Karl Koch’s wooden test is an interesting projective test of our personality, as well as our underlying emotional universe. Because it is easy to use, it is common to make it with children. However, it is also a very entertaining self-analysis tool that tries to get to know ourselves a little better.
This wood test is also known as the Baum test and was developed in the 1950s by a psychologist named Karl (Charles) Koch. It is already a few years old, but is still used frequently. If we say that this test consists only of asking a child or an adult to draw a tree with its roots, trunk and branches, it is possible that you almost immediately doubt the reliability and validity of this instrument.
The advantages of this wood test are that it can be administered quickly to a wide range of people. It provides interesting information about emotions, which is later compared to the results of other tests.
Before we reach this conclusion, we should take into account a single detail. Projective tests are a very useful clinical instrument. Thanks to them, we can gather different data on how our clients perceive, understand and control their world . So instruments like the Rorschach test, the Draw-a-Person test or the Wood test are very effective as complementary (non-exclusive) tests that we can use with many others.
On the other hand, and as a simple curiosity, Dr. Koch this figure for its diagnostic test, due to the symbolism of trees . In all cultures, trees are a mythological and symbolic figure mixed with humans. Trying to catch them, trying to draw them, is almost like taking out everything we carry inside us…
What does Koch’s wood test assess?
Koch’s wood test requires that we make a drawing, choose colors, create a figure from nothing, by capturing it on a blank page. It gives some clues about our personality. On the same line, it shows certain emotional states.
- It also measures the person’s stability, the presence or absence of internal conflicts, their vulnerability and sensitivity.
- On the other hand, certain psychological disciplines, such as psychoanalysis , show that this test also reveals the structure of our psyche or the content of our unconscious.
- It is interesting to know, as a recent study shows, that the Baum test has been very effective in diagnosing cognitive impairment and even the onset of dementia.
How do we use it?
This wood test is relevant for everyone from 5 or 6 years of age. It only requires that the person have certain basic motor skills needed to draw.
- The person receives a blank piece of paper, crayons and an eraser.
- They draw a tree with its roots, its trunk, branches, etc.
- In case the clients are 5 or 6 year old children, we will ask them to make two drawings. The first will be freestyle, ” draw any tree you like “, they are told. Later they are asked to make a new drawing and now the tree is different from the first. So we want two drawings to make the evaluation clearer.
- The estimated time varies between 10 minutes and half an hour, depending on each person’s needs.
How do we analyze the wood test?
We should look at these elements:
- A drawing where there is no soil or roots may indicate lack of emotional and personal stability in the client.
- Disproportionate and lightning-fast roots can also indicate trouble, emotional confinement, rage, and rebellion.
- A very thin stem: very sensitive and delicate. Or it may mean the presence of external tensions or demands that change the client’s calm and well-being.
- A very broad tribe: impulsive, with high emotionality and little ability for self-control.
- A strain with normal proportions means internal balance.
- Strain formed by straight lines : a just person with good abstraction capacity.
- Strain with wavy lines: social, sweet and has no problems with other people.
- Strain with extensions, cavities, buds, protruding tips: Presence of fear, trauma, enclosed emotions, inhibition…
The branches of the tree reflect interaction with the physical and external environment. While the roots and stem are more related to the inner and emotional world, branches presumably represent a different psychological level.
- Small branches: children up to 9 years always draw small branches, this is normal. This can mean immaturity or the relationship to the child’s world.
- Big branches: The person making the drawing has a great imagination, enthusiasm or is even a little more narcissistic than usual.
- Tree without branches: It can tell us that the person who drew the drawing is missing development or a possible cognitive problem.
- Spiral branches: communicative, with good taste, delicate.
- Lightning or rod-shaped branches: Stubborn person, impulsive, with a little anger or contradictory feelings.
- Branches with leaves : lively.
- Branches with fruit: Person with goals and wants to fulfill.
There are many more values than those we describe here, such as other “accessories” such as houses, birds, hills… It is details that the psychologist did not ask for that can also provide relevant information . It is also good to take into account the colors chosen for the tree and even the size of the divrne itself.
In addition, things like cut branches, holes or wounds in the trunk, lack of roots or the presence of dark colors may require attention. All of this could possibly mean that there is trauma. However, the wood test is not the only diagnostic test available. It’s just an interesting tool that, along with other tools, can help us gather information to provide a more accurate final diagnosis.