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Piecing It Together: Working in the Metaphor with Mosaics in Art Therapy

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

Mosaics are formed with the intention of assembling and arranging pieces, remnants or otherwise unrelated objects together to form a new whole. The process of creating a mosaic is an art in and of itself, and can be a very calming and therapeutic experience. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of using mosaics as a therapeutic artmaking tool and the metaphoric value inherent in the process of creating a mosaic and witnessing its completion.

Throughout history, mosaics have been largely created by arranging small pieces of colored glass, stone, or ceramic tile to form an image or design on a designated background. They are not limited to these components, however, and can also be made with different types of materials, like beads, buttons, shells, sequins, assorted embellishments, coins and recycled objects.

There are a variety of technical skills involved in the assemblage of the mosaics. These skills include cutting or breaking the tiles into smaller pieces, designing and fitting, adhering the pieces, and grouting. Mosaics can help to improve hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and problem-solving skills. There is much creativity involved in the process and with each of these skills there is potential for feelings of accomplishment and mastery.

For many people, the process of creating a mosaic can be a way to mindfully focus exclusively on the present moment, and to simply enjoy the process of creating something unique, something intricate or even something inspired. Mosaics can help us to connect with our creative side, to feel more engaged with the world around us, and to slow down and enjoy the present moment. Through this process of intentionally focusing and grounding ourselves in the present moment, we might also see this process as meditative. Mosaics are one way to tap into that creative flow, and they can encourage us through repetitive motions and heightened focus to respond mindfully to our inner worlds and external environments. The repetitive motion of selecting and placing tiles and pieces together in a holding place can be soothing and calming, leading to stress relief and a state of relaxation.

The process and metaphoric value of creating mosaics can also help us to deeply connect to our emotions in a way that the visual of the mosaic itself can be a powerful component of our healing. When we engage in this type of artmaking process, there is potential to tap into feelings of grief, loss, hurt and sadness and in this realm, there is opportunity to heal from past trauma. When we experience ourselves in a relatable way to this metaphoric process, we in turn cultivate a sense of self-compassion and self-validation- “this is how I feel and it makes sense how I could feel this way”.

There is a resonance established at different points of the process that becomes aligned with our own experiences of trauma, separation and loss. Brokenness, fragmentation, separate parts, dissolution, and lack of clarity in all of the pieces in disarray. The task of making deliberate efforts to assemble and form a unified image, pattern or design gently reminds us of our own internal efforts to unify our own parts and connect to our whole, authentic self.

When we create mosaics, we not only can benefit from the required attention and focus needed to engage in the artmaking task, but also from the deeper vision of hope and resilience that exists when we are able to witness our mosaic completed. Just as in life, we are the only ones that can pick up our pieces and decide where they fit and how they function for us. Our parts are not meant to be hidden, but rather embraced for their uniqueness as they make up bits of who we are, just as they make up the mosaic.

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