Posted by: theoriginalmiss | November 19, 2012

Trees and the Psyche

Did you know that trees are so embedded within the human psyche that their image has useful applications in applied psychology and clinical therapy?  For example, in Art Therapy, the drawing of trees is seen as a subconscious creation of symbols and meaning from the inner mind.  House-Tree-Person drawings are used in clinical situations as a technique that gives individuals reign to free expression, and as such is considered a useful tool for use with children and people who have difficulty in “opening up”.  In these cases, the drawing of trees is seen as offering insight into one’s life role (Oster & Gould, 1987, pp 32-47).  For instance, a large tree is often interpreted as representing aggressive tendencies, whilst a tree showing only the groundline with no roots, is indicative of repressed emotions (Oster & Gould, 1987, p. 38). There are several projective tree drawing tests that can act as crisis assessment tools, make visible subconscious aspects of family dynamics (more so than actually making a “family drawing”), or allow analysis of relationships expressed through trees (Vass, 2011, pp. 892-983).  Furthermore, a study examining whether scars, knotholes, and/or broken branches on a tree drawing are indicative of previous victimization found statistically significant relationship between the variables (Torem et al, 1990).

In future posts, I’ll look at other benefits that nature in general, and trees in particular, offer human societies, not only for good health, but  also for environmental and economical reasons as well.


Oster G D and Gould P, (1987), Using drawing in assessment and therapy: a guide for mental health professionals, Bruno/Mazel Publishers, New York

Torem, M. S., Gilbertson, A. and Light, V. (1990), Indications of physical, sexual, and verbal victimization in projective tree drawings. J. Clin. Psychol., 46: 900–906. doi: 10.1002/1097-4679(199011)46:6<900::AID-JCLP2270460633>3.0.CO;2-B

Vass Z, (2011), “A phychological interpretation of drawings and paintings.” The SSCA Method: A Systems Analysis Approach” Alexandra Publishing, available online at:án/Books (accessed 25 September 2012)



  1. Yes, I can see that drawing trees tells us a lot. Probably 10% of our students depicted a tree in their fused glass piece. I also follow quixotree.wordpress for lots of interesting stuff about trees. Great stuff, Miss!

    • Thanks Bridge. The fused glass looked divine – I’d love to do a workshop! Anyway today I’m checking out these links and Vitanee’s blog and rewriting /editing my research and taking Dylan to the doctor – he’s off sick again 😦 cheers Px

      Sent from my iPhone

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