Therapy in Color

An increasing number of adults are handling stress by engaging with art. Specifically, art in the form of coloring books. But while some may consider this to be a temporary fad, the psychology behind it is much deeper. Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate Jordan Gaines Lewis explains the appeal of coloring books to adults, and why they work, in a piece for New York Magazine’s The Science of Us blog.

Creative engagement is a major stress-reliever for many people. If you are artistically inclined, whether it be in the visual arts, music, or literature, you already know this. However, just because one lacks artistic training doesn’t mean that this great feeling can’t be experienced. So many adults are spending time with an open coloring books because it allows us to exercise our creative muscle, as long as we can hold a coloring pencil. Lewis cites psychologist Barry Kaufman, who says that the act of completing something is rewarding and satisfying.

Studies also show that there are health benefits to incorporating some degree of creativity into your lifestyle. Those that engage creatively, one Yale Researcher finds, may be able to distract themselves from chronic pain. Colorers were also released earlier from hospitals, as their creative activities took their mind off of the immediately stressful surroundings.

Is coloring a productive way to relieve stress?
Is coloring a productive way to relieve stress?

Lewis also suggests that coloring books work wonders for adults’ mental health because of the relatively minor decisions involved. When we’re tasked with making major decisions at work and in our relationships, we can begin to suffer from decision-fatigue, which can wear on our decision-making abilities. When coloring, the simple decision of which color goes where is a welcome change. It’s like giving your mind a walk!

For those who argue that coloring isn’t worth it because it isn’t a productive activity, Lewis points a study that reveals some of the benefits of the intrinsic value of engaging with our artistic side.

Whether or not coloring books fade out is one thing. But for now, they’re here to stay. Maybe a drawing and a set of pencils is just what one of your clients may need for the time being.

Counseling: It Has Benefits

Many people wonder if counseling is for them. The fact of the matter is that it’s not for any one set of people in particular. Tracy Riley LCSW shares several reasons why therapy is beneficial for all. I’m personally involved with child and adolescent therapy, family counseling, and adult therapy, so we’ll stick to that in this post. But Tracey writes about the merits of anger management and phone counseling, which is certainly worth reading about.
Child and Adolescent Therapy: It’s not easy being a kid. External pressures from parents, school, and peers can contribute to anxiety. Many young children may feel a certain way and have honestly no idea why. It makes sense, especially when you consider that they are still getting to know their minds and bodies. Other times, they may feel shut-out of the conversation, and dismissed by adults and authority figures. But kids, and especially teens, have their own opinions. And while they may not always be super-refined, at the end of the day they are learning  how to interpret the world around them, and so it is important not to ignore their input. By attending therapy sessions, children and teens can learn to articulate these complex feelings, resolve problems, and practice healthy coping techniques. At the end of the day, a child needs to be able to believe in themselves. Life can be difficult, and it is hugely important to learn that they needn’t go it alone.
Family and Marriage Counseling: Every couple and family will have its problems. The game-changer, though, is how well those problems can be dealt with. Trying to power through them without giving appropriate thought to the source of the issues will often exacerbate them. However, with the proper setting, many problems can be adequately addressed and resolved. There are a variety of family counseling techniques that you can learn about on my family counseling blog.

The Beauty of Communication

In the Psychiatric Times, Dr. Stephen B. Levine wrote a beautiful piece that captures the complexities and nuances of the place of psychotherapy in the medical profession. Many professionals in the community routinely conflate terms such as “disorder” and “illness”. The synonymous usage of such jargon, while not inherently wrong, still confines it to the field of medical and surgical science. In truth, psychotherapy is much more than that. We must work together to correct our verbiage, so that new mental health professionals can deal with patients more accurately and with proper care. Psychotherapy is a multi-dimensional field. One does not simply “ask for psychotherapy” and receive the same measure of treatment. Each doctor is specialized in a particular field about which they are truly passionate.3 faces
One of the more beautiful aspects of psychotherapy is the emphasis it places on listening. A therapist doesn’t interrupt or paint the patient’s narrative for them. At heart, it’s a wonderfully intimate interaction between two human beings: one who acknowledges and desires help, and another who can provide that safe space for improvement and personal growth. However, it’s a two way street. As a therapist, we are working to earn the trust of the patient. Levine likens this aspect of the relationship to an audition. From the moment they walk through the door, they’re sizing you up, determining if they want to let you into their lives. Discerning whether or not you can be trusted as a guide through life’s sometimes barely navigable waters.
Unlike surgery and general practice, the relationship between psychotherapy and the rest of the medical world isn’t as open and shut. Research cannot empirically evaluate treatment and therapy methods as easily as it can do with a new pill or vaccine. Which means we are constantly learning. Not just about the patient, but about the bounds within which we can help. It’s a constantly changing field, and patient and therapist are on the journey together.