How to understand drawings and paintings: Online course by Prof. Dr. Zoltán VASS

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The Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing Technique

Institute of Projective Drawings

A teacher holding a cane in her hand (left), the subject (in the middle) and two girlfriends in a Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing.

In contrast to the widely held misconception, the family drawing cannot only be used for children, it is also applicable to adults – with slight modifications.

For adults use the Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing: “Draw your family as you saw it when you were 5 ys old, with everyone doing something” (Furth, 1993). 

Instructions For The Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing

Instruction: “Draw your family as you saw it when you were five years old, with everyone doing something.”

Tools: a sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper and color drawing utensils.

Comments: Stick figures are not accepted.

Author: Gregg M. Furth (1993)

A case study

This drawing was made by a 37-year-old named Rita, who came to the psychology clinic with somatisation complaints.

Lack of interaction in a Regressed Kinetic Family Drawing (RKFD). Source: Vass (2012)

According to the instruction, she drew her family as she saw them at age five. She said she was not happy at that time: her parents, who divorced nine years later, had already begun arguing continuously.

The drawing features lonely, isolated actions; everyone is doing something, but they have nothing to do with each other.

  1. The first figure in the drawing is the father, who turns towards the edge of the page, with his back to the others. He is working in the garden, and Rita said his facial expression was red and angry.
  2. The second figure is the mother, who paid more attention to her brother than to Rita, and whom Rita remembered as always being nervous (she is baking something in the picture). The signs of eraser use around the mother indicate an emotional conflict.
  3. The brother, “poor thing, he was just there”, and his facial expression is sad.
  4. The figure at the right edge of the paper is Rita, who used to go swimming on her own when she was at nursery school. She was doing what she was told to do, on her own.

Note that every figure is isolated from all the others in the drawing. 

The figure representing the subject:

  • has a different orientation compared to the others (horizontal, rather than vertical), which emphasizes her separation;
  • she appears in a different element (in the water) and
  • in a different space (the swimming pool) than the family home.

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Although she could be looking towards the viewer, she turns her back in the drawing. The activity depicted precludes social interaction entirely. Swimming is done with the eyes and the mouth closed, with the face towards the water.

The emotional-affective tone and the emotional atmosphere of childhood memories lacks the warmth of love.

Rita is swimming in cold water, discharging a hated obligation, instead of being with her mother or playing.

Now It's Your Turn

  • Download the instruction sheet below and start experimenting with Regressed Kinetic Family Drawings.
  • Draw your own RKFD and try it with your clients.
  • What are your thoughts on this technique? Let us know in the comments below!

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Furth, G. M. (1993). Heilen durch Malen. Olten und Freiburg im Breisgau: Walter.

Vass, Z. (2012). A psychological interpretation of drawings and paintings. The SSCA Method: A Systems Analysis Approach. Budapest: Alexandra.

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  • Prof. Zoltan Vass, PhD is University Professor of Psychology and Head of the Faculty of the Psychology of Visual Expression, Károli University, Budapest.
  • He has published over 20 books and 400 scientific articles in 7 languages.
  • His method of Seven-Step Configuration Analysis (SSCA) awarded several scientific prices.
  • On SSCA, 7 scientific symposia were organized.
  • It has led to the establishment of 3 accredited clinical trainings and a postgraduate faculty with a total of 1622 participants.
  • It is taught or referenced in 152 courses in Hungary, Romania, Germany, France, Russia, China, Israel etc.

International appraisals of the SSCA Method

Prof. Dr. Diane Waller MA(RCA) DPhil, FRSA, OBE

Emeritus Professor of Art Psychotherapy, Goldsmiths, University of London

“This is an extraordinary work
different from the work already in the public domain in that it proposes a new, much more complex approach to the interpretation of drawings and paintings"

“It opens up avenues
on the long-debated efficacy of projective drawing as diagnostic and therapeutic tools"

Prof. Catherine T. L. SUN

Professor & Head, Department of Counselling and Psychology, Hong Kong Shue Yan University

Prof. Dr. Carlos R. Hojaij

Clínica Psiquiatria Biológica Brasil, São Paulo

“Fantastic (!!!) ... No doubt it does deserve a world wide publication, for it will be very useful to so many professionals researching and working in art therapy and any one interested in expression and psychology"

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online course:

Institute of Projective Drawings