Coaching with collage: Going beyond the vision board

The minute I tell people I coach with collage, I get this response: "Ah, making vision boards." "No," I reply curtly, but politely. "I use the Collage Coaching Technique™".


Yes, both processes involve ripping up magazines and other media and selecting images that resonate with you, but there is a profound difference. 

I’ll make the assumption that you’ve experienced making a vision board at some point in your life, be it as an individual, or as part of a group. Suffice it to say that when you create a vision board, the broad intent is to create a positive futurescape to affirm your dreams and ambitions. You might be encouraged to add pictures of yourself and make them colourful and inspiring. Some coaches may build in a ‘law of attraction’ element – it’s a fun process, but very much a concerted one.

So what if you allowed yourself to shift from being the architect and invited your intuition into the mix? What if you allowed the unconscious mind to tell you something? What might that look and feel like? Liberating, or scary? Perhaps a mix of both.

Working with the unconscious mind is one of the key differentiators that sets the Collage Coaching Technique™ (CCT) apart from vision board making and why, if you are looking for a bit of unflinching clarity in your life, you might consider it.

It's worth emphasising here too that you do not need ‘artistic’ skills to do the Collage Coaching Technique™. This is not about pretty pictures. In fact, you’ll do yourself a disservice by trying to prettify. How liberating is that!

The Collage Coaching Technique™ (CCT)

CCT was pioneered by psychologist Andréa Watts. Andréa has a wealth of experience working with arts-based methodologies, but it wasn’t until she started engaging with coaches that she had the breakthrough idea of how valuable collage could be in facilitating an open, honest and meaningful dialogue with the self.

What makes CCT a super-sized collage experience is the carefully curated three-step process that invites the unconscious mind to play and gather, before engaging the executive part of our brain to ‘make sense’ and tell the story. The seed of intent for the collage is always set a few days before the process starts, but the results on the day reveal much, much more. The use of the word ‘unconscious' can sound a bit frightening, but rest assured the training to become a CCT practitioner has rigorous guidance around client protection and creating a safe space. You remain in total control of the meaning that manifests through your images and what you decide to share (or not).

Before I explain why you might want to try it, it’s worth pausing to share the science behind how the brain works and why working with imagery and the unconscious mind is so expedient in coaching. 

Imagery and the unconscious mind

Let’s start with memory. A memory begins by paying attention, either consciously or unconsciously, to the stimuli perceived through the senses. It’s then encoded in the unconscious brain as a ’visual’. The brain doesn’t store these ‘impressions’ in a chronological way, but rather by sensory impact. And that impact doesn’t distinguish between happy and sad. It’s a process that involves two parts of the brain – the amygdala (medial temporal lobe) and the hippocampus. The hippocampus decides if a sensory experience is worth committing to memory and the amygdala moderates the strength of memory consolidation. This explains why we can recall a big event like a wedding, but often forget what we had for lunch yesterday.

But it's the sheer speed at which the brain can process imagery and trigger memory that explains why it’s so powerful when using CCT. If you like a statistic, how about this: our visual system can cope with processing 10 million bits per second versus just 45 bits per second when reading.

To put this into CCT context, as you gather images for your collage, by flicking through a wide and diverse library, your brain is working at a much deeper level, digging deeply into the minutiae. Suddenly, an observation triggers a feeling – the brain has connected with something that you have committed to memory. At this point, you might not know precisely why you picked that image. This is why the subsequent steps are carefully curated to enable interplay between pure intuition and the thinking part of the brain. It is not until the third and final storytelling segment of the process, in the coaching space, that meaning really starts to manifest. And continues to manifest long after the session. 

Why might you want to try CCT? 

CCT is open to anyone and everyone looking for direction. It's an expedient way to call out the unhelpful narrative that can easily form over time. Even if you are drawn to uncomfortable imagery, it prompts a deeper conversation you might otherwise skirt around. It’s also a very powerful way to cut through verbal masking. You can’t edit images in the same way you can words. This is vital when working towards openness and honesty in the coaching space. After all, we can all be guilty of overthinking what we sound like and trying to say the ‘right’ thing.

CCT is also a great way to connect emotionally with goals. For example, you might be motivated towards a promotion, but the collage process could reveal a very alternative vision – offering up a very different path. 

I’ve talked a lot about the visual world, but let’s not gloss over the sense of well-being you get by simply taking the time (the process typically takes around 2.5 hours) to ‘be’ in a calm, meditative state. 

And last but not least, the benefit of tangible output. Your collage serves not only as a reminder of how you felt when you created it, but with careful exploration through the coaching process, it keeps on speaking to you and revealing even more meaning. 

In short, CCT goes beyond a vision board by revealing a much bigger picture. You could say it's more of a springboard – a vivid, fast track to clarity and better decision-making. 

If you would like more information, or to book a session visit my profile or website.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Brighton BN1 & London W11
Written by The Shapeshifter, Creativity and career coach. IAPC&M/ CCT /FRSA.
Brighton BN1 & London W11

Jude Arnup (aka the Shapeshifter) is an accredited coach specialising in working with creatives. She is a trained practitioner in the Collage Coaching Technique™. Jude is ICF/AC Approved.

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