Mucklow, art therapist, describes benefits of coloring books

By Alexa Hone, Media Intern
Published on Friday, April 1, 2016

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Lacy Mucklow, a registered, board certified and licensed art therapist has published the “Color Me” series adult coloring books illustrated by Angela Porter.

Lacy Mucklow, a registered, board certified and licensed art therapist has published the “Color Me” series adult coloring books illustrated by Angela Porter.



Lacy Mucklow, a registered, board certified and licensed art therapist has published the “Color Me” series adult coloring books illustrated by Angela Porter. Adults are trending using coloring books to improve their quality of life.

Alexa Hone of GreerToday.com interviewed Mucklow. Here is the complete the complete interview.

Alexa: What is your background with coloring and art?

Lacy: Actually, my background is in art therapy. So I do have a background in art, taking classes throughout school and in the community, and then going on to minor in Studio Art in college in order to continue pursing my Master's in Art Therapy for my career. I have experience in drawing, painting, sculpture, watercolors, charcoal, pen and ink, and pastels, for example.

As far as all of this connecting me with writing coloring books for adults actually came about because of an art therapy blog I started and have kept going since 2005 to highlight the field of art therapy and create a resource for people interested in art therapy. Because of this blog, the editor at Race Point Publishing contacted me because of my art therapy credentials and interest in using art as a meditative and calming intervention, among other benefits.

I have been aware of adult coloring books for a while, but I've only had an occasional involvement with adult coloring personally and professionally before these books. So the offer of being involved in authoring a potential series was intriguing to me. I liked the idea of engaging in a new experience with a focus to help people in the process on a more global scale.

Alexa: With your background in a variety of mental health settings, how does coloring provide an outlet for individuals?

Lacy: Personally, in working in the various mental health settings that I have, I rarely – if ever – use coloring in my practice. Given my training, I encourage client-originated art to help individuals work through their present difficulties, to gain insight and clarity, to self-explore, and to express their feelings. Creating artwork in the moment or in response to a directive that targets their struggles (like trauma, for instance), provides the greatest outlet and processing that coloring does not offer. So, to be clear, coloring is not art therapy, but it can have benefits for some people.

For instance, coloring pre-designed images can be helpful for the public at large in managing everyday, low-grade stressors, such as winding down at the end of the day from a long day at work, difficult traffic, or stressed-out parenting moments. Some people use coloring as a ritual to detach from electronics and help them focus for a better night's sleep.

Even though art therapy aims at addressing and processing the deeper issues through guidance and personal exploration using art facilitated by a credentialed art therapist, coloring can provide an everyday outlet to help maintain general health and can be done in the comfort of one’s own home or office. With coloring, each person can also decide what works best for them among the options available and focus on those which impact them the most positively.

Alexa: What direct correlation have you seen or uncovered with coloring books and health?

Lacy: One main benefit of coloring is using just short periods of time to color helps to calm and to increase focus in many people. The repetitive motion and detailed designs help to induce a meditative state for most adults and allows them to tune the world out for a little while as they focus on the images they are coloring.

Coloring uses both hemispheres of the brain – both the analytical and creative halves – and has a relaxing effect on it overall, especially in the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain that controls the fight or flight response and gives it permission to let its guard down.

Coloring has been shown to help people to calm down, to reduce anxiety, to improve overall mood, to increase focus and concentration, and to help manage everyday stressors. It allows people to be more present and lets their body and mind relax from the alert or busy state that many adults are in daily due to their work, family responsibilities, commuting, activities, care giving, and other things that vie for our attention.

Alexa: What recommendations would you propose to those looking to get involved with art therapy?

Lacy: First of all, art therapy is a clinical field that aims to assist people to gain greater functioning and life enhancement. The American Art Therapy Association's definition of art therapy is fairly comprehensive, which I will first cite part of what art therapy entails to give you a brief idea:

"Art therapy is a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.

A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being. Art therapy practice requires knowledge of visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other art forms) and the creative process, as well as of human development, psychological, and counseling theories and techniques."

If people think they need professional help, and think that art therapy in particular would help them, they can search for an art therapist on the American Art Therapy Association website.

In addition, the art therapy association chapters throughout the nation can also provide more specific information about art therapists in a particular area or state that may be available near one's home.

Art therapy as a formal discipline uses art on a spectrum. It can be very guided directives with specific issues that it intended to target in a cognitive-behavioral way through the art, or it can be used in art as therapy, where the sheer expression through art can provide a way to express oneself and to process things therapeutically because of the translation into visual form.

For those who are interested in becoming art therapists, one place to start is on the American Art Therapy Association's page for the educational requirements to train for an art therapy career.

Alexa: What are the differences in your “Color Me Happy”, “Color Me to Sleep” and “Color Me Calm books? (“Color Me to Sleep” is released this month), and the other two in the 5-book series are “Color Me Stress-Free” and “Color Me Fearless”.

Lacy: In my books "Color Me Calm", "Color Me Happy", and "Color Me to Sleep", I chose topics for each chapter with specific themes and hand-picked images or scenes that generally evoke calmness, joy, or relaxation due to the archetypal nature of what evokes these feelings in humanity as a whole.

Conceptually, in “Color Me Calm”, the images chosen fell into topics that are universally found to evoke more relaxing responses for people, such as mandalas (often used for concentration, meditation, and calming), different aspects from nature (often inspirationally calming for people), and geometric patterns (regular/symmetrical patterns can be meditative).

In “Color Me Happy”, the images chosen fell into topics that are universally found to evoke joyous or upbeat responses for people, such as nature (various settings are enjoyable for people), babies (young of all kinds often elicit a smile), music (expresses emotions to include happiness, both in experiencing and participating), food and drink (fine dining or home-cooked food can bring enjoyment as well as the memorable gatherings where they are found), whimsical images (a different take on the mundane may help us take ourselves less seriously), and various art and architecture (certain styles and topics can inspire us or bring about good feelings upon viewing).

However, in "Color Me to Sleep", the chapters are conceptually divided into six themes that are associated with restfulness either in preparation or practice. Considering aspects of good sleep hygiene, such as having comfortable and quiet environments (comfortable beds, cozy linens, peaceful environments, sleeping havens), establishing and keeping regular routines (reading or coloring, regular bedtimes, shutting off electronics), engaging in winding-down strategies (warm beverages, hot baths, journaling), and envisioning whimsical dreams (positive fantasies, nocturnal icons) were a key part of the content of this book to assist in obtaining better sleep.

Alexa: Any advice, comments or further information on your “Color Me” book series?

Lacy: There are probably a number of responses to that question. I'm sure people have pre-conceived notions about what these books are like, but what some people may not know is that most of them are aimed for grown-people's sensibilities and not something childish.

The patterns in coloring books for adults are more complex and make use of the honed fine motor skills they have developed, which are different than what one might find in the standard child's coloring book. It doesn't take a lot to get started, either – just a book and a set of colored pencils can be sufficient.

One thing several have discovered is that you don't have to be "artistic" to color and that there really is no "wrong" way to color. And it may surprise people what positive effects an advanced coloring book might have on them once they give it a try. They just might even enjoy it!





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