Thursday, May 26, 2016

OU Art Therapy Students create therapeutic murals at Bethesda

Bethesda unveils therapeutic murals

Bethesda recently celebrated new therapeutic murals for children healing from the trauma of sexual abuse. 

 Over the last five months, local artists and students from the University of Oklahoma worked to create therapeutic art murals at Bethesda, a nonprofit agency in Norman. The art murals were created in therapeutic group rooms that facilitate the growth and healing of children who have suffered the trauma of sexual abuse. 

On May 17, the Board of Directors of Bethesda and community supporters, like Von Allen of United Way of Norman, gathered to unveil the new therapeutic art murals. 

 “It only takes a second to see that the art has a therapeutic purpose,” said Travis Humphrey, executive director of Bethesda. “The murals become a resource to help our clients regain self esteem, learn healthy coping skills and process the abuse they have suffered.” 

 The murals were made possible through a grant provided by the Norman Arts Council. Bethesda provides essential therapeutic services to children who suffer from trauma caused by sexual abuse. “The demand for services continues to rise,” Humphrey said. “It is our goal to make sure all children can heal from the trauma of sexual abuse. The murals create an environment that facilitates healing for children.” 

 To learn more about Bethesda, visit

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Thursday, May 05, 2016

"Color Me Fearless" Makes Aspire Magazine's Top 10 Inspirational Books for May 2016!

I'm very honored that my and Angela's book "Color Me Fearless" made the Top 10 Inspiring Books for May 2016 in Aspire Magazine! Thank you Linda Joy, Publisher for including our book in ‪#‎AspireMag‬'s list with other women authors who are empowering others!

Top 10 Inspirational Books – May 2016

Welcome to this month’s Aspire Magazine Top 10 Inspirational Books list! You’ll discover inspirational and empowering books, written by women and for women, each dedicated to sharing a universal message of love, hope and self-empowerment. Through their wisdom-filled books, these visionary female authors are illuminating the path for women on the journey of healing and self-discovery. Add these transformational books to your inspired living resource library.

Color Me Fearless: Nearly 100 Coloring Templates to Boost Strength and Courage (A Zen Coloring Book)

by Lacy Mucklow

The perfect book for stressed-out adults who want to reconnect, simply and easily, with their inner creativity. Color Me Fearless is a guided coloring book for adults coping with their own daily fears. Art therapist Lacy Mucklow and artist Angela Porter offer up 100 coloring templates, all designed to boost strength, courage, and confidence. Organized into seven therapeutically themed chapters, readers can explore the benefits of putting pencil (or crayon!) to paper and channel their day-to-day stresses into a satisfying, creative environment. Color Me Fearless is the perfect way step back from the fears of everyday life, color, and relax!


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Monday, May 02, 2016

Why adults coloring books are the latest trend

Why adult coloring books are the latest trend

Dee Ledger can remember exactly when she found solace, if not salvation, after the death of her 10-week-old son. It is where she found it, and how, that surprised her: in a coloring book.  Ledger, a former English teacher and hospice chaplain, had always been able to use words and prayer to find peace in difficult times and to help others do the same. But after her son died in April 2011, she needed something more, something different, to calm her nerves and help soothe her grief. “I was looking for something quiet that could get rid of this restlessness,” she says, to help quell the churning thoughts that made it hard for her to focus or sleep.  Back then, coloring books weren’t the phenomenon they are today. Ledger found hers in a spiritual catalogue.

Now, of course, adult coloring books are ubiquitous, crowding bookstores and bestseller lists. Coloring-book groups have sprouted up everywhere — in libraries and cafes, on Facebook and Instagram.

In 2015, an estimated 12 million adult coloring books were sold in the United States, according to Nielsen Bookscan. There are adult coloring books for hipsters, “Dr. Who” fans, cat lovers, Taylor Swift devotees, and admirers of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — pretty much anyone with a niche interest and a need to relax. In other words, everyone.

“It’s easy to pooh-pooh coloring books as just another fad,” Ledger says. But maybe, she says, we shouldn’t be so dismissive: “Anything can be a fad, even prayer.”  For Ledger and others, coloring books offer a real elixir, a way of getting past hurdles — mental, physical or both — that can’t be replicated by more-traditional approaches.

Joanne Schwandes, a 67-year-old Silver Spring resident, says that coloring books have boosted her confidence in fine motor skills weakened by a tremor in her arm. A Virginia mother says that coloring has helped her stay calm in the face of her son’s violent behavior. On one Facebook coloring group, members share their creations along with their stories of healing — using coloring as a tool against self-harming or as a way to manage the effects of physical illness or fend off depression and other difficulties.

Coloring books work like other mindfulness techniques such as yoga and meditation, says Craig Sawchuk, a clinical psychologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Such approaches work “almost like a volume knob to turn down the sympathetic nervous system, the stress response.” Coloring can help slow down heart rate and respiration, loosen muscles and stimulate the brain, he says. Coloring has a “grounding effect” he says, a benefit that can be amplified with deliberate focus on the process — “the gentle pressing of the crayon or pencil on the page, the texture of the paper across your hand, and the soft sounds of the coloring instrument moving back and forth in a rhythmic fashion,” he says.

