Some might think the idea of coloring books for adults is immature. Yet studies have shown us differently over the years on a number of things often considered childish. Writing in a diary on a daily basis can help heal physical wounds faster, as well as emotional ones. Attacks of PTSD can be tempered by puzzle games, like Tetris, that utilize different parts of the brain. Perhaps we as a society embrace adulthood by denying too many of our childhood pleasures and throwing ourselves out of balance.
There’s debate over whether coloring counts as meditation or therapy, as The Guardian recently reported. Donna Betts, president of the American Art Therapy Association, was skeptical of coloring as a creative act. She told The Guardian, “It’s like the difference between listening to music versus learning how to play an instrument. Listening to music is something easy that everyone can do, but playing an instrument is a whole other skillset.”
Art therapist Drena Fagen disagreed. She made the distinction, “I don’t consider the coloring books as art therapy; I consider the coloring books therapeutic.”
The difference in this exists along the professional divide. We tend to look at medicine along such a hard lines that we see that strict divide, whereas therapy in many ways exists along more of a sliding scale. “Any creative endeavor,” Fagen said, “that can in some way help somebody discover something about themselves or find a space that makes them feel safe and comfortable or allows them an opportunity to be with their own thoughts, I don’t see how we can criticize that. It seems like it’s only bringing good things to the world.”
In essence, there’s no real argument against coloring holding therapeutic value. Art therapy as a medical profession simply hasn’t folded the concept into their practices yet. If adults who use coloring to de-stress feel that the act is therapeutic, they’ll make artistic decisions in a therapeutic way.
After all, people engage in self-therapy in large and small ways every day in order to make it through what stresses them. Those who require or want professional assistance should still seek it in addition to finding daily de-stressors, whether it’s coloring or something else. Those who don’t seek such assistance shouldn’t deny themselves ways of lowering their stress, either.
The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy this way: “the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development.” It goes on to say that art therapy can be used as a coping mechanism by integrating the fields of human development, visual art, and the creative process.
Adult coloring books aren’t a niche, either. Their sales have surged across online sites like Amazon.
(In the interest of full disclosure, Article Cats editor-in-chief Dan O’Brien has published a coloring book, which we’ll feature below along with other examples.)
What do adult coloring books look like? Typically, they’re more complex with greater levels of detail than children’s coloring books. Here are a few examples: