Coloring books are not art therapy

Coloring books are not art therapy

Coloring books have become a trend.

Why is this so?

Filling up shapes and images, slowly and calmly, with a beautiful box of crayons next to you, is very soothing. It might provoke childhood memories before we were critical of our own creation. I believe it is probably linked to our need for tactility, for repetition, for physical accumulating of action, for the sound of pencils on paper, intimacy, and a sense of completion and even meditation.

All these benefits are given to us through a modest activity in an era where we spend so much time with images on electronic devices that fill our days and nights with “as if” life.

We are hungry for intimacy.

Colored pencils possess these qualities.

A person feels cradled in such a process, and the outcome is usually gratifying and satisfying in the competitive societies of the Western world.

Here is a sentence from the chapter dedicated to this  medium in The Spirit of Matter:

Colored pencils, as opposed to a black pencil, provide a pleasant, soothing and generally successful work experience. The colors’ natural beauty is satisfying, accumulating slowly into a sense of competence and accomplishment. While a black pencil highlights masculine cognitive and spiritual parts, the beauty of colored pencils usually brings more joy, wonder and delight. Tones will differ depending on the degree to which the pencils are sharpened.

Moreover, if you add water and dissolve them this effect will be enhanced. They will “reflect lightness, serenity, aesthetics, flow and transparency.” [from the watercolor chapter]

I see this like knitting at the end of the day, a restful time before going to bed in old days.


However, this trend is misused cynically in order to make money using the term ‘art therapy’.

If you click art therapy on large book companies – these booklets will pop up first hiding the real art therapy books.

Screen shot of search for art therapy books. The first two are on the third row…

A notebook with drawings someone else has organized and you fill up is not art therapy, although for some it might work or even heal.

A person you will never see again sits next to you on the train. You share something personal, and you might feel grateful and happy. Is that psychotherapy?

Coloring books are the same.

As responsible therapists, we can use this tool with our clients if it relates to their specific needs. I cannot remember more than a handful of times a client wanting to color ready images that I have in the studio. Most of the time it was children who cut photocopies of animals I made of some engravings and made a zoo, or a story book which they colored.

Art Therapy occurs as the hidden subtext of a session.

It is the rich ability of the therapist to grasp and juggle among the languages of medium and actions done with them, and psychology, and at the same time articulate them by suggesting artistic proposals or words.

This ability of the therapist becomes richer with experience through deep observation of non-verbal art processes and naming them. It is a growing ability to recognize subtle changes in the way a person lives in the studio – his/her being.

Since Art Therapy looks similar to recreational processes, it is easy to merge it with our profession and mistake one for the other.

a for years old makes his own plan and fills with markers. It is the same boy on the above picture.

The same boy likes this coloring book and works in it from time to time.








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