Are adult coloring books a form of art therapy?

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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3 Comments

  1. Minnie E Miller June 28, 2016 at 12:55 pm · Reply

    I was gifted with a coloring book on my birthday May 16. It sits on my side table today, unused. I love most artistic endeavors, attended art school in my younger years; but I can’t get into my coloring book. I will eventually work at it. Maybe it’s because it has too many designs, too much coming into my computer mind. Data overload. For sure I’ll have to take a stab at it before my niece visits. :/

  2. Maybe provide a more useful link for adults looking for art therapy? The article is about adult coloring books and how adults should seek a professional art therapist and the link links to Child Life Program: Art Therapy.

  3. Martin Kaprelian July 5, 2016 at 10:52 pm · Reply

    As to coloring books; my wife is a 2 times cancer servivor plus many other illness. About a year ago she started adult coloring books. They have given her some relief from pain, added some peace to her life along with some enjoyment. For her 80th, every guest got a coloring book and pencils. She received many phone calls stating how much they enjoy coloring. Try it you might like it.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.

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