Using coloring books to help relieve stress “is like learning a new habit,” says Sawchuk. “New habits are best learned when you set aside routine time each day to focus,” he says.

Although there have been no large clinical studies of coloring books, the benefits of coloring are comparable to those of mindfulness practices, he says, which have been studied. And coloring can help with more-severe problems beyond stress; Sawchuk spoke about one patient who used coloring books to stop an obsessive habit of pickiSawchukng at her skin.

Indeed, art therapists have been using coloring books for years. “There’s a self-soothing meditative benefit because you are doing the same motion over and over, especially with symmetrical drawings,” says Lina Assad Cates, a psychotherapist and board-certified art therapist in the District who uses coloring books as part of her practice. “The books help create boundaries — the literal boundaries of the lines and the metaphorical boundaries for drawing healthy boundaries in relationships. There’s also the potential benefit of just mastering something you’ve created.”

This reflects Ledger’s experience. “As a pastor, I am fascinated by how easily coloring becomes meditative,” she says. “By selecting colors and working with the design, I find that I can lose myself in ways that are healing and creative.”

Ledger, who lost her husband to cancer in 2013, less than a year after giving birth to twins, spends about three hours a week coloring, mostly at night, when her children are asleep and she can sit quietly in the kitchen of her Rockville home and gather her thoughts. (Her sons, Griffin and Eli, have their own coloring books.)

Now pastor at Bethesda United Church of Christ, Ledger approaches her hobby with a mix of pride and self-deprecating humor. “I’m not an artist,” she says as she spreads out her works on her bed. Some she keeps in a hardback binder, others in a small journal that fits in her purse. In a small office carved out of a second bedroom, her pencils and markers are neatly organized in plastic containers that once held Cascade detergent.

Ledger, 46, has colored her way not only through grief but also through physical pain. When she had back surgery a few years ago, she asked the doctors to make sure that the intravenous lines were in her right arm so that she could use her left, her coloring arm, as soon as she was awake. “I literally colored in the recovery room at the hospital,” she says.

Still, she understands that coloring is neither a panacea nor for everyone. “If someone was grieving, I wouldn’t just pay a visit on them and say, ‘You should color, and that would take your grief away,’ ” she explains. “I don’t believe that.” But coloring has given her a sense of power in a life that has spun wildly off plan.

“Being able to sit there and actually control that little world” inside a coloring book has been “really instrumental in my starting a new chapter of my life,” she says. “I don’t know if you ever fully heal from loss and trauma. But coloring has definitely helped me start a new life again.”


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bust out the Crayons: This New Adult Coloring Book Wants to Send You to Sleep

Here is an article I was interviewed for at about my latest coloring book, "Color Me to Sleep," since this magazine focuses on sleep-oriented information.

It happened suddenly, didn’t it? One day we were staring at a rather unextraordinary bestseller list and the next we were seeing adult coloring books amongst the James Pattersons and Jojo Moyes’ of the world. Now, the eyebrow-raising pastime that launched 1,000 thinkpieces, is a full-blown movement that shows no signs of slowing — as of this writing, two of the top five bestsellers on Amazon are adult coloring books. You can work your Crayolas to nubs coloring everything from bible verses and sea creatures to many, many books about swear words, all in the name of stress relief.

Today, Lacy Mucklow and Angela Porter, the prolific duo behind such bestsellers as “Color Me Calm” and “Color Me Happy” have released “Color Me to Sleep,” the first such adult coloring book designed to help readers wind down and achieve a good night’s rest. We spoke to Mucklow, an art therapist, about the coloring trend and why, exactly, scratching out a picture of an owl might make someone sleep better.

Why do you think adult coloring books are having such a moment right now?

Coloring books for adults have been around for years on a small scale, but I think the coloring books started becoming really popular about a year or two ago. Apparently, the trend really started to swell in France, and then started spreading around the global market My theory is that we’re more digitally minded than ever. A few years ago, owning a smartphone wasn’t an expected fact of life. Coloring books (along with board games and puzzles) are popular right now because it’s an interactive activity that doesn’t require a screen. At the same time, social media makes it easy to share your finished work.

Coloring helps tune out the chatter of the day by focusing the mind on a single activity.

On top of that, coloring gives each person the freedom to be creative and escape the stressors of the everyday. We see the joy and excitement that children have when they color a book with cartoon characters that they love, and we tend to get away from doing things like that when we’re adults. I also think that adults are interested in the books because it is an effective and innovative way to bond with people across generations. People have told me that coloring books have connected them with other adults, their children and their own, older parents. It’s nice to be able to put your phone away and enjoy down time with a shared experience.

Courtesy of Quarto Publishing

How is this book different than other coloring books for calmness? What makes it sleep-focused?

The templates of “Color Me to Sleep” center on the things that exemplify a good sleep: comfortable beds, cozy linens, warm beverages and fireplaces, starry skies, hot baths and whimsical fantasies. This helps colorers visualize positive sleep experiences for themselves. The patterns and shapes encourage people create a restful space, and the images infuse that space with a sleepy mentality.

