Analyzing Rorschach: what to look for?

There is a lot to take into account when analyzing your patient’s answers. The color, the shapes, the details he or she chose… they all mean something for you to interpret, so as a therapist, it’s important to really know the test and study it as much as you can.


Different cards, different meanings

The cards aren’t always the same and they have different meanings, as well as they appeal to different parts of the patient’s life and different feelings. You must know exactly what they mean so you can relate it to the way your patient will react and describe said card.

There are 10 cards in the test and you can divide them into four groups.

Dark Grey Cards (cards I, IV, V and VI) – They deal with worries, anguish, and anxiety, and can have different degrees of intensity.

Grey Cards (card VII) – This card is too open, and has a lot of white space. This white space appeals to emptiness or the abyss.

Black, white and red cards (cards II and III) – These cards are able to show you how your patient represents their relationships.

Pastel colors cards (cards VIII, IX and X) – These cards are connected to affection. They appeal to affectivity and, for most of the subjects, they are the most peaceful part of the inquiry phase.


How is the card seen by the patient?

The way a card is seen by the patient is important for an accurate interpretation as well. The way he or she perceives the content is vital for us to understand the relationship between the subject and his environment.

The apprehension mode is, for interpretation effects, divided and cataloged into the following hypothesis.

Global – The patient looks at the inkblots as a single object, a single image.

Major Details – The patient sees different things in the same card, using the major and more obvious inkblots in the card.

Small Details – Patient’s answers refer to more rare details, smaller or stranger in their delimitation.

White spots on the card – In this case, the patient focus not in the inkblot, but rather in the white space inside and around the ink blots.

Oligophrenic details – The projective answer occurs without perceptive basis, which means, there is no articulation relatively to projection and perception. The patient usually picks a very small detail and this is the starting point for all he will say next, ignoring the rest of the inkblot.
This is quite common in cases of schizophrenia.


As a therapist, all this information is fundamental for a correct interpretation of your patient’s projections. This analysis will allow you to have a notion of your patient’s intellectual abilities and the way he or she perceives, contacts with and relates to his or her surroundings, which will, ultimately, determine the relationship the subject has with the environment and its objects.


Applying Rorschach: an art with rules and guidelines

When in working on a psychological evaluation, you must be precise and very careful in order to not interfere in the process and to avoid influencing the test results. The very same idea and notion applies to projective tests, probably even more so.

In the case of Rorschach, there are many points where you should be careful and attentive, so the test result can be as reliable as possible.

When you start the test application (phase 1) you must be very precise in the instructions you give to your patient, or you’ll risk having an undesirable impact on the results. You shouldn’t give an instruction that’s too long, yet it should be informative enough for the patient to fully grasp the concept. It should be able to provide the patient with a little relaxation and be able to remain calm knowing that there are no good and bad answers.

The most common instruction given is “I will show you 10 cards and you’ll tell me everything they make you think of, or what you can imagine from these cards.”

When you hand over the card to the patient, you should be certain that you give it over in the right position, so you can observe how the patient manipulates it. If he or she changes its position, it’s an important fact for you should take note of, as well as the position he or she puts the card in.

The content is very important, of course, but the way it is given to you is just as important. Does your patient tell you immediately what he thinks the ink spot shows? Does he hesitate? Are there very long silences in his or her speech?

After you go through all the cards, you should start the inquiry phase. Here, you’ll try to go deeper on the answers you were given.

Then you go directly to the third phase, when you’ll push your patient to the limit in his or her answers (inquiry to the limits) and try to lead him towards everything he’s been avoiding. Why? Usually the avoided subjects are the most important ones for any patient.

There are answers that must be present in some way (like Human figure and same banal answers) otherwise the therapist needs to insist with the patient in order to get at them. This is particularly important regarding the human figure, because it can show you the relationship of the subject with a reality, humanely socialized.

Finally, there is the test of choices. This is a test where you’ll ask the patient to choose the 2 cards he likes the most and two he doesn’t like so much or at all. This phase is an appeal to the affections within them. In this phase you’ll realize which cards received the most positive and negative investment by the subject and it also allows a bigger development by you regarding these cards.

Rorschach – The most famous of projective tests

Whether it be in movies or jokes involving psychiatrists, most people already seen or heard about Rorschach, but just a few know what it really is.

A bunch of ink spots in a piece of paper would be a description you’d get upon asking, but, as a projective test, Rorschach is much more than that. Ancient, some may say, useless, others would argue, it introduces some mistrust into the relationship with the patient and therefore undesirable, some will claim, yet the Rorschach remains a renowned test in the field.

Despite all of its weaknesses, this apparently simple test, together with the clinical interview can indeed prove very useful. Because of its fame, some people think it’s fun to do it, completely bypassing the argument about the mistrust that it might cause, and, of course, its main goal will be achieved: allow us a glimpse into and a better understanding of our subject.

Why do we use it and how does it works?

The Rorschach is used to grant us access to the internal reality of a suffering subject. It will help us understand him, and luckily, show us the way to easing his pain.

This will be made by the articulation of the perception and projection, present in it.

The ink spot is perceived by the subject (manifest content), yet it’s just a spot, nothing concrete, so it will allow the subject to elaborate on what’s perceived according to his experiences and psychic functioning (projecting).

During the test, the subject will (or at least should) be relaxed, have his guard down and then the intrapsychic and interpersonal conflicts will emerge in the shape of desires and frustrations.


As a professional, you must keep in mind that your own perception will naturally interfere in the test results, so, you must apply it in accordance with a rigorous methodological procedure, in order to grant scientific reliability to this instrument.