Are adult coloring books a form of art therapy?
For over a year now, adult coloring has been the latest trend in relaxation and stress relief. People across the country find solace in coloring mandalas for hours a day. They say it helps them focus, relieve anxiety and be more mindful. With all the positive psychological benefits associated with this new craze, many are asking: is adult coloring a form of art therapy? While experts say it is a great option for relaxation, they agree the answer is a definite no.
Adult coloring books are comparable to children’s coloring books: they have an image outlined and adults can color them in. As opposed to starting from scratch when drawing a picture, the only decisions artists need to make is what colors to choose. The act of coloring is often thought of as a form of meditation, allowing the brain to take a break from advanced thinking and concentrate on something which feels pleasurable, rewarding and therapeutic.
But art therapists explain where adult coloring falls short in terms of being considered a therapy is the relationship between a patient and a professional therapist. “I will say that I wouldn’t consider it within the realm of art therapy per se,” says Kate Pfieffer, a registered art therapist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “My stance on coloring books is that they are no doubt a great option for relaxation, as they offer the opportunity to fully engage in an activity that requires concentration, but not advanced thinking or skill, which can sometimes add a stressful element to an activity.”
The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) has commented multiple times on the fact that adult coloring is a more personal and recreational activity. Art therapy involves working with credentialed therapists to process emotions and experiences through creative art-making and expression.
“I teach mindfulness skills to individuals to assist with grounding, quieting the mind and being able to focus on the here and now,” says Dr. Ann Barnes, a clinical psychologist on medical staff at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “This helps with developing a more flexible thinking style and becoming more psychologically flexible. Adult coloring is a great tool which accomplishes these goals too, and, the product is a pretty picture!”
If you have significant mental or emotional health problems, try a professional art therapy service in order to both reflect and express with others. Coloring books should be thought of as a calming hobby, something to help escape life for a little while. “Adult coloring also helps individuals who may need to learn how to enjoy leisure time and develop a hobby. Adults often forget the value of play!” says Dr. Barnes.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.