Rorschach Training Programs Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 4, September-October, 2009

[A slightly different version of this newsletter was published and distributed via e-mail on September 28, 2009.]


  • Reminiscences of Time with John Exner, Jr.
  • The IX ERA Conference (European Rorschach Association) Meeting
  • News and Updates

By Anthony Sciara, PhD

I began studying with John in the late 1970’s.  As a psychologist at a rehabilitation hospital I would, of course, be administering that test.  It was expected that psychologists would administer that test.  I hated that test!  All my introductory courses demonstrated it was mostly a projection of the examiner.  I recalled one instructor going on for a very long time about how a young man’s response of “Spider” to D1 on Card X clearly demonstrated that he had significant issues particularly with women as a result of a bad relationship with his mother.  Clearly I would never understand the underlying foundations of such interpretations.

Then, I attended a beginning Rorschach Comprehensive System Workshop in New York where I met John for the first time.  His course was much as they continued to be, demanding, focused, data based, and intense.  My more personal interactions with him came as a result of going out for dinner and drinks with him.  He was always more than kind, usually picking up the tab, and inviting our participation in after dinner drinks at special places.  It was at a program in Bermuda that he and I went deep sea fishing. I tried to talk him into going on a party boat, but he preferred to rent a boat for the two of us.  The fishing was terrible, but the conversation was amazing.

Years later, at a restaurant in Nassau, Bahamas, John and his wife, Doris, joined me for dinner.  It was there I encouraged them to move to Asheville, North Carolina.  This was in the early 1980’s when he had been given the opportunity for an early retirement from Long Island University.  It was but a few short months later that he relocated to Asheville.  He made it clear he was there to retire and really did not want to be disturbed much.  His idea of retirement was to continue writing, continue teaching, and continue researching.

About a year later he invited me to lunch and asked me to join Rorschach Workshops.  I was flattered, but with a full time clinical practice gearing up to become a Rorschach instructor was a bit daunting.  My first workshop was a mere three weeks after the invitation.  John was clear – get prepared, teach well, and quit crying about the short amount of time to prepare!  It was a roller coaster ride during those early years of teaching.  John would often introduce us to new concepts to teach just before we walked into the workshop.  His basic guidance was to just follow the structure and it would make sense.  It always did.

For several years I went to the Rorschach Workshops’ office on a regular basis and would help prepare protocols for upcoming workshops. Little did I realize how much work was involved in the process.  For a workshop with six total protocols it was not unusual to go through 50-60 protocols in order to pick the most appropriate for the workshop.  I was to make sure the entry points for interpretation were different, the protocols had different histories, the issues to answer by using the Rorschach were different, and finally to make sure the coding was correct. John was always there to question why I had recommended putting particular protocols into the workshop.  It was through his direction that I began to learn how he conceptualized the entire learning process and the importance of including protocols in a workshop in an order that made sense for the overall training objectives.

On a number of occasions I was invited to join John in his private office in the basement of his home.  It was always an interesting experience.  When I would ask questions about Comprehensive System issues he would search his data base and produce information about the issue under discussion.  I recall on one occasion asking about the effectiveness of the Beginning Workshops.  This led to yet another in-house review of recent students and their ability to correctly code.  That research was never published as it produced the same data that previous studies described.

Time together was not always about the Rorschach, however.  John and I both shared an interest in flying.  We talked about his experience being shot down in his aircraft while serving in the Korean War.  He continued to fly and for a period of time had his own plane.  We would often talk about flying technique and aircraft performance.  On only one occasion did we fly together.  It was a trip from Asheville to Raleigh, North Carolina for a meeting.  I was the pilot and John the co-pilot (as it was my airplane!). We talked all the way to Raleigh about the amazing gadgets I was using to fly the plane.  He was quite dismissive of all the new technology, calling me nothing more than “a button pusher.”  He would delight in sharing with me the difficulties of flying in the “good old days” and clearly he had “the right stuff.”

