Coloring books have become increasingly popular for adults in recent years as a way to relax, unwind, and tap into creativity. For some, coloring provides a therapeutic and meditative experience. This has led many people to consider bringing coloring books along to therapy sessions. There are several potential benefits as well as drawbacks to explore when deciding if a coloring book is an appropriate addition to bring to therapy.
Benefits of Bringing a Coloring Book to Therapy
Here are some of the possible advantages of bringing a coloring book to therapy:
Provides a Calming Activity
Coloring can help induce a relaxed state for some people. The repetitive motions and focusing on choosing colors and staying within the lines can quiet the mind. This could be helpful in therapy when discussing stressful topics or difficult emotions. The coloring can provide a break and help the individual feel centered again before continuing.
For those who find coloring engages their attention, it could also improve focus during therapy sessions. Rather than feeling distracted by nervous energy or thoughts, channeling it into the coloring may allow better focus on the conversation.
Opens Up Creativity
Coloring often sparks imagination and inventiveness as people explore color combinations and patterns. This frame of mind could pave the way for more creative thinking, expression, and insights during therapy.
Provides Non-Verbal Outlet
Some find it easier to process emotions through non-verbal activities like art. Coloring provides this outlet during therapy. When conversations bring up feelings, coloring may help identify and reflect on them.
Serves as Transitional Object
For some, having an activity like coloring helps manage anxiety in new situations or when discussing difficult topics. It provides a source of comfort and familiarity. As therapy can venture into unfamiliar emotional territories, a coloring book may ease the transition.
Concerns About Bringing a Coloring Book to Therapy
While there are several potential advantages, there are also some important considerations regarding bringing a coloring book to therapy:
Distraction from Therapy Process
Ideally, therapy involves complete presence and engagement with the therapist and healing process. Coloring could end up being a distraction rather than a beneficial tool. If someone becomes absorbed in the coloring itself and loses focus on the session, important insights and progress might be lost.
Avoidance Coping Strategy
For some individuals, coloring during therapy could become a way to detach from difficult emotions that come up. While coloring can help calm the mind, it shouldn’t be used to completely avoid processing painful feelings, memories, or thoughts. That could hinder therapeutic progress.
Non-verbal activities like coloring can sometimes get in the way of open communication during therapy. The therapist may have a harder time reading emotional cues and body language if the client’s attention is focused on the coloring book. This could limit productive conversation.
Some clients may feel concerned that bringing a coloring book could be perceived as immature by the therapist. This could introduce self-judgment and doubts rather than opening up free expression and creativity.
While coloring can be calming, some individuals might have trouble self-regulating the amount of time spent on it during sessions. It may be better to avoid coloring in therapy until more self-regulation skills have been developed through the therapeutic process.
Best Practices When Bringing a Coloring Book to Therapy
If you decide to bring a coloring book to therapy after considering the potential pros and cons, here are some best practices to optimize the experience:
Communicate with Your Therapist
Have an open discussion with your therapist about your interest in bringing a coloring book into sessions. Get their insight into whether and how they feel it could be helpful versus hindering. Therapists can provide guidance around using it adaptively.
Establish ahead of time when and how long coloring will be incorporated into therapy sessions. Setting parameters prevents it from becoming overly distracting or avoidant. Consider coloring at the beginning or end of sessions or during natural lulls in conversation.
Choose Designs Thoughtfully
Pick coloring books and page designs that are engaging but not too detailed, complex, or emotionally stimulating. Opt for geometric patterns or nature scenes rather than people or overly intricate designs.
Reflect on the Experience
It can be helpful to process with your therapist after including coloring. Discuss your experience of it – was it calming or more distracting? Did it facilitate expression or interfere with engagement? Reflect on when and how to include it going forward.
Set Boundaries as Needed
If coloring starts to hinder the therapeutic process, it’s okay to set boundaries around reducing or stopping it during sessions. Don’t continue with an activity that no longer feels beneficial. Adjust the approach as needed.
Factors to Consider
There are a few factors to consider when deciding if a coloring book could be helpful to bring to therapy:
Your Therapeutic Goals
What are you hoping to accomplish through therapy? If creative expression is one of your goals, coloring may align well. If you are focused more on talking through issues or developing communication skills, it may not fit as naturally.