What types of shapes and patterns promote a restful calm mind?

When it comes to relaxing, one of the most useful designs is the mandala. Cultures around the world use the mandala to guide meditation, and they were popularized in the west by Carl Jung after he included them in his theory of symbols and drew a mandala every day himself. Mandalas are highly symmetrical and emphasize circles, so they allow for creativity but also provide the guidance that people need to get going. Patterns found in nature make people feel comfortable, because they’re familiar. The Fibonacci sequence, for instance, appears on everything from seashells to pinecones and sunflowers. Fractals patterns, which you can see on snowflakes and ferns, can induce a meditative state through their repetition.

The Mandala_Colormetosleep
The Mandala featured in "Color Me to Sleep", Courtesy of Quarto Publishing

How do you think performing an activity like coloring prepare someone to go to sleep?

Coloring helps tune out the chatter of the day by focusing the mind on a single activity. The repetitive motion and detailed designs help induce a meditative state for most adults and allows them to tune the world out for a little while as they focus. Coloring engages the amygdala, the “fight- or-flight” part of the brain, and gives it permission to let its guard down.

The patterns and shapes encourage people create a restful space, and the images infuse that space with a sleepy mentality.

Are there any particular colors you recommend using for a good night's sleep?

A person’s color choice can even affect their mood, and every color has its own “energy” that can calm someone down or excite them. Though it varies by culture, cooler colors tend to reduce energy, while warmer colors tend to increase energy. Bright colors tend to bring more intense feelings, while pastel or darker colors communicate softer energy. So for winding down for a good night's sleep, cooler, darker, and pastel colors are likely to be the most effective. However, the most important thing when coloring is to figure out which colors you find pleasant and soothing and then incorporate them into your palate.

Courtesy of Quarto Publishing

Did you design the templates to be monotonous, in hopes of lulling colorers to sleep?

The repetitive designs of a mandala can be lulling to some people, but we also include many scenic and representational pictures that show a variety of different designs. The idea of the book isn’t to bore people to the point of passing out, but to help them put aside their stressors and encourage thoughts of restfulness and comfort.

Would it be wise for parents to incorporate coloring into their child's bedtime routine?

This is absolutely something that can be incorporated into a nighttime routine with children. Though "Color Me to Sleep" in particular may be more advanced for some children to use themselves, parents can use it to color with their children in their own coloring books as to wind down for the evening together. Many children actually prefer to color before bed rather than hear a bedtime story. It is definitely a method worth exploring its effectiveness for a better night's sleep.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

How Coloring Can Help You Sleep Better

Here is an article by Alanna McGinn, a sleep consultant who also wrote the afterword in my book "Color Me to Sleep."  She discusses how coloring can help people sleep, and about good sleep hygiene in general.

Alanna McGinn Headshot
Pediatric and Adult Sleep Consultant

How Colouring Can Help You Sleep Better

             Posted: Updated:     

Colouring has always been a fun activity for children and recently adult colouring has become mom and dad's new pastime, especially at bedtime. Good Night Sleep Site has been a strong supporter of introducing adult colouring at bedtime to calm and quiet the mind, so when I was asked to write the afterword for the latest in Lacy Mucklow and Angela Porter's Color Me To series - Color Me To Sleep -- not only was I completely honoured but I couldn't think of a better match.

It can be hard to find an activity that can calm our minds and remove us from the chaos of our usual day. Colouring allows us to do this and it's also just so darn fun! Family colouring is a perfect addition to our #BringBackBedtime initiative and if colouring is a hobby you want to start but are having a difficult time fitting it into your day I'm here to tell you there is no better time than at bedtime.

Forget The Usual Story Time and Bring Out the Crayons
Are you tired of hearing the same response over and over again when you ask your child how their day was? "It was fine." "School was good." If you want to start opening the communication between you and your child start at bedtime and colouring will give you the perfect backdrop to ask those open ended questions that will strengthen the attachment that you want with your child. While we don't want to overlook the importance of literacy, exchange story time 2 nights a week with colouring. Mom or dad can grab their own colouring book and colour along side your little one and start talking. Ask the questions or create your own bedtime stories with the pictures you're colouring, and enjoy 30 minutes of quality time with one another.

Turn Off The TV and Sharpen Your Pencils
If you are struggling to fall asleep at night because your mind won't slow down, colouring during your bedtime routine is perfectly calming and a great way to practice mindfulness, which can aid in helping you fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer. Replace your tablet and remote control with your colouring book on your night table and incorporate this relaxing hobby during your bedtime routine. While this may not suit all partners, why not colour along side each other before you go to bed. It will encourage you to start going to bed at the same time each night and open communication between one another, which can be hard to do while you're in the throes of your usual day-to-day routine.

