Drawa Person DAP Art Assessments

The DAP technique, as devised by Karen Machover, operates by reflecting a person's self-concept. This self-concept is not only projected onto the blank paper but also expressed through the client's verbalizations. As I have noted, Machover designed her technique to be utilized in con junction with a series of carefully designed questions (which can be found in her book Personality Projections in the Drawing of the Human Figure). However, for the purposes of this book I have replaced these questions with a request for the client to invent a story about the completed figures.

For ease of administration I will outline the components necessary for introduction of the technique. First I must state that prior to any art assessment I perform a verbal interview (which includes a mental status exam). This procedure affords an opportunity to bond and often offers information that will later clarify issues that arise during the art production. Some clinicians prefer to offer the client a single pencil with eraser; I, on the other hand, prefer to offer a pack of fine-line markers or colored pencils. I have found that giving the client a range of colors with which to work yields another layer of personality dynamics, diagnostic indicators, and information that is missing from an achromatic drawing. In addition, the client is unable to erase with a fine-line marker, and the client's reaction to this limitation offers information on frustration tolerance and problem solving. Secondary to the markers, I offer each client the same type of 9" x 12" drawing paper (80-pound weight). This paper allows the client to work with a large drawing surface and is a weight that works well with markers, pen, pencil, and watercolors. The room should have ample space for the examinee to rest comfortably while drawing. A sturdy table where the examinee and examiner can sit is preferable. With these considerations in place we are ready to introduce the projective test to the client.

Give the client this directive: "Using as many or as few colors as you like, draw the best person you can. The person should be a whole figure, not just a floating head." Often the client will ask a series of questions or make statements about his or her inability to draw. It is best to counter these statements with gentle prompting, such as "this is not a test of your artistic talent. This is simply a nonverbal means of communication." However, if the client asks specific questions about what gender to draw or how to draw the figure, a general statement without further elaboration is best (e.g., "Any way you want will be fine. Just do the best you can and make certain it's a whole figure").

Once the figure is complete, have the client give it a name and write it on the paper. This helps to identify the sex, as sometimes clients will draw a figure in a manner that is at best asexual. Once you have deciphered the gender, provide the client with another sheet of paper and ask the examinee to "draw a male/female/boy/girl," whichever represents the opposite sex to the first figure. After the client has completed this drawing, ask him or her to give this drawing a name and write it on the paper. I then place both drawings side by side and request that the client "tell me something about these two." I do not prompt any further but instead allow the client to grapple with the projection. If he or she is having a difficult time, I ask the client to "choose one that you want to talk about first." This is normally enough to get the examinee started talking, at which time I will ask clarifying questions based on the invented stories.

Before we review sample cases, it is important to illuminate two issues. The first is the examiner's anxiety at having a client draw (e.g., "Will they really do it?" "What do I do if they don't?"), and the second is an examiner's preference regarding whether to take notes during an interview. As for the first concern, the client will draw as you request, sometimes only with the aid of positive reinforcement, but they will draw regardless of age or gender. Most clients' objections arise from the thought of having to draw and their lack of ability rather than an outright rejection of the task. If you are comfortable with the request and sensitive yet firm in response to your client's protestations, you will end up with an art production.

With regard to note taking, this is a matter of comfort and personal preference. Depending upon your training, you may have been instructed to take copious notes, use recall after the session, or use some combination of notes and recall. Throughout the years I have developed an ability to write in a shorthand that allows me to combine the two. However, when the client is relating the story of the figures I prefer to take notes verbatim. It is important not only to have this as a record for later use but also to use the statements, as noted earlier, when seeking a symbolic abundance of ideas. Often the words of an examinee can convey a metaphor that becomes important when looking at the assessment as a whole.

Before we review case illustrations, the directives for the DAP art assessment are as follows:

• Direct the client: "Using as many or as few colors as you like, draw the best person you can. The person should be a whole figure, not just a floating head."

• Once the figure is complete, have the client (1) give it a name and (2) write it on the paper.

• Once you have deciphered the gender, give the client a second piece of paper and ask him or her to "draw the best male/female [as the case may be] and include the entire body."

• After this is complete, ask the client to give this drawing a name and write it on the paper.

• Place both drawings side by side and begin the postdrawing inquiry by requesting, "tell me something about these two."

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  • angelia johnson
    How is draw a person test used in art therapy?
    16 days ago

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