themselves does not automatically imply healthier psychological functioning. It is not unusual, for example, that M responses, particularly M- responses, are found in some forms of psychopathology as hypervigilant individuals with narcissistic or paranoid features, delusional paranoid schizophrenics, or traumatized subjects with PTSD. These psychopathological syndromes may be considered as different forms of heightened attention to bodily states and dysregulated emotions aiming at early detecting environmental/interpersonal threats and dissociating ideational processes (underlying M) and ineffective adaptation (FQ minus).

If we may consider M as the most proxy variable for mentalization, it is also true that M responses might be an index of pseudo-mentalization in individuals for whom the mental world is decoupled from external reality resulting in endless inconsequential talk of thoughts in psychotherapy. M might be conceived as a dimensional construct rather than a single score, ranging from M with associated negative features (FQ minus, Cognitive Special Scores, PHR) to healthy M (FQo, GHR, COP) to lack of cognitive processing of feelings and bodily states (Pure F that can be thought as equating to “absence of M”, as in alexithymia). Clinical studies on the different forms of M responses are therefore much needed.

Affective neuroscience.
Cumulated data in neuroscience have shown that the CNS is continuously monitoring the external environment (via sensory channels) and the milieu intérieur (via proprioceptive channels, from heartbeats to glycemic levels to intestinal motility, etc.) in real time. Through ascending steps (from spinal cord to brainstem, hypothalamus, and thalamic nuclei), some brain cortical structures (anterior cingulate cortex, prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, nucleus accumbens, basal ganglia, and particularly the insula and the somatosensory cortex) actively build body maps. These become the means through which the brain informs itself about the changing states of the body by integrating top-down cognitive-affective information, connecting the current body states with stored images and experiences in memory, and providing direct substrates of feelings (Damasio, 2010). The internal milieu is represented deeper and lower in the brain (hypothalamus and brainstem) for interoception and regulation of the state of the body (homeostasis). The implicit body is not an object of perception unless it is externalized and presented to the classical senses; it is the subject of perception, it is the background state of being conscious (Solms, 2015; Panksepp, 2005). The notion of “embodied cognition” claims that the body that I am is not constrained within the objective body (the body that I have) but is a progression of the mentalizing process – largely unconscious – of one’s somatic states. Several research paradigms are available today for investigating how brain body maps and interoceptive awareness might determine the complex process underlying M responses. A wide landscape is therefore open for future research with the M response.

Brain correlates.
Mentalization includes theory of mind; that is, the ability to perceive and interpret human behavior in terms of intentional mental states to make inferences about mental states in both oneself and others. This is the psychological side of the mind/brain unit, the other one being the fact the human brain is wired to understand the experience of another person by reactivating the brain circuits used to process the same experience in the individual self. Pain manifestations seen in another person activates the affective and even the sensory components of the brain pain-matrix in the observing subject. Similarly, we know today that our ability to understand others partially relies on vicarious activation of the premotor cortex area in the individual brain as if the subject might feel the intentions of others’ behavior within his or her body, not at a conscious level (the body that I have) but at a premotor stage by unconsciously reproducing the intentions of the other within him/herself (the body that I am). Anatomical data demonstrating that the insular lobe is connected with the limbic system make the insula – where emotional and somatic inputs are preconsciously processed – a plausible candidate for relaying action representation information both to limbic areas for emotional processing and to neocortical regions for cognitive awareness. A number of studies using EEG, rTMS, and fMRI have consistently shown that the neural mirroring activity is specific for M responses, does not occur with other kinds of movement (FM/m) and non-movement determinants (e.g., H without M), and occurs in the first 1-2 s, much earlier the subject verbally delivers a conscious M response, thus suggesting the “feeling of movement” is induced at a preconscious level when the subject is likely to be not aware of the process (Porcelli et al., 2013).

Cross-system validity.
The M response is one of the oldest Rorschach scores. Despite the breadth of differences among Rorschach systems over the past century, M has been retained in all coding systems and there is broad consensus among clinicians regarding its conceptual meaning and clinical significance (Weiner, 2003). Investigating the integration of processes underlying M responses might pave the way in reversing the direction of research in psychopathology that traditionally focuses on syndromes first, as in the DSM-based diagnostic criteria. An alternative view of diagnosis, which integrates genetics, neuroimaging, and cognitive science into future diagnostic schemes based on behavioral dimensions and neural systems is represented by the National Institute of Mental Health’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC).

These criteria have been, however, criticized because they do not consider enough psychological functioning among the units-of-analysis scheme of the five basic domains. The Rorschach has at least one code, the M response, that is provided with empirical evidence and clinical utility, and seems to fit well with cutting-edge fields of scientific knowledge about human beings. In one word, the Rorschach is potentially a powerful instrument for future studies integrating psychology and the so called hard science, even though it is a 100 years-old low-tech, handmade device. The challenge is in our hands.

