Learn How to Interpret Art Therapy Drawings with Beyond Art Therapy Training

Interpret Drawings For Art Therapy with the Beyond Art Therapy Method:

Learning to interpret art therapy drawings with Beyond Art Therapy Training makes you the art therapy expert. It is important for you as the Beyond Art Therapist to understand all aspects of the drawing, yet remain nonjudgmental in the process. Remember to let the client be the ultimate translator for you when you interpret the Beyond Art Therapy Drawings.

A Quick Reference Guide for Beyond Art Therapy Drawings: Learn To Interpret At- Risk Clients Through Beyond Art Therapy Drawings.

Placement of a Play Therapy Drawing: Look at the placement of the drawing. This is a very important part of the interpretation.

Top of page of Beyond Art Therapy drawing: Lives in a fantasy world, withdrawn, avoids others.

Bottom of page Beyond Art Therapy drawing: Insecure, dependent, needy

Middle of page of the Beyond Art Therapy drawing: Range of normalcy

Heavy pressure on the Beyond Art Therapy drawing of lines: Trauma or Aggression

Light pressure: Fear

Shading in the Beyond Art Therapy Drawing: Anxiety, if on genitals then possible sexual abuse or sexual identity conflict.

Lots of details in the Beyond Art Therapy drawing: Possible sexual abuse, or need to control.

Constant Erasures in the art therapy drawing: Anxiety and Stress

Small Figures or Drawings: Insecurity, possible depression, low self-esteem, withdrawal, etc.

Large Figures or Drawings: Poor Locus of Control

Slanted Figures: Unstable, insecure, possible mental imbalance

A-Sexual Gender: Possible Sexual Trauma

Drawing in Profile: Withdrawn

Stick Figure: Insecure or depressed

Ears: Paranoia / Suspicious


Eyes/ Large: Suspicious

Eyes / Small: Guilty or withdrawn

Closed Eye: Withdrawn


Long: Possible Sexual Relevance

Tiny: Dependency and withdrawn


Absence of Hands: Possible sexual abuse or sense of “helplessness.”

Large Hands: Aggressive or hostile

Small Hands: Insecure

Hidden Hands: Guilt

Mitten Hands: Repression of aggressive feelings but showing compliance outwardly.


Long : Aggressive

No Hands: Aggressive

It is very rare for a child to draw genitals or breasts in the art therapy drawing. Any drawings of genitals (or possibly breasts) is usually an indicator of possible sexual abuse.

Look carefully at all parts of the art therapy drawing and do further assessments on the art therapy client.

Hair: Messy: Confused Shaded: Anxiety

Head (Ego) Large: Fantasy Thinking Small: Possible O.C.D.,

Lips: Open Mouth: Possible Sexual Relevance or neediness

Long Neck: Emotional Numbness Thick Short Neck: Aggressive

Weak Neck: Fragile

Large Nostrils: Aggression

Lopsided Shoulders: Unstable

Teeth Exposed or Jagged: Aggression or Anger

Sexual Characteristics of the art therapy drawings to be aware of:

Vampire Teeth or Monster Teeth

Deformed Image

Body without lower parts

Stick Figures

Missing Hands

Overemphasis of the mouth

Eyes hidden by dark glasses


Monster fingers

Big hands

Cross eyed

Showing Teeth

Legs very close together

Clouds, snow, tumultuous waters , or rain

References: Lynne Cantlay, “Detecting Child Abuse” 

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Disclaimer: This website and its content is intended for trained licensed mental health professionals and school certified mental health professionals to use for their clients / students at their own discretion.

*If you ignore the disclaimer above are using these techniques on yourself and you feel any discomfort or upset it is highly suggested that you seek out a licensed  mental health professional immediately.

"Beyond Art Therapy" is the concept from Dr. Stangline that combines all creative fields in therapy. It is not the traditional "art therapy" but goes beyond to include sand tray therapy, play therapy, mindfulness, meditation, color therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and a vast majority of other therapies.

For any other type of mental health emergency call your local 911 / Police Number immediately.

Dr. Stangline does not offer advice / suggestions to anyone who is not a professional mental health provider, or a student who is studying this field and has questions about mental health programs of study.

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