What is the HTP test and what is its purpose? Keys for interpretation

What is the HTP test and what is its purpose? Keys for interpretation

The House-Tree-Person (HTP) test is a projective personality test originally developed by John Buck that was originally devised to evaluate intellectual functioning. Buck noted that artistic creativity represents a characteristic and fundamental part of individual personality. It is believed that through drawings the subjects are able to better express unconscious problems, since it is a fairly primary process. It is for this reason that it is used mostly in childhood, so that the little ones can express with their drawings what they are not able to express with their words.

As with other projective tests, this test has a flexible and somewhat subjective form of administration and interpretation.


  • 1 Purpose of the HTP test
  • 2 Description of the HTP test
  • 3 Results
  • 4 Interpretation of house drawing
  • 5 Interpretation of tree drawing
  • 6 Interpretation of the person's drawing

Purpose of the HTP test

The main purpose of the HTP is to measure aspects of a person's personality through the interpretation of their drawings and the answers to the questions that are being asked during the process.

The drawings provide a multitude of relevant information about the functioning of an individual as well as his personality.

Description of the HTP test

HTP can be given to anyone of any age. Because of how little invasive this test is, It is often used with children and teenagers. It is also used with people suspected of having some type of brain damage or other neurological disorder. The test takes an average of 150 minutes to complete, although it can last less time with normally functioning adults and much more in people with neurological damage.

During the first phase of the test, the respondents are asked to use colored pencils to draw the images of a house, a tree and a person. Each drawing is made on a sheet of paper and you are asked to draw as accurately as possible. At the end of the drawings, the evaluators ask questions about the drawings.

There are a total of 60 questions that examiners can ask. They can also create their own questions or ask follow-up questions without a pre-established script. For example, with reference to the house, you can ask the author things like: "Who lives here?" and "are the people living in the house happy?" As for the tree, the questions may be: "How old is that tree?" and "What kind of tree is it?" As for the person, the questions are: "Is that person happy?" and "How does that person feel?"

There is some variation in the administration of the test, such as asking the individual to draw two separate people, one of each sex. Another variation is for children to draw their family.


The HTP test it is assessed both quantitatively objectively, and qualitatively, somewhat more subjective. The quantitative scoring system consists of analyzing the details of drawings to arrive at a general intelligence assessment, using a scoring method devised by the creators of the test. Research has shown that this intelligence assessment is highly correlated with other intelligence tests such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Adults (WAIS).

The main use of HTP, however, is related to a qualitative scoring system in which the test administrator analyzes the drawings and the answers to the questions in a way that helps him assess the personality of the examinee. For example, a very small house could indicate the rejection of one's own home life, while an exaggeratedly large house would talk about feeling overwhelmed by it. A tree that has a thin trunk, but has large expansive branches could indicate the need for satisfaction. A drawing of a person who has a lot of detail on the face could indicate the need to be accepted in society.

Interpretation of house drawing

In the drawing of the house, the roof represents the intellectual side, the walls represent the degree of strength of the I, and the doors and windows refer to the individual's relationship with the outside world.

The lines of the walls they represent the limits and strengths of the ego, therefore, the weak lines in the structure of the house are the weaknesses in the ego, while the strong lines indicate problems of anxiety and need for personal reinforcement.

Ceiling It symbolizes the life of fantasy, and drawing it in detail or large can indicate a special inclination to fantasy and to the world of ideas, while small ceilings can speak of difficulty in imagining and creating.

Windows and doors they are the ways in which others enter or look inside the house, in terms of openness, the will to interact with others and ideas about the environment. Therefore, curtains, blinds, curtains, locks, etc. They indicate a certain reluctance to reveal much about oneself. Open doors or many windows could mean strong needs to involve others, openness and generosity. Large windows, especially in the bathroom, could be exhibitionist desires.

The psychotic it tends to show a clear vision of the interior of the house, as if the walls were transparent, since they believe that their thoughts and their mind are in sight of others, strange angles (such as their strange thought processes) may also appear, or a house on the edge of a collapse (like his ego).

Tree drawing interpretation

The log unveils its inner strength, represents the ego, the sense of self and the integrity of the personality. Thus, thick and shaded lines to represent the crust indicate anxiety about oneself, small trunks speak of a limited ego strength, while large ones indicate strength. A tree divided in half, as if struck by lightning, can indicate a fragmented personality and serious mental illness, are a sign of organicity.

The branches They tell us about the subject's relationship with the outside world. Therefore, open branches show difficulties with the external world or efforts to reach what we cannot control. Small branches speak of limits on abilities to meet the needs, while large branches are the opposite. The mace-shaped or very pointed branches represent aggressiveness. Dead branches mean emptiness and hopelessness.

Leaves They are signs that the efforts to arrive are successful, since the growing leaves of the tree means that it is trying to reach the sun and get food and water. Therefore, when there are no leaves they could mean lack of motivation and sadness. The pointed leaves are a sign of aggressiveness, and the obsessive in the details of the leaves speak of the presence of obsessive compulsive tendencies.

The roots They usually refer to the perception of reality. When there are no roots they can mean insecurity and a feeling of not being grounded, the highlighted roots may indicate excessive concern for reality, while dead roots can mean feelings of disconnection from reality, emptiness and despair.

Other details: Christmas trees after the end of the season can mean regressive fantasies (thinking about holidays and family and good times to feel better). The knots in the trunk, like twisted branches, they indicate a certain part of the ego twists around some subject. The holes they are an absence of a trunk, and therefore an absence of ego control. Sometimes they are seen as indicators of a trauma, and the height above the tree represents the age of the trauma (so, at half height for a 10 year old is at 5 years). Small animals as squirrels are an intrusion of identification in an area free of ego control. Research shows that weeping willows are more common in depressed people. People with high care needs often draw apples or fruits.

Interpretation of the person's drawing

Here the idea is that the person of the same sex is like oneself and the person of the opposite sex is what cannot be admitted as being oneself.

Usually, the same sex person is drawn first. Some interpret the drawing of different sex for the first time as a sign of gender confusion or desire to change gender.

Arms they are the way we approach the environment and hands the way we communicate with him. Open arms indicate extroversion, openness and willingness to participate, while arms attached to the body indicate introversion and are a defensive attitude towards others. Hands with clenched fists may be a sign of aggression, gloved or hidden hands or may indicate anxiety or antisocial tendencies. It could also be difficulty drawing good hands.

The legs and feet are like the roots of the trees, they represent earth and the connection with reality. If the lower part of the body is cut or not drawn, it can mean the loss of autonomy, small feet (inadequate base) may indicate a need for safety, while large feet may indicate the same.

The neck separates the head (cognition) from the body (basic needs), when no neck is drawn it indicates impulsive and primitive personality, it does not think before acting, instead the long neck tells us about the predominance of the world of ideas and difficulty of connection with the most primary needs.

Mouth This is where the needs come in (according to Freud's theory and the oral route), when it is very large or open is the active and constant search for satisfaction of needs, the mouth with thick lips speaks of sexual needs, if the mouth is closed very tightly it is the denial of needs or some passive aggression Mouths showing teeth usually indicate verbal aggression.

The genitals, breasts, etc ... are rarely drawn, and indicate sexual concerns of some kind.

Other details: draw clowns (hide the face and also person), robots (loss of emotions in a psychotic way), cowboys (masculinized needs), snowmen (rounded bodies, regressive themes), etc ... Excessive details are consistent with some of obsession and anxiety, while a marked lack of details may indicate withdrawal, lack of energy or hopelessness.