Can't Sleep? Get Out of Bed and Colour
An important step when treating insomnia with my clients is encouraging them to get out of bed when they are having difficulty falling back to sleep at night. Tossing and turning because you can't fall back to sleep when waking in the middle of the night is only going to heighten your anxiety and stress. It's okay to get out of bed for 15 to 30 minutes and then try again. What's important is to find the best activity when getting out of bed that can encourage the relaxing and calming environment you need to help you fall back to sleep. Checking your emails, surfing the internet, or watching TV can be replaced by simply colouring. It's best to set up your colouring station before you go to bed so that everything is prepared and waiting for you if you need it throughout the night.

Purchase Color Me To Sleep and receive 35% off using code COLORME35 here.

Follow Alanna McGinn at Good Night Sleep Site, Facebook, and Instagram for more family sleep tips.

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Friday, August 07, 2015

Experts Warn Adult Coloring Books Are Not Art Therapy

As an art therapist and author of adult coloring books, I anticipated this subject being broached at some point, especially since some coloring books are titles with "Art Therapy" in their name.  Coloring most definitely has its benefits, in allowing people to de-stress and calm themselves in an easily accessible manner.  But as I have made clear in many interviews, coloring is good for everyday maintenance, but it is not clinical art therapy and is not a substitute for professional help when needed.


 Sarah Cascone, Friday, August 7, 2015

An adult coloring book. Photo: Passion for Pencils, YouTube screenshot.
An adult coloring book. 
Photo: Passion for Pencils, YouTube screenshot.

Experts are questioning the therapeutic benefits of adult coloring books, one of 2015's biggest and perhaps most-unexpected art trends, widely touted for its stress-relieving benefits.

According to Jo Kelly, president the Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association, however, adult coloring books are no replacement for an in-the-flesh art therapist.

"An arts therapist is a qualified, trained individual who helps people and uses creative processes," insisted Kelly to ABC. She admits that by encouraging people to set time aside for their own enjoyment, adult coloring books have their benefits, "but to sort of suggest that it's a sort of creative art expression, you're actually using other people's designs—why not make your own?"

Color Me Stress Free. Photo: courtesy Race Point Publishing.
Color Me Stress Free. 
Photo: courtesy Race Point Publishing.

Publisher's Weekly traces the current popularity of coloring books for adults back to 2012, when Art-thérapie: 100 Coloriages anti-stress, by Hachette Pratique, was published in France. The first book to really hit the mainstream, however, was Johanna Basford's Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt & Coloring Book, currently Amazon's number one best-seller in self-help books.

The follow-up from the so-called "queen of coloring," Enchanted Forest, was released in February, and a third volume, Lost Ocean, is slated for an October release. Even fantasy author George R.R. Martin is getting in on the action, with plans to release a Game of Thrones coloring book.

"We've never seen a phenomenon like it in our thirty years of publishing. . . . Just can't keep them in print fast enough," Lesley O'Mara, the managing director Michael O'Mara Books, which has no less than 24 adult coloring book titles, told the New Yorker.

An illustration from Johanna Basford's Enchanted Forest. Photo: Johanna Basford.
An illustration from Johanna Basford's Enchanted Forest. 
Photo: Johanna Basford.

The San Jose Mercury News recently counted coloring books as part of an "ever-growing list of kid things co-opted by adults (video games, mini golf, Legos, Pez dispensers)," but adult coloring books are often marketed based on their therapeutic value.

There is Color Therapy: An Anti-Stress Coloring Book, and Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns, Amazon's top seller in Graphic Design Color Use. The Zen Coloring Book series, which includes Color Me Happy and Color Me Calm, is actually authored by art therapist Lacy Mucklow, with art by Angela Porter.

"We imagined the books would appeal to adults looking to relax. But we never expected the responses we've received from people battling serious medical conditions," editorial director Jeannine Dillon told PW of the Zen series, which sold over 275,000 copies over just six months this year.

Susanne Fincher, art therapist and author of the Coloring Mandalas series, sees coloring books as a useful supplement to art therapy treatment. They "can empower a client to manage thoughts and feelings on their own with the positive activity of coloring, instead of, for example, overeating or abusing substances," she said to CNN.

Coloring a postcard by adult coloring book queen Johanna Basford. Photo: Susan Tripp Pollard, courtesy Bay Area News Group.
Coloring a postcard by adult coloring book queen Johanna Basford. 
Photo: Susan Tripp Pollard, courtesy Bay Area News Group.

The PTSD Survivors of America, in particular, have embraced the trend, hosting a nationwide "Color Across America for PTSD Awareness" event on August 2, National Coloring Book Day.

Erin Maynard, the organization's president, credits coloring books with counteracting the hyperactivity of the region of the brain called the amygdala, which controls the fear response. "Coloring actually reduces the activity of the amygdala, so that's part of the reason that it helps calm you down," she told the Lancaster Bee.

"Adult coloring is absolutely a growing trend and consumers are really taking to the idea," Matthew Lore, of the Experiment publishing group, which released The Mindfulness Colouring Book in January, said to CNN. "Not only is it calming and good for your health, it's just fun!"

But how much can coloring books really do for your mental well-being?

