Adult Coloring Books were big sellers this past holiday season. If you checked Amazon.com’s list of top-twenty best-sellers at any time in the last couple of months, you would find that up to 10 of the books listed on any given day were coloring books. The books feature mandalas, secret gardens, enchanted forests and a number of other intricately patterned designs.
So, what’s behind the coloring craze? Many people feel that coloring has stress-relieving qualities and helps to facilitate the practice of mindfulness. Some even consider them to be “therapeutic,” but behavioral health professionals caution against chalking them up as “art therapy.”
Jennifer Noto, The Meadows primary Expressive Arts Therapist, says that although coloring is no substitute for therapy, it can be a useful tool to help patients self-regulate and focus. We asked her to share some of her insights into coloring, its therapeutic properties, and its relationship to Expressive Arts Therapy.
Expressive arts therapy (EAT) is defined as “the use of [visual] art, music, dance/movement, drama, poetry/creative writing, play and sandtray within the context of psychotherapy, counseling, rehabilitation or health care. (Source: Malchiodi, C. (ed.) (2005). Expressive Therapies. New York, NY: Guilford Press.)
The overarching goals of our Expressive Arts Therapy program at The Meadows are to externalize emotions and thoughts for deeper self-reflection, challenge perfectionism, and learn appropriate spontaneity. There are usually more specific goals in sessions such as trauma resolution and resolving core issues.
At all of our programs—The Meadows, Gentle Path at The Meadows, the Claudia Black Young Adult Center and Remuda Ranch at The Meadows—we encourage patients to create spontaneous art based on themes that we use in group sessions. Themes may include: emotions, boundaries, positive and challenging childhood memories, cultivating safety, identifying personal strengths, cultivating body awareness, working with control issues, etc. Patients use a variety of art materials such as drawing, painting, sculpting or working with found-objects to create the art.
For example, in one of our weekly group Expressive Arts Therapy sessions, I present a theme and everyone works on projects related to that theme unless it’s not a good fit for them. What’s so interesting about art therapy, though, is that usually what the person needs to work on that day is what comes up, regardless of the theme or project.
Let’s say we’re doing a project where I’m having patients paint masks and I’ve asked them to let the outside of the mask represent their outside selves (how they present to the world), and let the inside represent who they really are inside. For some patients, this may be just the right project at just the right time. But, if a patient is in their final week of treatment they may no longer find it useful to go back and look at how they were presenting to the world before treatment. So, they may use the mask project to instead look at their authentic self versus their addict self. There’s always room for someone to interpret the project in their own way. And if the project doesn’t work for them at all, I’ll just give them something else.
We seldom do anything coloring related, since the process of creating one’s own imagery is significant to gaining personal insights.
Well, we’ve had the Mandala coloring books at The Meadows for some time now—at least in the four years since I’ve been here—so it’s not entirely new to us. Even before they became best sellers, we would have patients sitting and coloring in group therapy sessions. Many of the primary therapists would encourage them to do that because it helped them focus and self-regulate. The main difference in the coloring books that are popular now is that the designs are more elaborate.
A few months ago, in early February or March, I noticed that patients started showing up with the latest coloring books, like The Secret Garden. They’d say things like, “Oh, my mom sent me this and it’s really helping me.” I thought it seemed like a great tool to help patients focus and relax.
I wonder if they’re so popular in the public now because there’s generally more awareness about self-care and mindfulness and people see coloring as an outlet. People are probably also drawn to it because they know they can do it without having the pressure of creating something from scratch. I think it’s just a smart way of doing mindful work.
There is definitely a difference between therapy and therapeutic activities. For example, coloring can help calm someone down in the moment, getting them more present and ready to do therapy and address their issues. If someone has childhood trauma, coloring may relax them for a time and teach them a healthier coping skill for distress. But, it won’t resolve underlying core issues, core messages and nervous system dysregulation.
I definitely think coloring can be therapeutic and healthy for many people. Any mindful activity that doesn’t have negative consequences, and is done in moderation, can help a patient feel more calm and centered.
I believe coloring could be helpful with patients suffering from anxiety, depression or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). It could be calming for those with anxiety, enlivening for those with depression (working with colors; focusing on enjoyable imagery), and it could help those with ADD focus their attention.
Since Expressive Arts Therapy is so diverse and can include music, movement, play and drama, there is usually something that every patient will connect with. Many patients enter the art room with fear and a bias that they aren’t creative and leave the session with a sense of empowerment and playfulness. I have even had patients who have art-related trauma (i.e., their abuser was an artist, or they were sexually assaulted at art school) who end up finding the process helpful, because they are able to renegotiate their relationship with art and reduce traumatic responses. There are a small handful of people who come in with a dislike of art and leave with the same perception, yet even for these patients, I think the process of trying something new is significant, and therefore, not contraindicated.
I like to read the energy of the room before assigning a theme or project in order to make appropriate modifications. For example, if I’m with a group of patients from Remuda Ranch, and I can tell that they’re feeling kind of frustrated about meals, or are having a hard morning, or are feeling rushed, I’ll think, “Okay, they just need to play today.” So, instead of asking them to take on a childhood trauma that day I may ask them to just pick their medium and topic of choice and see where it takes them.
