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Book Review   |    
Storytelling, Narrative, and the Thematic Apperception Test
William J. Warnken, Psy.D.
Psychiatric Services 1998; doi:
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by Phebe Cramer; New York City, Guilford Press, 1996, 374 pages, $46.50

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Although a number of fine books discuss the theoretical underpinnings and administration of the various projective tests, few offer a more comprehensive and clearly written examination of the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) than Dr. Cramer's Storytelling, Narrative, and the Thematic Apperception Test. This book is a valuable resource for psychology students at any level who are learning the foundations of projective testing, and it is destined to become standard reading for doctoral students who are enrolled in projective assessment courses.

True to her approach to the TAT itself, the author begins the book by providing the readers with a wonderful narrative of the story of the TAT, which includes the clinical and empirical bases for why it is one of the most commonly administered projective psychological tests. She begins by succinctly describing Murray's theoretical framework that is the foundation of the test and by offering insight into the process that led to the development of the instrument itself. She then astutely argues that the Thematic Apperception Test is an excellent tool when using the more contemporary approaches of "narrative" and "storytelling" as a way of understanding the context of an individual's personal reality and truth.

From start to finish, this book explores the various uses of the TAT. Dr. Cramer surveys the literature on the TAT and gender identity, defense mechanisms, personality organizations, psychopathology, and child and adult development and the role of the TAT in clinical research studies. Throughout the volume, she employs case examples to illustrate how these various functions can be assessed. From the case examples, the reader is exposed to more advanced scoring and interpretative methods than are generally taught in projective assessment courses. Even more impressive is the level of detail in which Dr. Cramer reviews and critiques the literature on these topic areas.

One of the criticisms of the use of projective testing in general involves the poor reliability and validity attributed to these tests. Addressing these concerns, Dr. Cramer successfully argues that the traditional approaches to assessing psychometric properties of other types of psychological tests are not only inappropriate for the TAT and other projective tests but ignore the fundamental principles and goals of these instruments. She offers the dynamics-of-action model as an alternative method for assessing the TAT's validity.

Because this volume deals specifically with psychological theory, TAT interpretive schemes and scoring protocols, and research involving the test, it will likely be of most interest to psychology undergraduate and graduate students. In my opinion, it should be required reading for every clinician who will be administering and interpreting the TAT at any point in his or her professional career.

Dr. Warnken is a forensic psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.




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