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How to Interpret the House-Tree-Person Test

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 2. A projective personality test, the house-tree-person test requires the test taker to draw a house, a tree and a person 3. 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.

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House Interpretations

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

Tree Interpretations

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

Person Interpretations

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

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

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.

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.

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

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Tips

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.

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