At The Meadows, our patients are at a point in life where they need a full regime of therapies and approaches to combat their trauma and addiction problems. The Meadows Model is an important part of the work I do in the art room. I’m also a Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner and incorporate this viewpoint into my approach. I think it’s important to have an understanding of the core issues as well as how trauma impacts the physiology when working with any patient in any approach.
Expressive Arts Therapy is so fabulous because it can work with any type of treatment! Patients will often share their art projects with their primary group or in an individual trauma session. We work closely as a team at The Meadows and feed off the work each counselor is doing with a particular patient. For example, a patient may create artwork of a “safe place” in group with me, and then take that for use in their EMDR session. Expressive Arts Therapy also works well with the 12-step approach, as we can explore topics of acceptance, surrender, courage, and consequences of addiction.
Whether it’s Expressive Arts Therapy, Equine-Assisted Therapy, or 12-step, The Meadows programs can find the right combination to help you get on track and stay on track with your recovery. Call us today for more information. 800-244-4949
In the Murray Method, special emphasis is placed on the personal work of the health professional/student based on the belief that a therapist always must address his or her own issues first in order to be an effective clinician and a healthy role-model personally and professionally.
This workshop will provide behavioral health professionals with an introduction to The Murray Method and an integrated view of the effects of childhood trauma, abuse and deprivation on personality development.
The Murray Method is a theoretical model for understanding the effects of trauma, abuse and deprivation on individuals and families. The theory and treatment modalities will provide clinicians with basic concepts that will help them and their clients…
Sessions are conducted with time devoted to didactic instruction, experiential work, and small group participation each day.
The course will be conducted by Marilyn Murray, M.A., creator of The Murray Method.
CEUs will be available.
The workshops will be offered on the following dates in 2016:
For more details, call 800-244-4949. Our Intake Coordinators are happy to assist you between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. MST on weekdays, and from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. MST on weekends.
24.5 Continuing Education Credits or NBCC Clock Hours Available
The Meadows provides 24.5 continuing education credits from the following agencies:
The New Year symbolizes a time for fresh starts. Everyone is making resolutions to better themselves in the coming year, so it’s no surprise that many people decide to pursue sobriety. Starting a new year with the decision to find sobriety and heal lifelong wounds is a very courageous decision. Usually, though, simply making a resolution is not enough. This is true even with non-addicts. But the good news is, there are steps to take that can significantly aid in reaching and maintaining sobriety.
If you decide an inpatient program is the right decision for you, make sure that the program is designed to meet your individual needs and the needs of your family. Consider what will nurture your well-being. If being in a warm, peaceful environment and having sunshine is an important part of nurturing yourself, then consider The Meadows programs in Wickenburg, Arizona. We are nestled in the serene Sonoran desert, where many people feel that the clear, dry air has healing powers.
As the nation’s premier program for treating alcohol, drug and other addictive disorders for 40 years, our Meadows Model is the most clinically comprehensive and nurturing program available today.
There is no better time to begin your journey to sobriety than right now. Make this year your year of recovery. The treatment program at The Meadows can help you create an entire lifetime of peace and healing. To learn more about our programs, call us at 800-244-4949 or contact us here.
By Lynn Litschke, Chaplain/Spiritual Care Provider at The Meadows
‘Tis the season of celebration. The landscape of our everyday lives is transformed with the glow of candles, the jingle of bells, the fragrance of pine and spice, wrapping paper and ribbons, feasting and festivity. There is a touch of magic in the air.
Yet for those of us in recovery this can also be a difficult season fraught with triggers, painful memories, and feelings of being disconnected and flawed. In the midst of it all are opportunities to lean solidly into our spirituality and discover new understandings of ourselves and of the season.
This season of holidays originated as “holy” days set apart to commemorate and celebrate very special events. The stories and traditions surrounding these events are packed with spiritual meaning and messages that can be helpful to recovery from addictions and trauma.
Hanukkah reminds us that we can endure and that there can be victory in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. In the deepest places of despair, our needs can be met with surprising abundance by a Power greater than ourselves.
At Winter Solstice we can choose to enter into the longest, darkest night and, in the midst of our fear, discover hope in the eternally faithful return of the light at dawn.
On Christmas Eve we can reflect on the joy of discovering that Love can and does appear in the lowliest and most unexpected places. In a playful spirit, we can rejoice with the creative imagination of Dr. Seuss as he reminds us that even the grinchiest of bah-humbuggers can be transformed by child-like wonder and gratitude in the face of bitter disappointment.
In recovery, we set each day apart, one day at a time, to commemorate and celebrate the very special event of freedom from our addictions. Every day in recovery can be celebrated as a holy day and an opportunity to share the message of experience, strength, and hope.
In this season of celebration, consider the awe and wonder of a poor shepherd, cold and alone in the desert, when a bright light illuminates the darkness and an angel sings out, “Fear not. I want to give you a message of great hope and joy. Glad tidings!” Consider the awe and wonder of a broken, desperate, hurting individual sitting in the back row of their first 12-step meeting when an angel disguised as a simple human being opens a big, blue book and begins to read, “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path…” It is cause for great celebration.
