Wednesday, January 14, 2015

#CBR7 Review #04: The Silver Drawing Test and Draw a Story by Rawley Silver

When I tell people that I am studying art therapy they often say things like: “so if I showed you one of my drawings you’d be able to tell me what’s wrong with me?” Um… no. That’s not how it works. Everyone approaches artwork from their own experiences with their own perspectives, and therefore often interpret pieces very differently from one another. Sometimes they aren’t even close to what the artist themselves intended. But whatever comes from the artist through their creative expression is an extension of the self, and can possibly provide some clues, cues, or ideas that may be further explored, but as guided by the client’s needs (and not hasty therapist interpretations which may end up being misleading).

Yet there are some simple drawing tasks that have been developed that can act as basic assessment tests. Presented in this book are the Silver Drawing Test, which assesses cognitive and emotional development, and the Draw a Story assessment which may be used to predict depression and aggression. These are two widely uses assessment tools, which can be administered by a range of practitioners in the helping professions.

The book itself details the development and application of these tests, and presents research studies, case studies, and specific areas wherein the test has been used. In this way, it can be shown the different ways in which the tests have either been shown to be valid, typical results and differences in different populations, as well as certain areas wherein the test may still require room for development and further research into it’s usage and the administering of it. I am giving the book a strong rating due to the fact that it was very understandable, particularly as compared to a number of the other books I’ve had to read for school lately. There were a lot of numbers presented and some of them went a bit over my head, but overall it wasn’t too tedious to get through as far as textbooks go.

The Silver Drawing Test was first created as a means of trying to assess intelligence in some non-verbal children, as typically it is through language or words that our cognitive and intellectual abilities are assessed. For these types of clients, instructions may need to be written or pantomimed in order to be understood. The test itself includes 3 parts:
  1. Predictive Drawing: those being tests are given a task which involves them drawing a sequence or predicting how something should look in a certain situation, such as how water will sit in a bottle if it is tilted.
  2. Drawing from Observation: an arrangement will be laid out to draw by those being tested. Scores are typically made as based on how spatial relationships are portrayed between items, as well as the representations themselves.
  3. Drawing from Imagination: the clients are given a number of sheets/a booklet with various drawings of figures, animals, objects, etc. on them. They are asked to draw an image that tells a story that involves one or two of the figures within the books. The story is then written or dictated, so that they can be scored on emotional content, as well as representational and creative content.

Together, the three tasks of the test can be useful in determining different cognitive abilities of those tested, which may include observations of spatial relationships, ability to think abstractly, or ability to combine different elements cohesively, among other things. Depending on how the tests go, further assessment may be needed, or work on a particular area of emotionality, cognitive aspects of thinking to better align with their stage of development.

The Draw a Story test is similar to the Drawing from Imagination task within the Silver Drawing Test: clients are given a number of images of figures, people, animals, etc. and asked to create a story out of them in a drawing. The story is then recounted and titled, either by writing or dictating to someone administering the test. After this, the image is scored on three 5-point scales:
  1. Emotional Content: whether the image depicts a largely positive, largely negative, or ambivalent fantasy.
  2. Self-Image: is the person who created the image somehow represented within the drawing or not? Is the figure they identify with portrayed in a positive or negative fashion? How does the person seem to feel about themselves through their image.
  3. Use of Humor: though humor is not always present, a score is given based on whether the humor present in the image is morbid, self-disparaging, resilient, or playful.

Scores are then assessed together to determine if there are any indicators of possible depression or aggression within the individuals based on how they performed. In general, negative fantasies with high self-images tend to be predictors of aggression. Negative fantasies with lower self-image also tend to be predictors of depression. Yet it is important to keep in mind that other factors may be present, and this is just one assessment that may then be built upon. It is also often necessary to speak to the client about their drawing or have the story explanation to really see how they are identifying in their image (if at all), and to determine the true mood of the picture, given how misinterpretation may happen with artwork.

The one thing that I didn’t always necessarily understand within these tests was how to score for humor. Maybe it is more evident when actually administering tests, but the examples given, I saw things and would have no idea whether the person who depicted the story thought it was humorous or not. In general, however, The Silver Drawing Test and Draw a Story was very informative, and I appreciated the many cases and examples of application in practice to really understand how it might be used in a variety of cases.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

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