"It's a nice technique really that some art therapists sometimes use as a way to get started with someone, but art therapy is a lot more involved than that," Jane O'Sullivan, who runs the masters in mental health program at the University of Queensland warned ABC. "I think if someone was to say coloring-in books are art therapy, [that] is not accurate."

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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Carl Jung’s Psychological Diagnosis Using Mandalas

Mandalas have been used in many ancient cultures like Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American, Australian Aboriginal as a symbol of the universe and wholeness. Literally speaking, mandala is a geometrical form – a square or a circle – abstract and static, or a vivid image formed of objects and/or beings. It’s a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our connection with the infinite. 

Interestingly, Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, explored the psychological effects of mandalas, while studying Eastern religion. He is credited with introducing the Eastern concept of the mandala to Western thought and believed its symbolic of the inner process by which individuals grow toward fulfilling their potential for wholeness. 

According to Jung, “In such cases it is easy to see how the severe pattern imposed by a circular image of this kind compensates the disorder of the psychic state– namely through the construction of a central point to which everything is related, or by a concentric arrangement of the disordered multiplicity and of contradictory and irreconcilable elements. This is evidently an attempt at self-healing on the part of Nature, which does not spring from conscious reflection but from an instinctive impulse.” 

Jung used mandalas in his psychotherapy by getting patients, who had no knowledge of it, to create individual mandalas. This enabled him to identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness in personality. 

He realised there was a great deal of similarity in the images they created. “In view of the fact that all the mandalas shown here were new and uninfluenced products, we are driven to the conclusion that there must be a transconscious disposition in every individual which is able to produce the same or very similar symbols at all times and in all places. Since this disposition is usually not a conscious possession of the individual I have called it the collective unconscious, and, as the basis of its symbolical products, I postulate the existence of primordial images, the archetypes.” 

Mandala is like a design that triggers something within us, a sacred geometry in which we recognise our self and our place in the cosmos. It is an ancient and fundamental relationship from which we have strayed and the mandala is the key that can help us return to it. Especially, when the inner self is challenged by ego, harmony has to be restored. During such times, mandalas can guide you to listen to the inner voice and find yourself. Like Jung stated, “It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center, to individuation.” 

Image source Jung currents Jung and the Mandalas

Mandalas represent connection with the infinite 

carl jung first mandala 
Carl Jung’s first Mandala

Read more at: |
 Carl Jung's First Mandala

carl jung used mandalas to treat his patients

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Sunday, August 02, 2015

Happy National Coloring Day!

By Amy Kuperinsky | NJ Advance Media for
 Email the author | Follow on Twitter
 on July 31, 2015 at 10:08 AM, updated July 31, 2015 at 11:39 AM

Good news for those who grew up with elementary amusements like crayons and coloring books — you know, instead of digital doohickies like tablets and smartphones. They're ba-ack.

Just in time for the first National Coloring Book Day on August 2, coloring for adults is not only acceptable — it's trendy. Funnily enough, to those who spend most days "staying inside the lines" at work, coloring (inside the lines, or out) has proven a welcome escape.

Zen Coloring Books' 'Color Me Happy.' (Race Point Publishing) 

Though a pretty page may be the ultimate prize, the value of coloring can be found in the process itself. Many adult colorers, who are buying up these books in New Jersey and across the country, vouch for the power of the creative ritual to distract from daily stress and electronic overload.

"I view coloring as a simplified version of art therapy, almost as like a meditative behavior," says Francine Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist in Parsippany.

Of course, coloring books are historically associated with crayon-carrying children filling in pages adorned with images of their favorite cartoon characters. But Rosenberg says coloring can legitimately function as an "active" form of meditation, one that involves a physical activity, like origami or yoga.

"You're focusing on this one thing and the rest of the world starts to melt away," she says.

Since 2012, more than 3 million coloring books have been sold from Creative Haven, a line from Dover Publications, the company sponsoring the coloring book day.

Dover, a company based in Mineola, N.Y., published "Antique Automobiles Coloring Book," its first book for adults and more experienced artists, in 1970. Today, its Creative Haven collection, part of a stable of 150 coloring books, includes edgier picks like "Steampunk Designs" and "Modern Tattoo Designs." In 2014, the company published a Grumpy Cat coloring book. The tagline: "Color outside the lines? Good."

There are also classic themes like flowers and geometric shapes. Some of the pages are printed on translucent paper vellum, to mimic the look of stained glass when held up to a window. Pages are "perfed out," meaning they can easily be torn out for display, or printed on one side only, on heavier stock than the grainy coloring books of yore, says Ken Katzman, Dover's vice president of marketing.

While coloring can be a very solo activity, it can also work very well with social media — and socializing in general.

"We have thousands of people in the coloring community," Katzman says. They use hashtags to share their work on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, as well as meet in person.

"People get together to do coloring in the way they do book clubs," he says. The sense of camaraderie in following an art directive parallels other trendy stress killers, like paint and sip studios where friends and family meet for wine and easels.

Since coloring can be such a universal activity, the range of adult colorers varies. A college student looking to unwind during final exams. A hospital patient in rehab trying to strengthen motor skills. A 9-to-5'er pouring a glass of wine after work.

