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Journal of Projective Psychology and Mental Health: Volume 31, Number 1, Jan 2024 Editorial

1. Editorial: Positive Psychological Assessment: The Contribution of Projective Techniques, Chris Piotrowski, pages 1-3.

Historically, psychological assessment has had a focus on the pathological (or dysfunctional) aspects of human behavior or mental processes (Piotrowski et al., 1985). Conversely, the humanistic psychology model offered an alternative perspective, based largely on the healthy and constructive aspect of human functioning. The main tenet of the positive psychology movement is that individuals possess inherent psychological attributes and strengths that serve to buttress everyday challenges and hardships. Hence, human strengths develop out of adversity and tend to promote optimal functioning (Lopez & Snyder, 2003). In this context, psychologists formulated a myriad of constructs that depicted positive attributes of mental life. The ultimate outgrowth of this model instilled a new paradigm in the emerging field of mental health assessment, namely, positive psychological assessment (see Owens & Woolgar, 2018; Owens et al., 2015). A prominent proponent of this movement was Constance Fischer who promoted and emphasized a strength-based, humanistic approach, based in part by a collaborative therapeutic framework (Fischer 1979, 1992; Fischer & Finn, 2008). Over the years, the focus on client strengths has garnered much research attention (see Shogren et al., 2017; Spalitto, 2004). More recently, researchers have conducted extended investigations on the Strengths Use Scale which is predominantly applied in educational settings (van Zyl et al., 2021).

Since positive psychological assessment is an emergent field, it would be instructive to examine the scope of individual tests and measures represented in research reflecting this area of study. To that end, a keyword search of the database PsycINFO identified some of the predominant measures evident in studies appearing in journal articles.

The Case for Projective Techniques: Historically, few proponents of projective methods concentrated on examining the positive characteristics expressed by clients evident in the assessment process or projective test findings. But there have been exceptions. In reference to the clinical study of play, Russ (1999) argued for the utility of emphasizing the positive in assessment. Other clinicians incorporated positive features of drawings, including human figure drawings (e.g., smiley face), in assessment reports (Burkitt & Barrett, 2011; Gramel, 2005). Yet, based on an incisive overview of the field, the extant literature on positive constructs involving projective testing appears (on the surface) somewhat limited. Of interest, Piotrowski (2023) reviews this literature pertaining to the issue of happiness.

Hence, it would be informative to examine the extent of influence of positive psychological assessment with regard to projective techniques. From a conceptual perspective, it would appear that apperceptive tests (e.g., TAT) and Sentence Completion measures would be highly amenable to the production of positive psychological states or responses, given the open-ended and highly non-intrusive nature of projective assessment. To that end, a keyword search of the database PsycINFO, where each projective technique was coupled with a myriad of positive psychology constructs noted in the positive psychology literature (see Owens et al., 2015, for lists of constructs). Both test and construct needed to appear in the Abstract of the study reference. Table 2 presents the research output for this bibliographic exercise. Indeed, these results show that positive constructs are well represented in studies using or referencing the TAT and Sentence Completion measures. This was evident for both research articles and dissertation research.

I briefly note several articles that discuss the nexus of projective techniques and positive psychology. Fischer (1994) explored the confluence of the process of the Rorschach examination with personal ‘dynamics’ of dealing with reality. Scioli et al. (2018) propose a measure of hope derived from 6 Rorschach variables representing interpersonal perceptions, coping resources, and goal engagement. Based on a transformative model for personal development, Coffman (2001) utilized a thematic apperception measure in the evaluation of competence and experience of flow. Benson (2000) studied the significance of self-reported happiness on TAT cards, based on a positive psychology framework; individuals with high levels of happiness exhibited high valence ratings on Cards 10 and 17BM.

In conclusion, research on measures reflecting a positive psychological orientation serves as a significant contributory factor in the application of humanistic approaches in mental health treatment (Bartholomew et al., 2015). Moreover, the influence of positive psychology tenets applied to mental health assessment has expanded worldwide (e.g., Singh, 2011). Proponents of positive psychological assessment, both in research and practice, should welcome the contribution that projective techniques offer with regard to positive characteristics and strengths encountered in mental health evaluations.

2. Scoring Accuracy and Rorschach Coding of Form Dominance in Shading and Achromatic Color Responses, Anthony D. Bram, Donald J. Viglione, Oren Lee-Parritz, Kiley A. Gottschalk, Jed A. Yalof, Ksera Dyette, Ali Khadivi, James H. Kleiger & Giselle C. Goldfischer, pages 4-14.

In coding observational and performance data, researchers have favored a focus on interrater reliability (agreement of coders with each other) over scoring accuracy (agreement of coders with expert ratings). Often, an implicit assumption is that establishing interrater reliability implies acceptable scoring accuracy, but this is not necessarily the case. This study reports scoring accuracy of four experienced Rorschachers in coding 155 responses for Form Dominance in Shading and Achromatic Color (FDSHAC) determinants using Viglione’s (2010) guidelines augmenting those from the Comprehensive System (CS; Exner et al., 2001). These determinants were of interest since these (a) are low-base rate and difficult for new learners, and previous findings have been mixed regarding their interrater reliability, (b) have been eliminated by the Rorschach Performance Assessment System (R-PAS; Meyer et al., 2011), yet (c) are still considered valuable for inferences related to ego involvement in affect regulation. In this study we compared findings of scoring accuracy to those previously reported on interrater reliability in the same data set (Bram et al., 2023) and found similar patterns. Coders exhibited strongest accuracy in rating the levels of Form Dominance of Texture and Form Dominance of Achromatic Color. Accuracies for Form Dominance of Diffuse Shading and Form Dominance of Aggregate FDHAC were comparatively modest but more than acceptable. The most challenging variable to code accurately was Form Dominance of Vista; and among the levels of the Aggregate and individual FDSHAC’s, Form Secondary was the most difficult to code and had greatest variability. We discuss the need for further refinement of training for coding FDSHAC, and we make a case for increasing attention to scoring accuracy in research and clinical contexts.

3. The Essence of Love: An Exploratory Bibliometric Analysis of the Psychological Literature, Chris Piotrowski, pages 15-21.

The construct Love has been the subject matter of voluminous popular literature and has attracted extensive scholarly attention for many decades. Yet, there is a dearth of studies that examine the scope and breadth of the intellectual structure of modern scholarship on this ubiquitous topic. The current study reports on a bibliometric content analysis of 1,562 peer-reviewed articles indexed in the field of psychology from 2012-2021. The most prominent investigatory topics identified, in rank order, were Theory/Models, Brand love (marketing), Cultural factors, LBGTQ, Measures/Scales, Religion/Spirituality, Neurophysiology, Therapeutic issues, Mother love, Love styles, and Social media. Interestingly, several topical areas received scant investigatory attention (less than 1% of dataset), i.e., infidelity, divorce, falling-in love, sibling love, love of pets, suicide, loneliness, and cognitive styles. These findings a) offer a panorama on the state of contemporary scholarship regarding the subject matter of love, b) present a framework as a basis for the study of evolving research trends, and c) provide a tapestry in conceptually describing the essence of love.

4. The Influence of Language on Thematic Apperception Test Assessment of Defenses in Spanish-speaking College Students, Ilenia A. Perez-Palen & Radhika Krishnamurthy, pages 22-34.

Cultural influences, including the use of language, have been shown to affect personality development and are therefore also likely to impact personality assessment results (Ramirez-Esparza et al., 2006). The influence of language is particularly relevant in story-telling measures such as the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT; Morgan & Murray, 1935). The purpose of the current study was to analyze TAT narratives delivered in Spanish and English to assess the application of defense mechanisms based on the Defense Mechanism Manual (DMM; Cramer, 1991) among Hispanic international students in the United States. The sample comprised 21 bilingual Hispanic participants who provided TAT stories in either Spanish or English. Results demonstrated that defense mechanism scores were significantly dependent on the language used (F(3,17) = 5.122, p< .05; Pillai’s Trace = .475). Specifically, univariate analyses demonstrated a significantly higher mean score for Denial (F(1,19) = 8.29, p = .01; English M = 8.82, SD = 4.64; Spanish M = 3.90, SD = 2.89) and Projection (F(1,19) = 4.63, p< .05; English M = 13.55, SD = 5.43; Spanish M = 8.00, SD = 6.38) for TAT stories narrated in English. To contextualize the results, the frequency of distress-related words (stress, emotional distress, conflict, fear, and guilt) from Spanish and English narratives were compiled. A chi-square test of homogeneity showed a significant overall association between narrative language and distress-related words (p< .001). Words classified in the emotional distress category in English narratives (60.2%) were significantly higher in frequency than those in Spanish narratives (46.0%), whereas words in the conflict and fear categories in Spanish narratives (32.3% and 8.9%, respectively) were significantly higher in frequency than those in English narratives (21.3% and 4.6%, respectively). These findings offer guidance for psychological assessors to make informed decisions on the selection of language for eliciting TAT narratives from Hispanic individuals.

