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  • Writer's pictureLynn Cukaj

Collage in Art Therapy

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

Art Therapy for Children, Teenagers, and Adults

Collage is a diverse medium that works well with all types of people and settings. It excels as a medium to calm our fears about the art‐making process. Collage making is a non-intimidating introduction to Art Therapy and the creative expression process.

Collage can serve to enhance verbal communication or provide a way to make visual what cannot be communicated and can help us make decisions. Art Therapists help clients connect with the past and present in a safe, contained environment using collage materials using all types of media. For a list of hand-picked art materials that one can find around the house or buy on Amazon, read: Art Therapy: Gathering Your Art Supplies

Collage is a versatile, engaging, and playful approach that is appealing to individuals with or without any prior art experience. This is what makes collage an effective medium because it utilizes aspects of free-association and play.

During the process, we select images and items based on what we are drawn to, even without a conscious understanding of why we select a certain image. Art Therapists encourage their clients to use images that they have either a strong positive or negative feeling towards. This is to help clients avoid too much contemplation or thought. The choice of image is encouraged to be spontaneous and impulsive rather than trying to create a category for the images they are choosing. In many ways, this type of collage-work has parallels to some exercises in Creative & Expressive Writing, such as free-association writing, where the person just writes without editing their thoughts.

The Collage Making Process

Images and materials are chosen from a collection of images that are pre-cut or torn out of magazines. Materials can range from magazine clippings, musical sheets, tissue paper, wrapping paper, buttons, and nearly anything you can find around the house. Words and phrases that come up during the activity should also be written down in pen or colored marker; anything to expand the creative process.

There are countless variations on collage such as collage combined with painting and collaging onto 3-D surfaces such as masks. For children in Art Therapy, these materials help to expand sensory exploration. Mask making can either use a mold or the client’s own face. The creation of the mask through plaster can be a powerful experience. This process incorporates all types of collage materials to create the outside of the mask. The inside of the mask can also be decorated. This directive of showing what the client shows the world (outside of the mask) versus what they may keep hidden or do not want to expose (inside of the mask) works towards finding balance and identity formation. The use of these types of materials incorporates both sensory exploration and self-expression.

Photography magazines are an amazing source for powerful, intense, and diverse images. Old art magazines are useful because they are full of inspiring images and clients also enjoy exploring the work of other artists. Magazines such as National Geographic. The images can speak for themselves, however some individuals find it helpful to add a word, phrase, song lyrics, or poetry to the piece.

When processing a collage, an Art Therapist focuses on the imagery and what the imagery means to us in this moment. Collage is an excellent way to process the here and now and work towards finding our voice.

My overall approach is to be non-directive with collage work while providing a directive such as “create a collage on how you are feeling today” or “create a one-color collage to show how your day/week is going”. The use of directives is helpful when focusing on goals and growth towards leading a more balanced life. Directives are very useful for developing problem-solving skills. Collage serves as a visual reminder of a our journey towards healing.


For more therapeutic activities and resources on how to incorporate Art Therapy into your life, read more from Lynn's Creative Expressions Blog.

Learn more about Art Therapy and Lynn Cukaj, Board Certified Art Therapist here:


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