What We Do ?

  • Train East African mental health providers in Rorschach Performance Assessment System (R-PAS) methodology with the goal of normative data collection across Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania.  
  • So, for a little bit more background…
    The Rorschach, or the Inkblot Test, has become one of the most iconic tests in psychology. The general public sees the test almost as a Freudian mechanism of asking people their inner thoughts. DC comics brought even more attention to the inkblots when they created a moral vigilante character who goes by the name Rorschach. In the realm of psychology, the Rorschach is the most research psychometric tool. It came under heavy fire when it became realized in the 1970s that there were five different coding/analyzing systems in use – none of which aligned. Since then, there has been an aggregation of the systems by John Exner. When he passed, members of his Rorschach Research Council created what is known as the Rorschach Performance Assessment System (R-PAS). R-PAS is a system of Rorschach assessment that is based (and changed) on empirical literature. In brief, the Rorschach is a projective psychological assessment that measures in moment personality – how someone perceives and engages with the world around them. The R-PAS developers’ goal is to create a transparent, empirically supported assessment measure that has international norms. Norms are essential in health data because they functionally dictate an individual’s degree of morbidity based on a comparative sample. In a field that has historically been tailored to the white and privileged, we are now seeing an honest attempt to make norms relevant to broader groups of people. What we do not know, or have any data on, is the Rorschach in Africa. There is something shameful in this, that the continent with the second largest population and one that accounts for approximately 16% of the world’s population. A South African team wrote a compendium of the psychological assessment use in South Africa, with a chapter dedicated to the Rorschach . Other than that, there are a mere handful of peer-reviewed articles that address the utility or use of the Rorschach for this continent, let alone the potential adaptation of norms in an attempt to make this assessment feasible and valid for the community.  

Why is it important?

Aside from the novelty of this project, this research is of value because the Rorschach is unlike any other Western assessment tool in the sense that it is pictoriallybased and accessible to individuals at all literacy and numeracy levels. In addition to updating norms, which is of health and social importance, this study will provide job and career building opportunities across East Africa. We believe our society, specifically the field of psychology, has been rooted in a heteronormative, patriarchal, white-world and has discounted the beauties and intricacies of all persons and how their respective engagement with the world can create or epigenetically activate certain mental health deficits. We believe our project is a step away from the old norm and towards new norms – both in theory and practice

How will this help people in Africa?

There is currently a dearth of mental health providers across sub-Saharan Africa. This means that many people do not have access to mental health care either because of availability, stigma, or both. In 2012, a publication discussed the Empowering People Affected by Mental Disorders to Promote Wider Engagement with Research (EMPOWER) in response to societal stigma and neglect of mental ailments as deficits instead of diseases1. A 2016 Lancet article indicates that the global burden for mental illness is estimated to be 32·4% of years lived with disability (YLDs) and 13·0% of disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs)2. Since 2004, South African practitioners have been calling for culturally-adaptive assessments – a call that has remained unanswered3. We hope to start answering this call and expand psychological assessment delivery outside of South Africa.  
 
Our study has provided a source of fiscal compensation to 450+ Africans. Though tangential to our larger goal of piloting normative development, it is not without benefit to locals. More broadly this study will provide East Africa with a pictorial psychological assessment that can be used for patients moving forward and also as an entrée to culturally-specific assessments that can be taught for local masters- and doctoral-level clinicians as thus help propel the mental health field forward. Data collection may also help dispel myths or misconceptions about mental health and thus create an area for exploration or at minimum, a resource for participants. 

What’s the contribution?

Aside from the novelty of this project, this research is of value because the Rorschach is unlike any other Western assessment tool, in the sense that it is pictorially-based, and accessible to individuals at all literacy and numeracy levels. In addition to updating norms, which is of health and social importance, this study will provide job and career building opportunities across East Africa. We believe our society, specifically the field of psychology, has been rooted in a heteronormative, patriarchal, white-world and has discounted the beauties and intricacies of all persons and how their respective engagement with the world can create, or epigenetically activate, certain mental health deficits. We believe our project is a step away from the old norm and towards new norms – both in theory and practice.
Where does the money go?
To East Africans and East African businesses. If successful, this study will provide monetary compensation to nearly 500 people across East Africa. Beneficiaries include: data collectors, trainees, study coordinators, study assistants, reliability coders, data entry folk, volunteers, participants, web-designer, local universities, and local businesse