5. Psychological Measurement in Transgender and Gender Diverse Populations: A Comprehensive Review of Published Self-Report Measures, Susan E. Walch, Jada S. Kennedy, Victoria A. Smith, J. Neal Smith, Lanae M. Arena, Michelle K. Hamilton & Alexandra A. Berger-Smith, , pages 35-46.

Psychological tests and measures with well-established psychometric properties for use in the general population have not been adequately tested for the evaluation of transgender and other gender diverse (TGD) populations. However, guidelines for clinical mental health practice with TGD populations necessitate comprehensive diagnostic and psychosocial assessment of gender-related concerns. Advances in empirical research with TGD populations also require reliable and valid measurement of gender-related constructs. The available selection of published self-report measures of psychological constructs for use with TGD populations has grown rapidly in the past decade. Since 1994, psychometric evaluations of 18 unique self-report measures for TGD populations and three shortened, revised, or updated versions of these measures have been published. This review provides a brief description of each of these 21 self-report measurement instruments for the assessment of gender-related concerns among TGD populations and summarizes the evidence evaluating the reliability and validity of these measures. Overall, the body of psychometric evidence is encouraging but remains in the early stages of development. Strengths, limitations, and areas for future development are noted.

6. Performance of patients with Psychosis on Human Figure Drawing Test (HFDT), Jasar Khan & Deapti Mishra, pages 47-55.

Conditions of chronic psychosis such as schizophrenia and mania are likely to result in several salient changes in the patient’s personality and result in several cognitive changes. Clinical psychological testing specialization constitutes a specialized form of testing that focuses on differentiating individuals based on the nature and degree of psychopathology. The critical role of psychological assessment in treatment planning has been increasingly recognized in recent years because of its significant role in diagnostic and psychotherapeutic intervention strategies. The HFDT is designed to enhance the time-honored projective analytics aspects of human figure drawing analysis. The aim of the present study was to understand the HFDT profile of Indian patients with Psychotic conditions. The sample consisted of 80 patients with Psychosis diagnosed according to the ICD 10 DCR (1993) criterion, drawn from IPD and OPD of Gwalior Mansik Arogyshala, Gwalior, M.P., India. The sample included people of both sexes and in the age range of 18-50 years. Materials: Human figure drawing test (HFDT) by Mitchell et al. (1993). Results indicated that Indian patients with psychosis drew several specific features such as a small-sized figure, left placement, gross disproportion, unequal arms, heavy lines, genderless figures, developmentally indistinguishable features, naked without genitalia, and omissions of various parts. The authors concluded that there are several qualitative and quantitative variations on Human Figure Drawing test features in Indian patients with psychosis.

7. Assessment and Therapeutic Intervention in Erectile Disorder-A Case Study, Ankush Aneja, Anand Dubey & Bankey Lal Dubey, Pages 56-59.

The Somatic Inkblot Test- online version (SIT) was taken by a 32-Year-old married male, working as an executive in the private sector, living in an urban Indian joint family. He complains about insomnia, excessive worrying, having sad mood, irritability, decreased interest in work, and decreased sexual appetite. The SIT images helped in understanding psychopathology of the symptoms and brought on the surface many unpleasant memories such as bullying in the school, conflicting relationship with father and dissatisfied intimate relationship. He felt much relieved after the discussion with the therapist. A few sessions of psychotherapy helped with positive results. His responses projected on the Somatic Inkblot Test have been analyzed using content analysis and psychoanalytic interpretation and discussed in this case study.

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