"Art, even if it is totally unskilled, can become a sword with which to confront the dragons of the unconscious" (Anthony Storr, 1989).

The images below, all very simple collages, were born out of a different impulse than the rest of the work represented in these pages. When starting an internship in the early ninety’s as part of the process of becoming a psychotherapist, I was often overwhelmed by the suffering I encountered in the Aids clinic I worked at for that first year. When starting to bring in art materials and offering them to the people I worked with, I found collage to be especially useful. Used in therapy it can be an unthreatening medium, which usually does not create performance anxiety. A good collage box, filled with a variety of precut images, most often dispels self-consciousness, and can add another layer of psychic expression to the dialogue between unconscious and conscious material. It can have a containing function, and often enriches the therapeutic work.

Not knowing how to transit from my experiences at the clinic to my home environment, I tried various ways to contain and alleviate my emotional states. It was not until I too tried making collages, a medium I had rarely used before, that I found the beginning of a way to express, and later integrate, my feelings of helplessness at being so inexperienced, and at witnessing so much pain. Before starting to rip, cut and glue, I would usually think back to a session I had that day. The spontaneity of the medium was as helpful to me as it was for the people I worked with, and the use of found images freed me from the urge to make them into anything else but a reflection of my feelings in the present moment. Which of course does not at all imply that the making of collages is not an art form in itself in the hands of an artist dedicated to that medium.

As the years went by and I became a more experienced therapist, I found different ways to contain the feelings aroused in me by a difficult session or a complicated case, and I made fewer collages. But whenever I had/have the impulse to make one, it always provides immediate, spontaneous images, not only alleviating anxiety but also providing a visual reflection of my as yet undigested experience of a recent session, or the expression of a particular moment in the therapeutic relationship, not yet imposed upon by thinking processes. Even though this activity was always a strictly private endeavor, I started to notice over time how images and symbols I had so impulsively used in collages related to specific people, were often connected to images that would come up (sometimes much later) with that person in the therapy room. These might be images from a dream, a remembered experience, or they could be found in a sand tray, a collage or a drawing. I started to feel that the flow of energy present in the therapeutic work, just below the surface, would on occasion let itself be captured; a snapshot of an unconscious current, reflecting the back and forth psychic movement of both participants in the therapeutic process. Below a few examples.

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