How to interpret the house-tree-person test

Written by jaime coyne
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How to interpret the house-tree-person test
Test takers are asked to draw pictures of a house, a tree and a person on three separate sheets of paper. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The house-tree-person test can be an effective way to evaluate children, people with brain damage and people with a limited ability to communicate for personality disorders. A projective personality test, the house-tree-person test requires the test taker to draw a house, a tree and a person. The test is then used as a measure of self-perception, outlook and sometimes brain damage. Interpretations of the test are subjective, and based loosely on a set of basic principles.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Paper
  • Pencil

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    House Interpretations

  1. 1

    Notice the size of the house: a small house represents renunciation of family life, while a large house means the person is overwhelmed by his family.

  2. 2

    Observe the walls of the house: weak lines represent fragility in the ego, while strong lines mean the need to fortify boundaries.

  3. 3

    Determine the amount of detail put into the roof: the more detail, the more the person concentrates on fantasies, while an incomplete roof means evading formidable ideas.

  4. 4

    Note the inclusion of windows, doors and sidewalks, which indicate openness to interacting with other people.

  5. 5

    Discern the inclusion of bushes, shades, shutters, bars and curtains, which indicate a person's hesitation to open himself to others.

    Tree Interpretations

  1. 1

    Notice the size of the trunk: a small trunk represents a weak ego, while a large trunk means a larger ego.

  2. 2

    Observe whether the trunk is split in half, which indicates a split personality.

  3. 3

    Determine what kind of limbs were drawn: detached or small branches represent a difficulty communicating with others, big branches mean connecting with others too much, pointy branches indicate hostility and dead branches represent desolation.

  4. 4

    Note whether leaves are included: drawing leaves represents successfully connecting with others, while no leaves means emptiness and detached leaves indicates a lack of nurturance.

  5. 5

    Discern the details of the roots of the tree: while normal roots represent a grounded person, a lack of roots means instability, exaggerated roots indicate an obsession with examining reality and dead roots represent feeling completely removed from reality.

    Person Interpretations

  1. 1

    Notice the position of the arms: open arms represent an inclination to connect with others, closed arms mean hostility and disconnected arms indicate defencelessness.

  2. 2

    Observe the position of the hands: pointed fingers and balled fists represent hostility, while hidden or gloved hands mean antisocial tendencies.

  3. 3

    Note the details of the legs and feet: figures cut off at the bottom of the paper represent powerlessness, while both large and small feet mean the need for greater stability.

  4. 4

    Determine the details of the mouth: an open or large mouth represents dependence, a closed mouth means rejection of needs and a slash mouth or teeth indicate verbal hostility.

  5. 5

    Discern how detailed the face is: the use of more facial details indicates a person's need to portray himself in an acceptable way.

Tips and warnings

  • Consult someone trained in administering the house-tree-person test for most accurate interpretations.
  • Remember that the test is subjective, and that the meaning of details of a drawing may differ between test takers.

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