Barron, J. (Ed) (1998). Making Diagnosis Meaningful. Enhancing Evaluation and Treatment of Psychological Disorders. American Psychological Association, Washington.

Damasio, A. (2010). Self comes to mind. Pantheon, New York.

Panksepp, J. (2005). Affective consciousness: Core emotional feelings in animals and humans. Consciousness and Cognition, 14, 30-80.

Porcelli, P., Giromini, L., Parolin, L., Pineda, J. A., & Viglione, D. J. (2013). Mirroring activity in the brain and movement determinant in the Rorschach test. Journal of Personality Assessment, 95, 444-456.

Porcelli, P., & Kleiger, J.H. (2016). The “Feeling of Movement”: Notes on the Rorschach Human Movement Response. Journal of Personality Assessment, 98, 124-134.

Mihura, J. L., Meyer, G. J., Dumitrascu, N., & Bombel, G. (2013). The validity of individual Rorschach variables: Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the Comprehensive System. Psychological Bulletin, 139, 548–605.

Searles, D. (2017). The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing. Crown New York.

Schachtel, E. (1959). Experiential foundation of Rorschach’s test. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Solms, M. (2015). The Feeling Brain: Selected Papers on Neuropsychoanalysis. Karnac, London.

Weiner, I. B. (2003). Principles of Rorschach interpretation (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum


The 22nd International Rorschach and Projective Techniques Congress was held in Paris from July 17 to July 21. Sponsors for this international meeting included the Comprehensive System International Rorschach Association (CSIRA) and the International Society of the Rorschach & Projective Methods (ISR). The current president of the International Society of the Rorschach & Projective Methods (ISR) Congress is Noriko Nokamura from Japan. She also is the vice-president of CSIRA. The current president of CSIRA is Anne Andronikoff from France.

There were approximately 450 assessment psychologists at the Congress from all over the world—several from the United States. Many research presentations were offered during the week as well as several plenary session presentations, giving testimony to the vitality of projective techniques in the world today—especially the Rorschach.

The Congress ordinarily meets every three years, but the next Congress will be in 2021, probably in Switzerland (proposal yet to be presented) to celebrate the centennial of the publishing of Psychodiagnostics, the initial volume of Hermann Rorschach’s work. Switzerland also is an appropriate location because Rorschach lived and worked in Berne at the time of the publishing of Psychodiagnostics.


May/June Newsletter

MAY/JUNE, 2017

Barry Ritzler, PhD, ABPP

Need for Research
The Rorschach remains as one of the best tools for personality assessment. However, it is very much in need of further research.

Some research has been done. For example, a group of us are presenting a symposium at the International Rorschach Congress in Paris this summer on research with the Comprehensive System. Also, considerable research has been done with R-PAS. Nevertheless, there is little research conducted by psychologists not invested in one of the major systems. Such independent research by unbiased psychologists is sorely needed.

It is a myth that the Exner family does not want changes in the Comprehensive System. They are very supportive of ongoing research and only do not want John Exner’s original writings to be changed.

One area of research that should be conducted by independent scholars is comparing the efficacy of the two major systems – R-PAS and the Comprehensive System. Also, we do not have indices for some important psychological disabilities such as anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Furthermore, a very promising suicide constellation for adolescent suicide (much different than the adult constellation) was developed by Judy Armstrong and Joanna Silberg, but has never been replicated.

Replication research is not considered to be very glamorous, but is needed with the Rorschach. Taking previous Comprehensive System and R-PAS research and replicating the conditions and definitions would be a useful contribution to the Rorschach literature.

In the current era of technological advancement, psychological research is easier—it can be accomplished in less time with impressive results. Hermann Rorschach’s original studies, the work of Klopfer and Beck, Joh Exner’s seminal research, and Greg Meyer’s statistical manipulations are outstanding examples of how research on the Rorschach can be conducted.

Contemporary researchers need to follow these examples and make improvements in a personality assessment tool that will enable assessment psychologists to function effectively for years to come. If research does not continue on the Rorschach, there is the danger that it will become a stagnant tool used by fewer and fewer psychologists.

Going Forward
The next newsletter will include information from the Paris Convention as well as more contributions from guest writers. We are gratified that interest in the Rorschach is robust with a subscriber list that continues to expand.

As summer begins and the academic season takes a breather we hope our readers have the opportunity for some rest and relaxation.