Are you hoping to make a fresh start in the New Year? Or maybe take some additional steps along an already well-worn path of self-discovery, recovery, and healing? These books— and in some instances accompanying workshops—can help you identify and move beyond your emotional roadblocks.
Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence
By Alexandra Katehakis
Alexandra Katehakis is a Senior Fellow at The Meadows. Her philosophies and techniques for treating sex addiction and intimacy issues helps to inform our Gentle Path at The Meadows program. Her latest book, Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence contains a year’s worth of daily reflections that explores a rich array of approaches for supporting loving connection. It’s a great companion for those looking to stay grounded and cultivate real intimacy in their day-to-day lives.
The Body Keeps the Score
By Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
Dr. Bessel van der Kolk is leading researcher in the field of emotional trauma and is a Senior Fellow at The Meadows. His latest work, The Body Keeps the Score, has been described by reviewers as “a bold new paradigm for healing.” In the book, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain. He also discusses innovative treatments that can offer new paths to recovery and exposes the ways in which our relationships can both hurt and heal. He also offers new hope for those who wish to reclaim their lives.
A Man’s Way Through Relationships
By Dan Griffin
Dan Griffin, who joined The Meadows as a Senior Fellow in 2015, has written a useful guide to the challenges men face in creating healthy and engaging relationships. In it, he teaches men how to navigate the “Man Rules”—the often unconscious ideas men carry with them into their relationships that affect their ability to find true connection. He also offers practical advice and inspiration for men to define, with their partners, their own sense of masculinity, and heighten their potential to love and be loved. Dan will also be hosting the A Man’s Way™ Retreat at the Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows. The program is based on this book and A Man’s Way through the 12 Steps. Sessions will be offered in January, April, July and October. Check the webpage for more details or call 800-244-4949.
The Murray Method
By Marilyn Murray
After several years as a very successful art dealer and businesswoman in Scottsdale, Arizona, Marilyn Murray, M.A., sought treatment for severe depression. Her experience inspired her to return to college to study Psychology where she began developing her method for helping others heal from trauma, abuse and deprivation. Her book, The Murray Method, offers insights and a series of exercises to help readers begin processing their own trauma and move beyond their pain.
Marilyn will also teach a seminar on The Murray Method at The Meadows Outpatient Center staring in February. The four-day training session places special emphasis on the personal work of the health professional, based on the belief that a therapist always must address his or her own issues first in order to be an effective clinician; but, all are welcome to attend. For more information, visit The Meadows Outpatient Center website, or call 800-244-4949.
The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships
By Patrick Carnes
Exploitive relationships can create what Dr. Patrick Carnes, Senior Fellow at The Meadows and Gentle Path at The Meadows calls trauma bonds. Trauma bonds are chains that link a victim to someone who is dangerous to them. In The Betrayal Bond, Dr. Carnes presents an in-depth study of these relationships, why they form, who is most susceptible, and how they become so powerful and provides steps to safely extricate from these relationships.
This book is also the basis for The Betrayal Bond workshop offered at The Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows. Workshop participants will be guided through the process of breaking through denial, exploring the root causes on their involvement in destructive relationships, and more. More information, including upcoming dates, are available on the Rio Retreat Center website, or by calling 800-244-4949.
By Claudia Black, PhD
In Changing Course, Claudia Black, Meadows Senior Fellow and founder of the Claudia Black Young Adult Center, presents her healing model for adults whose lives are burdened by pain. She delves into the shame and abandonment many people carry with them, based on an early family life was either too chaotic or too rigid. She explains how chronic loss in childhood colors one’s world-view and determines their beliefs, feelings and behaviors— probably without their awareness. Readers of this book will walk away with a better understanding of how they can live life with no more roles, no more secrets, and a new way of being.
By Peter Levine
Researchers have shown that survivors of accidents, disaster, and childhood trauma often endure lifelong symptoms, ranging from anxiety and depression to unexplained physical pain, fatigue, illness, and harmful "acting out" behavior. In Healing Trauma The Meadows Senior Fellow Dr. Peter Levine to learn about using body awareness to "renegotiate" and heal traumas—to "revisit" rather than relive them; emergency "first-aid" measures for times of distress; nature's lessons—the physiological roots of your emotions; and much more.
Healing the Shame That Binds You
By John Bradshaw
In this book, Meadows Senior Fellow John Bradshaw explains how toxic shame is at the heart of our compulsions, codependencies, addictions, and drive to superachieve. These issues often result in the breakdown of the family system and in our inability to move forward with our lives. Drawing from his many years of experience as a counselor, he offers techniques to heal shame using affirmations, visualizations, “inner voice” and “feeling” work, plus guided meditations and other useful techniques to release the shame that binds us to our past.
By Pia Mellody
The theories that The Meadows Senior Fellow Pia Mellody presents in Facing Codependence are the same ones on which The Meadows treatment model is based. In it, Pia traces the origins of codependence back to childhood, and explores a range of emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical and sexual abuses and their particular effects on an individual in adulthood. She shows how, based on their early experiences, codependent adults often lack the skills necessary to lead mature lives and have satisfying relationships.