As previously mentioned, John was always demanding of those who worked with him.  He wanted things done correctly and would not tolerate inappropriate explanations to students.  He demanded clear and concise presentation of information.  On the other hand, he was incredibly kind to those who worked with him.  He was generous with his time, with his expertise, and with his money.  I always knew he was there to support me in ways that I might need him.  John was always honest, purposeful, and intended to make me a better instructor.  He was always fair in his feedback, giving advice for change and praise for things done well.

He was not without a sense of humor, too.  On one occasion sitting in his basement office I remarked how wonderful it was to be able to be there with him, ask questions and get answers.  I suggested that many people would probably pay to have the same opportunity.  He quickly responded that was a great idea and he would be sending me a bill!

It was an incredible experience working with John for over 20 years.   While most psychologists know of his contribution to assessment, there were only a few of us fortunate enough to have had the privilege of working with him over a long period of time.  Like other individuals who worked with him, I too, often called him “Boss.”  This was not said out of deference for his position or because he demanded the title.  It was always meant as a term of endearment for his steady hand at the controls of often bumpy rides.

Thanks, Boss, not only for all you have given to me and my colleagues, but also provided to the many individuals who have benefited and will continue to benefit from the careful, thoughtful assessment system you spent a large part of a lifetime developing, researching, and teaching.

THE IX ERA CONGRESS (European Rorschach Association) MEETING – AUGUST 27-30, 2009
By Anthony Sciara, PhD

The meeting is over, but the sights and sounds of this incredibly beautiful city are still clear in my mind.  Prague is truly a jewel of Europe, having been spared from bombing in WWII.  Many ancient buildings still thrive…Prague Castle, the Astronomical Clock, the Powder Tower and a number of beautiful cathedrals.

The ERA Congress was attended by approximately 150 individuals from around the world.  While I do not have a complete tally of the countries represented, among them were France, Brazil, Japan, Italy, Czechleslovakia, Slovenia,  Spain, Israel, Portugal, Finland, and of course the United States.  There were a number of workshops presented, round table discussions, paper presentations and other activities.  Students from several countries were present and the program was hosted by Charles University, reportedly the oldest university in Europe.

From the presentations and paper sessions list, the Comprehensive System was well represented.  The CS is being used in many countries for evaluation and research purposes.  Presentations looked at normative issues, using the CS as part of therapy, clinical studies using the CS and guidance for young researchers using the CS.

There was also some representation of work using the TAT, and the Zulliger.

There was a lot of interest in international issues, including the recently published “international norms” (JPA, December 2007).  Both those supportive of using those norms and those approaching the use of those norms with great caution (see Ritzler and Sciara in the RTP newsletter) were present.

Some individuals in the international community expressed concern their unique social and cultural personality styles might not be well served by using the Comprehensive System norms.  They were likewise concerned that combining information from a worldwide population may also lead to a loss of specificity for their unique social and cultural population.  A number of researchers however, expressed the belief the CS itself (meaning the CS approach to evaluation and the format of the system) was still the preferred system for defining specific country norms.  This will be an ongoing issue that clearly needs more study, research and thoughtful consideration from individuals in many countries and from many different perspectives.

Talking with my colleagues from several different countries echoed the concerns those in the United States have about the direction of ongoing research, supportive utilization of the Rorschach, training initiatives and the general future for clinicians using the Rorschach for personality assessment.  While it is appropriate to research different systems when using the Rorschach Inkblots, it is too early to call for wholesale change to a new and different system.


Located in “Resources,” a drop down menu at the top of the website, are previously published RTP Newsletters.  These can be read and/or downloaded.

The Reading List was recently updated by Barry Ritzler.  It is a significantly longer list with references included through December 2008.


It will not be long before the next Beginning Rorschach Training Program will be held in Asheville, North Carolina, November 11- 15, 2009.  Registrations are coming in, so if you are planning to attend please register as soon as possible.


On September 9 2009,  Phil Erdberg submitted his  resignation as a RTP Director to pursue his interest in developing a different personality assessment process.  The RTP wishes him well.   Dr. Erdberg will still be teaching the Child and Adolescent Program scheduled for February, 2010.


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