People would like to be creative and they just don't know how to go about it. The work of Susan Bloomenstein, a graphic artist from Englewood, can be seen in both Creative Haven and Dover coloring books.

"I like visualizing what people can do with them," she says. She says she's noticed the surge in the popularity of the books, both on Pinterest and Instagram, where people post their finished pages, and through fan mail.

Bloomenstein says she's been wowed by how those who use her designs transform them completely, simply through the use of color and shading. All they needed was a pattern.  "People would like to be creative and they just don't know how to go about it," she says.

As for the relaxation potential of coloring, the actual idea of de-stressing is the theme of some coloring books.

One selection from Art Therapy transports its audience to an "enchanted forest," while another uses Buddha himself to guide you to artistic nirvana. Mandalas — designs of Hindu and Buddhist tradition that symbolize the universe and act as meditation aids — are a hot theme for coloring books, too. Zen-brand coloring books have titles like "Color Me Happy" and "Color Me Calm," boasting 100 pages of therapeutic scenes.

"Just on Monday, I went to see a patient in the waiting room and there she was, just coloring in a coloring book," says Francine Rosenberg, psychologist at the Morris Psychological Group in Parsippany.

That particular patient said coloring helped allay her anxiety, but Rosenberg sees the practice as a helpful tool in any effort to relax.

A Buddhism-themed coloring book from Art Therapy. (Jacqui Small LLP) 

Plus, it doesn't hurt that coloring, a mainstay of childhood, may conjure memories of more carefree times, Rosenberg says. Memories potent enough to power a wave of creative nostalgia.

"In the last six months, it's just exploded," says Lizzie Auer, a category buyer at Chicago-based Blick Art Materials.

"The number of adult coloring books that are out there right now has increased, like, tenfold. We're in the process of adding a lot right now."

For both hobbyists and more advanced artists, with adult coloring books, the more intricate the designs, the better, she says.

Katzman, from Dover Publications, says the popularity of adult coloring books spurred the company's addition of a line of Spark coloring books for children.

"Within the past few months we've been getting a lot of people coming in asking for coloring books," adds Philip D'Martino, a store associate at Blick's retail outlet in Paramus. "It started around Christmas time."

Auer says it probably helps that more adults are learning that it's socially permissible to color, and not just in idle doodle time, but on purpose, and for coloring's sake.

"Maybe they're less embarrassed about doing it," she says.

Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup. Find Entertainment on Facebook.

Click below to download these coloring book pages


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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Iron Maiden Vocalist Engages in Music Therapy with Special Needs Children

You may have heard of Nordoff Robbins, a well-known music non-profit providing music therapy throughout the UK, and you may have heard of Bruce Dickinson, the singer for the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden. The two partnered for a day of music therapy together, with Bruce sharing his musical knowledge with clients.

IRON MAIDEN's BRUCE DICKINSON Takes Part In Music Therapy Session With Special Needs Children

IRON MAIDEN singer Bruce Dickinson visited music charity Nordoff Robbins's London, England centre on June 22 to celebrate Music Therapy Week. 

 The Nordoff Robbins London Centre in Kentish Town is the world's largest dedicated music therapy centre. It aims to offer a broad range of music therapy and music services to meet the needs of as many different people in as many different circumstances as possible. Ir provides specialist piano, keyboard, singing and songwriting lessons for people with a disability, illness, emotional difficulties or other challenges; music groups for babies, toddlers and their parents; singing groups for children with autism and adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung conditions. 

During his visit, Bruce took part in a music therapy session with children from the Richard Cloudesley School, a special needs school in London, who have been bringing their children to Nordoff Robbins for music therapy for over 20 years. Bruce said: "I've always thought that music therapy makes sense, because music is a universal language, and it crosses every border, every disability. People just like making a racket and it's very fulfilling, especially if you can make a good racket with somebody. It's sharing, it's communicating, but it doesn't have to be in words." A short film about Bruce's visit to Nordoff Robbins's London, England centre can be seen above. 

 On July 3, IRON MAIDEN will be awarded the prestigious O2 Silver Clef by Nordoff Robbins in recognition of "outstanding contribution to U.K. music." Previous winners include THE ROLLING STONES, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, PINK FLOYD, GENESIS and QUEEN; last year's Silver Clef winner was Jimmy Page. Dickinson was recently given the all-clear after being diagnosed with a tumor on his tongue late last year. 

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Color Me Calm is #6 on Trade Paperback List!

Best-Selling U.S. Books

For the week ended June 14, compiled by Nielsen BookScan © 2015 the Nielsen Co.