March/April Newsletter



As many of you know the Comprehensive System is alive and well and widely used around the world. We are fortunate this year to have a number of international writers who will be contributing to the Newsletter, sharing comments about the use of the CS internationally, current research, etc. For this Newsletter we welcome the contribution of Patrick Fontan who is a professor of clinical psychology and a principal member of the Comprehensive System International Rorschach Association (CSIRA). He will be one of the many presenters at the International Rorschach Congress to be held in Paris, France, July 17-21, 2017. The congress is being co-sponsored by CSIRA, the Comprehensive System International Rorschach Association.

The Comprehensive System International Rorschach Association – CSIRA/ARISI
Patrick Fontan, Laboratoire Ipsé, Paris West University

The Comprehensive System International Rorschach Association or l’Association Rorschach Internationale pour le Système Intégré en Français (CSIRA/ARISI) is the phoenix of the former European Rorschach Association for the Comprehensive System (ERA). The ERA went through a critical internal crisis subsequently to the IXth congress of the association which was held in Prague Czech Republic in 2009. A symposium on the International Reference Values (Meyer et al. 2007) was heavily discussed and the future of the CS and ERA seemed in jeopardy and in 2011/12, Anne Andronikof planned to dissolve the ERA. In reaction, many encouraging messages were received in support of the association and we organized in a rush a last-chance congress in Paris 2012. This exceptional event combined funerals and a birthday party as it saw the dissolution of the ERA and the creation of CSIRA, and the last ERA Congress was also the first CSIRA congress, so there is a perfect continuity between these two associations. This congress was also special for me because it was the first public presentation of CHESSSS, the free software for the CS (Fontan et al. 2013). Subsequently, the second congress of the association was held in Milan, Italy in 2015, was organized by Fiorella Gazale and was a complete success, which demonstrated how lively the association was and how it was reinvigorated.

In 2017, CSIRA presented a symposium on current and innovative researches with the CS in SPA convention in San Francisco, chaired by Giselle Hass. Fiorella Gazale presented a research on a sample of Italian outpatient which showed that CS data differentiates neurotics, psychotics and borderline patients with satisfying sensitivity and specificity. Christian Mormont’s research was focused on the assessment of gender identity with the Rorschach and undertook a large study on 800 participants from Belgium general population. No significant association between Rorschach variables and gender identity were found, no matter how hard we tried. We recommend being very cautious on this question. Jason Smith presented results from his dissertation on the specificity of female psychopaths as compared to male psychopaths. Finally two papers on suicide were presented, one from Fiorella Gazale who tried to bring into light a better theoretical understanding of the CS Suicide Constellation, and another concerning suicide risk assessment with the Rorschach by Louhab Fergani from Algeria. The research demonstrated that the CS-Suicide Constellation outperformed actuarial data and other Rorschach suicide scales.

This summer in the International Society for the Rorschach (ISR) congress in Paris, CSIRA will hold three symposia. The first will be chaired by Kari Carstairs, president of the British Rorschach Association and will deal with cross cultural issues in Rorschach normative samples. Two normative studies from England and Algeria will be presented, as well as cross cultural study with the Rorschach Component Model (Fontan et al. 2016) which revealed very large differences between European national Rorschach reference samples for the CS. A second symposium will be chaired by Barry Ritzler and will include current researches with the CS. Anna Maria Rosso will present her results concerning mentalization, N\narcissism and space responses, Fiorella Gazale will address issues related to multimethod assessment, Yifat Weinberger will talk about the role of color in the Rorschach as she conducted an experiment with a full achromatic version of Rorschach cards and Dr. Ritzler will identify Comprehensive System variables consistent with terrorism. I will chair the last symposium on the science of Rorschach which will deal with issues related to the applicability of factor analysis to the Rorschach, issues of dimensionality and falsifiability of dimensional models, the problem of R and also translation issues concerning Form Quality tables and their possible implications on FQ reliability.

The purpose of CSIRA is to study and develop the Rorschach Comprehensive System. Any psychologist, practitioner or researcher, can become a member (see “application form” on the website It is governed by a Council of Administration (CA) composed of elected delegates from each country and of the founding members. CSIRA/ARISI holds an international Congress every two years.

The Society for Personality Assessment annual convention was held in San Francisco March 15-19. It was a pleasure to once again see old friends and familiar faces. The theme of the SPA meeting was “Evolving Proficiencies in Personality Assessment.” Robert Bornstein delivered his final presidential address at opening plenary session. The speech was extremely scholarly and excellent. Also, a moving tribute was paid to past-president Len Handler who was honored with the Marguerite Hertz Memorial Lecture. The lecture was given conjointly by Steve Finn, Jill Clemence, and Dr. Handler’s son and wife. Other awards were the Paul Lerner master lecture (presented by Simine Vazire), the Mary Cerney Student Award (received by Zara Wright from the University of Minnesota), the Walter Klopfer Award (received by M. Brant Donnellan-Texas A&M; Robert Ackerman and Courtney Brecheen-University of Texas at Dallas; Anthony Rodrizuez-University of California; Steven Reise-University of Minnesota; and Mark Haviland-Loma Linda University School of Medicine), and the Martin Mayman Award (received by Piero Procelli from Italy and James Kleiger from the Menninger Clinic.)

