When I meet someone there are common questions to start a conversation and occupation typically gets brought up as one of those topics. I share that I am an art therapist and the conversation tends to turn towards the topic of adult coloring books. Unfortunately, several adult coloring books have falsely advertised the professional art therapy field by labeling “Art Therapy” on their coloring books.
Now, I am in support of creativity, but I want to challenge our thinking of creativity. If creativity is seen as independent thinking and has been referred to as “thinking outside the box,” then lets look at what a coloring page is.
A coloring page consists of an image that is outlined in a series of objects that you fill in according to the lines already drawn. And if creativity is seen as this “outside the box thinking" then why are we only staying in the parameters of the boxes? Well because the lines are drawn out telling us what to do it gives us predictability, it gives us safety, it gives us control and when complete a sense of accomplishment.
Can coloring be used for a therapeutic benefit when working with an art therapist as part of a creative process to achieve goals? Yes
Can coloring be enjoyable? Yes
Can coloring be fun? Yes
Art therapy is Not a Coloring book
Art therapy is not staying in the boxes.
Does growth and change occur in comfort zones? No
Lets think of it like going to the gym, that phrase no pain no gain….that is saying you must go outside your comfort zones to see your changes. Same with art therapy, if we stay in the box only where we feel comfortable we stay stagnant to only what is comfortable in our lives. We remain living a life in the box.
I know one of the most intimidating things to see is something blank before your eyes, a canvas, computer screen for writing, collage materials, etc. in the presence of an art therapist as your witness and guide through your experience. The blankness is staring back at you with no predictability-no lines and boxes to stay within. So what do you do?
Sure, it can make anyone feel vulnerable, it can be intimidating and scary. It takes courage to create because our creation is an extension of yourself being displayed for the art therapist to see-because in the process things may get out of control. And God forbid the outcome isn’t what you were expecting. Just like life, I doubt every person’s life is exactly how they expected, wouldn’t it be easier to live a life where all we needed to do is fill in little boxes? But where did easy get anyone?
Also you are not alone, you have an art therapist with professional training and education to guide you along the journey to help you reach your goals through this creative process. An art therapist does not care what your piece looks like as it is about working through the process and he/she is more concerned about making sure you are together on track to best meet your goals whether this is working through grief, distress, anxiety, relationship building, anger, depression, PTSD, addiction, etc.
I recognize it takes bravery, a level of self-love and courage to come to therapy. It’s not an easy process. So when you are ready to color outside the lines and see the potential and growth that can occur in art therapy I will be there waiting for you.
Author: Leara Glinzak MSAT
Want to learn more about Art Therapy click the link here: What is Art Therapy