Before the semester began, my mother gave me a parting gift of two adult coloring books and an artist set of 36 colored pencils. She remembered saying how stressed out I got over the course of last semester, and thought it would be a good way to help de-stress. (It also didn’t hurt that they were having a sale at A.C. Moore.) My younger sister, suffering from the anxieties of middle school, says that they are “awesome for passing time and relieving stress.” My mother who works in a call center also decided to get a coloring book for her to alleviate the stresses of angry customers. Even throughout my residence hall, I see our graduate assistant and desk attendants coloring away at them.
Adult coloring books: chances are you either own one or know someone that does. It seems like a perfect form of meditation. Just buy some crayons and a coloring book and all the stresses of the world will melt into the spaces between the black lines. But what is the underlying legitimacy in this new trend? Most art therapists are not in complete agreement with the uses of these coloring books as an alternative for legitimate therapy. Art therapist, Cathy Malchiodi, even telling The Guardian, “…There have been several really good studies about why people should engage in creative activity, which doesn’t involve coloring in someone else’s designs.”
However, for someone like me who has absolutely no artistic talents beyond flowers in the corners of my notebooks, using a coloring book alleviates the daunting horrors a blank page presents. So I succumbed to the trend, but in reality I’ve always enjoyed coloring. When the library had coloring sheets during finals week, I was more than happy to remove myself from my studies to do something mindless. So sure, Malchiodi can say that there are more creative activities than filling in someone else’s designs, but maybe the true appeal of coloring is that it doesn’t exhaust any brainpower.
Though it should be obvious, talking to someone is not a viable alternative to seeing a counselor, so therefore, coloring books are not a real alternative to having a session with an art therapist.
There are many more things an art therapist can do for you that a coloring book could. My friend and student of art therapy, Margaret Makowski, summed it up perfectly for me, “… it makes me happy to see artistic means of expressing for relaxation and personal satisfaction, but it just simply shouldn’t be called or advertised as art therapy.”
The bottom line is, most art therapy professionals don’t define these adult coloring books as art therapy or meditation. However, some can agree that it can be a good beginning to trying art an outlet for emotions. So, color away, but just know that somewhere an angry art therapist is griping.