1. Grey E.L. James. Vintage $16
2. The Martian Andy Weir. Broadway. $15
3. American Sniper (movie tie-in) Chris Kyle. Morrow. $16
4. I Am Malala Malala Yousafzai. LB/Back Bay. $16
5. Hope to Die James Patterson. Grand Central. $16
6. Color Me Calm Lacy Mucklow and Angela Porter (illus.). Quarto/Race Point. $17
7. Leaving Time Jodi Picoult. Ballantine. $16
8. The Goldfinch Donna Tartt. LB/Back Bay. $20
9. The Vacationers Emma Straub. $16
10. Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel. Vintage. $16


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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Art Therapy for Chronic Illness

Many thanks to our guest writer Leslie Vandever from Healthline for this insightful article on the helpfulness of art therapy, and in particular coloring, as a way of managing and coping with chronic illness. 

Art Therapy for Chronic Illness

By Leslie Vandever
Art therapy is a form of mental health therapy--administered by certified art therapists--that includes the visual arts, like painting or sculpting. Art psychotherapists use it to help their disabled clients “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,” according to the American Art Therapy Association.
But recently, art therapy’s popularity has skyrocketed outside the clinical setting. Although the classification “art therapy” is debatable, many of today’s busy, stressed adults of all ages use a specific form of art therapy as a way to disconnect from today’s always-on, demanding, screen-centric, go-go-go world and just relax.
I’m one of them. I’ve joined many of my peers in adopting a beloved pastime of young children the world over: coloring. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But instead of coloring simple line drawings with crayons like we did as kids, we color complex, intricate drawings using colored pencils, gel pens, or even paints. Those of us who are more artistically inclined create our own, original drawings to color; all of them require thought and various levels of concentration. The idea is to spark long-dormant creativity and to savor the simple joy of doing something fun just because you can.
It’s only frivolous if you think constant, unrelieved stress is beneficial.
But I’m not a “healthy” adult. My stress starts in my body, not in my mind: a painful, incurable, chronic illness causes it: autoimmune rheumatoid disease (arthritis). According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “as of 2012 [in the US], about half of all adults—117 million people—had one or more chronic health conditions.
One of four adults had two or more chronic health conditions.” Can “art therapy” help people with chronic illnesses, too? Yes! I know first-hand that creating art helps me cope with my disease. I believe it can help others, too.
Chronic illness (defined as any long-lasting illness that can be controlled but not cured) and chronic pain (persistent pain that lasts weeks to years) can cause devastating feelings of isolation; loss of self-esteem; constant, unrelieved stress; and depression. They include such incurable or intractable conditions as cancer, the rheumatic diseases, and neurological illnesses such as neuropathy or complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
I’ve had rheumatoid disease (RD) for almost 29 years. It causes frequent, often severe and disabling pain, fatigue, and malaise. But art therapy works as a sure-fire form of relaxation and stress relief for me. When I’m creating and coloring one of those intricate pictures (yes, I was an artist in another life) my mind is not on my disease.
Now, make no mistake: pain and illness that never really goes away is exceedingly difficult to ignore. It creeps into everything you do, affecting every aspect of your life. It’s no wonder that chronic pain and illness often goes hand-in-hand with terrible, disabling depression.
But when the mind is distracted from pain and worry, and focused on something pleasant, like creating art (and yes, coloring pictures is creating art), an amazing thing happens. It rests, cradled in a benign activity that soothes, comforts, and conjures up feelings of satisfaction, comfort, and yes, joy. The science behind it? Coloring uses both sides of the brain and relaxes the amygdala, the primitive, fight-or-flight center of the brain. It also stimulates the release of feel-good hormones and chemicals like endorphins and serotonin. While I color, my mind relaxes--and I rest.
I can’t always practice my therapy. Sometimes, my RD affects my wrists and hands, making it too painful to press colored pencils to paper. At those times, I turn to other forms of distraction: music I love, a good book, a good movie--or all three.
Whatever you want to call it--art therapy, distraction, or just having fun--coloring and other forms of creating visual art are good for everyone.
Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with 30 years of experience. She lives in Northern California.


● About Art Therapy. (n.d.) American Art Therapy Association. Retrieved on June 14, 2015 from
● What is Art Therapy? (2013) Art Therapy Without Borders. Retrieved on June 15, 2015 from
● Chronic Disease Overview. (2015, May 18) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on June 14, 2015 from
● Art Therapy. (n.d.) Retrieved on June 15, 2015 from

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Adult Coloring Books Topping Bestseller Lists


Atop the Amazon bestselling books list this month sat an unexpected title: "Secret Garden." It wasn't Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1911 novel about a sour little girl's magical place, making a book club comeback. It was a similarly named coloring book that adults were buying, for themselves, and it wasn't the only one in the top 10. 

Johanna Basford's "Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt & Coloring Book" (now at No. 3 on Amazon) along with her second effort, "Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book" (No. 6); "Balance (Angie's Extreme Stress Menders Volume 1)" by Angie Grace (No. 9); and "The Mindfulness Colouring Book: Anti-stress Art Therapy for Busy People" by Emma Farrarons (No. 8 on Amazon UK) are selling at a rapid clip. 

Though they can be used by kids, these and other new coloring book titles are being marketed to stressed-out, work-addled adults, who want to benefit from the quiet zen that a coloring session can bring. 

