The Rorschach test is a method of investigation of personality that allows highlighting and understanding the main structural aspects of the personality, the characteristics of the approach to experience and of the intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics, as well as a person’s methods of solving problems. The method, which consists in allocating a definition to an ambiguous and poorly structured image, stimulates a series of articulated and complex projective factors and cognitive strategies in the subject.
Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922), a great lover of games with ink blots as a child and watercolors and trompe l'oeil as an adult, discovered the extraordinary evocative potential of ink blots at the beginning of his psychiatric practice and with endless passion and patience, he tested countless blots of ink in the clinical context with patients, then selecting a small number and writing his Psychodiagnostik in 1921 on the basis of this experience. Unfortunately, his early death prevented him from continuing his tireless work to refine the psycho-diagnostic tool, to which he had devoted himself with an extraordinary dedication and enthusiasm.
Over the following decades, several systems have been developed for test coding and interpreting by many authoritative scholars since the ‘30s, such as in the US: Marguerite Hertz, Samuel Beck, Bruno Klopfer, Zygmunt Piotrowski, David Rapaport, Roy Shafer, Paul Lerner and in Europe, Ewald Bohm, Loosli-Husteri, N. Rausch de Traubenberg, Didier Anzieu, Catherine Chabert, Parisi and Pes who either created new coding and interpreting systems, or further refined and deepened the already existing methods of interpretation. Furthermore, the ample scope of the test for a variety of purposes, such as clinical, forensic, staff selection, led to a very wide experience with a huge mass of data, recorded and encoded with diverse methods that unfortunately cannot always be translate one for the other.
In the ‘70s, John E. Exner Jr, with the Rorschach Foundation, developed an intense effort to set a system, that led to creation of the Comprehensive System by starting with the comparative study of the deep differences among already existing systems, through a search that involved hundreds of US clinical experts in psychiatric hospital environment, that led to the creation of a massive database. This system was subsequently integrated and refined until the fourth edition of the 2003 treaty, The Rorschach - A Comprehensive System, which presents significant innovations compared to the first system.
The Comprehensive System was created with the ambitious goal of creating a strictly standardized and as much reproducible as possible procedure, through rules of administration of the test that must be as precise, as the procedures of protocols encoding. Through a very accurate coding system, which aims at ensuring reproducibility and reliability, it recreates the Structural Summary which includes about 150 among: variables, interpersonal relationships and derived indexes, which produce a very thorough, articulate and above all reliable description of the subject’s personality in the key areas: managing emotions, interpersonal relationships, self-image, the ability to control oneself and stress tolerance, any presence of current stress, cognitive strategies; from the mediation phase of the perceived stimulus, that assess the adequacy of the reality test, to the stage of processing, that analyzes the type of commitment that the subject uses to generate the meanings of perceived thinks, up to the stage of thought creation, that addresses the production mode of thoughts and the characteristics of logical processes and associative links. The quantitative structural and strictly codified analysis is combined with the content analysis of the sequence of responses and of the notes, according to the sensitivity and qualitative methodology preferred by the clinician. In fact, the Comprehensive System, while paying special attention to cognitive procedures, wants to be an atheoretical system by integrating a qualitative interpretation of contents, to highlight the peculiarities of each individual. The two perspectives, the structural-quantitative and qualitative-psychodynamic, should never be counter posed one another, but integrated. From their interaction comes the complexity of a multi-level interpretive work that Franco Ferrandini, one of the fathers of both Italian Psychoanalysis and psychological assessment, called 'symphonic', for the supply of a huge quantity of data and of many diverse interpretations that harmonize and complement each other.