Your Coping Style
Do you tend to cope through avoiding and intellectualizing difficult emotions or do you confront and process them more openly? Coloring risks being avoidant for some personality styles. Know your tendencies.
Your Cognitive Needs
Some benefit from having something for their hands to do while talking in order to concentrate better. For others, activities can be more of a distraction from focusing. Gauge your own cognitive needs and style.
Phase of Therapy
Coloring may be more appropriate at certain stages of therapy. Early on, it could aid relationship building. Later, it may distract from intense emotional work. Consider when it aligns with your therapeutic progress.
Get a sense of your therapist’s therapy style and view on including creative activities. Some are very open to expressive tools as adjuncts while others prefer to rely solely on verbal communication.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Here are some questions to reflect on when deciding whether a coloring book feels appropriate to incorporate into your therapy sessions:
– What need would coloring during therapy fulfill for me? (Relaxation, artistic expression, sensory stimulation?)
– When during therapy sessions might coloring be most useful to me? (While talking about stressful topics, at the beginning to transition in, at the end to help process?)
– How might using a coloring book enhance my experience of therapy? In what ways might it potentially interfere?
– How absorbed do I get when coloring? Will I still be able to stay engaged with my therapist and session themes?
– Might coloring ever turn into an avoidant or distracting behavior for me in therapy? If so, how can I prevent that?
– How can I set limits and parameters around coloring during therapy to optimize the experience?
– Does my therapist think a coloring book could be helpful or not conducive for my therapeutic process? Why?
Thinking through questions like these can provide clarity on whether and how to best make use of coloring books as part of your therapeutic experience.
Alternatives to Coloring
If you and your therapist determine that bringing a coloring book into sessions isn’t adaptive, here are some alternative hands-on activities that may provide similar benefits:
– Doodling on a notepad
– Fidget tools like stress balls or clay
– Short guided meditations
– Mindfulness coloring sheets printed on paper
– Playing with tactile toys like worry stones
– Drawing mandalas on a small dry erase board
Tips for Choosing a Coloring Book for Therapy
If you do decide to bring a coloring book to therapy, here are some tips for selecting one:
– Opt for simple or geometric designs rather than detailed people or scenes which may be visually distracting while talking
– Choose calming nature images or patterns that aren’t overly stimulating
– Pick a small, manageable size that can be easily held in your lap
– Look for sturdy paper that won’t bleed when using markers or gel pens
– Make sure pages are bound securely so they don’t tear out easily
Asking Your Therapist About Using a Coloring Book
When asking your therapist if bringing a coloring book to sessions would be alright, here are some tips for framing the request:
– Note any specific benefits you are hoping it could provide, like relaxation or creative expression
– Ask your therapist’s perspective on how it could be helpful or not conducive so you can make an informed choice
– Assure them you want to avoid it becoming a distraction and are open to their guidance on using it adaptively
– Suggest trying it and then checking-in to reflect on and adjust the experience as needed
– Frame it as an experiment in incorporating new tools so you can collaboratively evaluate and learn whether it serves your therapy goals
Evaluating the Impact of a Coloring Book on Your Therapy Experience
After trying using a coloring book during therapy for a period of time, be sure to reflect on its impact. Here are some questions to ask yourself and discuss with your therapist:
– How did coloring affect your ability to be present and engaged in therapy sessions?
– Did you feel more relaxed, creative, and able to express yourself or did it limit self-expression?
– When and how long was the coloring book most useful to incorporate into sessions?
– Did the coloring ever cross over into being avoidant or distracting?
– Overall, did the benefits of the coloring book outweigh any drawbacks or vice versa?
– Would you recommend other therapy clients try using a coloring book? Why or why not?
– Do you and your therapist think continuing to incorporate coloring is constructive or not conducive at this stage?
Periodically evaluating the role of the coloring book will help ensure you are optimizing your therapy time, not hindering your progress. Be open to adjusting your use of it as needed.
Bringing a coloring book to therapy can offer relaxation, self-expression, and focus for some clients. For others, it risks being a distraction, avoidance, or communication barrier. Consider your therapeutic goals, needs, and style along with your therapist’s perspective. Set parameters to prevent overuse. Start by experimenting with coloring in select parts of sessions and check-in regularly with your therapist to assess its impact. Adjust or discontinue use if it ceases to serve your process. With mindful integration, a coloring book could enhance your therapeutic experience and progress.