"Adult coloring is absolutely a growing trend and consumers are really taking to the idea," Farrarons' U.S. publisher, Matthew Lore of The Experiment publishing group, wrote in an email. "Not only is it calming and good for your health, it's just fun! The demand is increasing exponentially as the word spreads." 

While Farrarons and Basford are based in the UK, the concept is taking off in the U.S. too, with the publication of titles like Virginia-based art therapist Lacy Mucklow and illustrator Angela Porter's "Color Me Calm" and "Color Me Happy," created for the minds and motor skills of Mom and Dad, not the kids. The trend doesn't seem to be letting up. Basford is working on a third title, Farrarons has been commissioned for a second book, and Mucklow and Porter will release "Color Me Stress-Free" in September. 

Adults have long used crafts to unwind, but why coloring books? Why now? It may have something to do with online access -- and, funnily enough, the desire to unplug. Ordering a coloring book that suits adult tastes online is easier than walking into a bookstore where the only options have Barbie or Thomas the Tank Engine themes. Plus, everyone's favorite online crafting hub, Pinterest, is a treasure trove of adult coloring pages, with themes ranging from nature and animals to classic paintings. Meanwhile, like children, adults need a break from screen time -- and many are rediscovering the analog pleasures of coloring inside the lines. "I'm a grown-up, but I still love coloring books," novelist Matt Cain proclaimed in a piece for The Guardian. "If I switch off the phone, computer and TV and concentrate solely on choosing the right shade of blue, avoiding going over the lines and slowly filling up my page with colour, all my other concerns, I've discovered, fade to nothing," Cain wrote. 

The therapeutic benefits of art are nothing new; it's a concept that practitioners use with patients of all ages. Atlanta-based art therapist Susanne Fincher, who has published several coloring books, said coloring can lift the mood, reduce anxiety and relieve stress. "Art making is a powerful intervention," Fincher wrote in an email. "Neuroscientific research has shown that through the use of art therapy, the human brain can physically change, grow, and rejuvenate." True art therapy, she warned, should be administered only by a qualified professional. 

Mindfulness and meditative coloring are recurring themes in the growing adult coloring book industry. A search for "adult coloring books" on Amazon or Barnes and Noble will yield several books of mandalas, a ritual symbol in Buddhism and Hinduism that represents the universe, waiting to be colored in. 

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The National Initiative for Arts and Health in the Military - Third National Summit at NIH

I was privileged to be invited to attend this summit about expressive therapies with the military, held at NIH at the end of February.  We heard about how helpful the arts therapies are with the military populations in all kinds of settings, including art therapy, music therapy, and poetry therapy.  There was agreement that these therapies need to be at the forefront of service members' treatment, but the largest obstacle is implementation.

Third National Summit: Advancing Research in the Arts for Health and Well-being Across the Military Continuum 

(on left) Melissa Walker, MA, ATR, Art Therapist/Healing Arts Program Coordinator at National Intrepid Center of Excellence, with the cover of National Geographic Magazine’s February, 2015 issue, featuring her work (and pictured with Donna Betts, PhD, ATR-BC, AATA President-Elect). 

PRESS RELEASE Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 1:50pm

March 11, 2015 /3BL Media/ - American Art Therapy Association delegates and art therapists who work with military service members proudly represented the art therapy profession at this recent event in Washington, DC. The National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military advances the arts in healthcare for veterans, service members, their families, and caregivers. The Summit is sponsored by Americans for the Arts and hosted by the NIH National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts. The day-long program examined the critical research needs impacting veterans, military service members, and their families in promoting health and well-being from pre-deployment to reintegration. 

 Centered on the evidence base addressing efficacy of the creative arts therapies in treating service members and veterans, presentations emphasized topics delineated in the NIAHM White Paper and Blueprint for Action. Dr. Donna Betts, ATR-BC, AATA President-Elect and George Washington University art therapy professor, co-conducted an engaging break-out session on “Arts-Based Research and Innovative Tools across Military/Veterans Settings.” This panel and discussion presented innovative programs designed to support military service members and veterans. Betts discussed her research with The Warrior Stories Platform, a Department of Defense DARPA-funded project that incorporates graphic novel authoring in computer format, integrated into art therapy clinical treatment planning for veterans with PTSD. Discussion focused on how such projects can inform practice and research and support collaborations across military treatment facilities and VA clinical settings. 

 Cynthia Woodruff, AATA’s Executive Director, was proud to be in the company of art therapists dedicated to serving our military service members, including Melissa Walker (NICoE), Jackie Biggs (Fort Belvoir), Rosemarie Rogers (VA Hudson Valley), Laura Spinelli (VA Connecticut Healthcare), and Rebekah Wiggins (Charles George VA Medical Center). The AATA successfully represented the profession of art therapy at this important event, which clearly signifies increasing public awareness of credentialed and board-certified art therapists as uniquely equipped to treat the mental health needs of our service members. About the American Art Therapy Association 
The American Art Therapy Association, Inc. (AATA) is an organization of professionals dedicated to the belief that making art is healing and life enhancing. Its mission is to serve its members and the general public by providing standards of professional competence and developing and promoting knowledge in, and of, the field of art therapy. 

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