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Using Collage as a Form of Therapy

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

I have spent 3 years working with children in a school setting. During this time, I have utilized the process of collaging as a way of fostering self-expression, decision-making, encouraging curiosity and creativity, getting in touch with one's emotions, and overcoming mental blocks. Collaging is also a form of sensory play. Children spend time searching for words and images, cutting, gluing, and constructing the piece of art however they desire. This kind of sensory motor activity is a powerful way to strengthen the brain and improve cognitive processing. Once the children have created their collage, they are given the opportunity to verbally reflect on the images they’ve chosen. They may be prompted with discussion questions to help encourage this kind of inner work and self-reflection.

There is a well-loved book called Essential Art Therapy Exercises: Effective Techniques to Manage Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD by Leah Guzman, ATR-BC. Guzman has an entire chapter in her book dedicated to collaging exercises. Each exercise includes a title such as a “Life Goals Collage,” “Anxiety Collage,” or a “Safe Place Collage.” The Safe Place Collage can be thought of as a tool for emotional regulation to calm anxious thoughts and feelings. The children are asked to search for words and images that evoke a feeling of calm and relaxation.

The discussion questions post making the collage could start out by simply asking the child to talk about what they’ve created. It may lead to deeper discussion such as “Are there any barriers, fences, or walls protecting you? If so, what do these images symbolize?” or “How

would you incorporate your five senses into describing your safe place?” They are encouraged to hang up their collage so they can look at it when they are feeling anxious or depressed. Collage is just one example of an arts-based technique for dealing with feelings of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Collaging can be used with individuals as well as in groups and can be adapted for all ages. Arts-based activities provide children with a visual representation of their emotions and help them to find deeper meaning in their struggles. The hope is that as the children gain insight into themselves, they will learn they have an element of control over their thoughts and feelings, and this shift will have a positive effect on their behavior as well as their self-esteem.

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