The difference between Adult Colouring and Art Therapy

Cover of an art therapy colouring book

The difference between Adult Colouring and Art Therapy

It seems as though in recent months there has been a huge boom in the use of adult colouring books. Pitched heavily as art therapy during sales at Christmas time, it would be safe to note that everyone from your great aunt Pat, to your teenage cousin, has probably been working earnestly on colouring in images of Mandala’s and Paisley’s over the past few weeks.

These books can be understood as great tools in helping people to focus, de-stress, and begin to cognitively process thoughts or emotions that may have been floating around within.

I honestly contend that it is great to see adults, who are often so absorbed in a screen that does not allow us outwardly process information, to revisit the concept of colouring as a means of hobby, meditation, and self-care. I myself have gifted a few of these books to loved ones whom I thought would benefit from them over this past Holiday season.

The use of colouring Mandala’s is nothing new the realm of art therapy in the form of relaxation and mindfulness.

With that being said, Mandala’s are used as one of many tools that can help an individual to process are variety of emotions. My intention behind this writing is not to disregard the benefits of these adult colouring books. However, it is to attempt to clarify that despite the way that these books are often marketed, they are not art therapy.

For the reader, it is important to understand that we as human beings often process and store information non verbally, meaning that we have internal cognition’s, images, expectations, and memories that we view within, that are sometimes hard to describe, or in some instances may be completelyinaccessible.

As mentioned in the previous post, creativity and external mediums can aid individuals to not only understand these internal images and processes, but also to access the ones that may be stored during traumatic events.

Depending on where an individual is at emotionally, rationally, as well as cognitively, the art therapist is able to assign directives that can aid in small moments ( self-regulation, relaxation). Or support with larger traumatic processing.

It is for these above reasons as well as many others, that individuals must understand the difference between therapeutic interventions and colouring books. As mentioned above, adult colouring books are a great stride in the movement towards individuals understanding the need for their own self care and the implications of stress. However, adult colouring books must not be mistaken for art therapy.

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Marlaina Jaques

Counsellor and Art Therapist. Providing services in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. If you or someone one you know needs help, please reach out.

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