There were many excellent presentations. Of particular note was a round table on Forensic Psychology chaired by Corine de Ruiter. She cleverly ran the session as a series of interviews with the participants: Anita Boss, Giselle Hass, and Nancy Kaser-Boyd. There also was a symposium of Projection in the Rorschach chaired by Piero Porcelli with contributions by Shira Tibon, Jim Kleiger, and Ron Ganellen; the discussant was Irv Weiner. In another session, the focus was on the personality of Truman Capote; the session was chaired by Bruce Smith and included contributions by Jim Kleiger, Barton Evans, and Howard Lerner. In the discussion at the end Phoebe Cramer shared her personal experiences with Capote. It was gratifying to see so many young people interested in our specialty. The overall meeting attendance exceeded 500 participants. Next year’s meeting will be in Washington, DC, March 14-18, 2018. The call for workshops is already out. You find more information on the SPA website:

As always we appreciate the support and interest of psychologists who use the CS. (Our current email subscription list is now close to 1000 subscribers.) It is important to know that no matter what system you use there are three important phases to the Rorschach assessment process: administration, coding, and interpretation. Valid coding cannot be done without proper administration, and interpretation – the final and critical phase of the Rorschach – cannot be done without proper administration and accurate coding. Consequently, the Rorschach can only be used effectively with proper training. We continue to offer materials covering each of these areas on our website:

January/February Newsletter


History of the Society for Personality Assessment

Barry Ritzler, Ph.D.

The annual convention for the Society for Personality Assessment will be held in San Francisco this month. Consequently, it seems appropriate to present a history of the Society.

The Society began in 1937 as a group of graduate students of psychology at Columbia University taught by Bruno Klopfer who had joined the faculty after escaping from the Nazis. Klopfer initially taught a one-semester course on the Rorschach, but the students liked it so much that they asked for more instruction. Unfortunately, the faculty did not think a second semester of Rorschach training was warranted. As a result, Klopfer invited the students to his apartment in the Columbia neighborhood for an informal seminar. The group became known as the “Klopfer Kitchen Group” and included individuals who later became noted Rorschach experts. Some of the attendees were Florence Miale, Zygmunt Piotrowski, Marguerite Hertz, and Molly Harrower.

The group formed an organization they first called the Rorschach Institute and published a newsletter, The Rorschach Exchange, that presented Rorschach studies conducted by Klopfer. Later, the publication became the Journal of Personality Assessment and Projective Techniques and finally was re-named the Journal of Personality Assessment. After Bruno Klopfer himself, the editor was Walter Klopfer (Bruno’’s son). The first officers were Bruno Klopfer (director), Morris Krugman (president), Douglas Kelley (vice president), Ruth Wolfson (secretary), and Gladys Tallman (treasurer).

In 1948, the name of the Society was changed to the Society for Projective Tests and the Rorschach Institute. In 1960, the name was changed again to the Society for Projective Techniques. The current name, the Society for Personality Assessment was adopted in 1971.

By-laws for the organization were drawn up in 1939. They were later revised under the guidance of Charles Spielberger who was president at the time. A 50th anniversary convention was held in 1989 in New York City to honor the founding of the Society. At that time, John Exner and Anne O’Roarke published a directory and history of the Society. By then, the Society had over 1,000 members in the United States and other countries.

After beginning in New York City, the Society and the Journal moved to the state of Oregon and then Florida. For a while, the organization was housed in the American Psychological Association building in Washington, D.C. Currently it is located in a townhouse office in Falls Church, Virginia.

The Society holds its yearly convention in major locations in the United States. It moves from the East Coast (e.g., Washington, D.C. and New York City), to the West Coast (e.g., San Diego and San Francisco), and the central part of the country (e.g., Chicago and New Orleans). The Society publishes the Journal of Personality Assessment and gives several awards (e.g., the Bruno Klopfer award for the best research published in the Journal and the Marguerite Hertz award given in posthumous honor to a major contributor to personality assessment.).

The Society now has members from many countries outside the United States with a focus on such methods as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, the Rorschach, apperception tests and other methods for personality assessment.

Going Forward
We apologize for the lateness of this newsletter but promise to be on time for the remainder of the year. We are looking forward to publishing a number of interesting articles from International guest contributors.

Unfortunately due to travel and conflicting schedules planning for 2017 programs has become difficult. Watch the Newsletter for a program announcement; however, training programs might be delayed for a year. In any case, know that we are always willing to consider conducting a private program if requested.

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.



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.

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.