Sales of adult colouring-in books are on the rise, but are they really a therapeutic outlet?

Colouring-in books for adults are outselling cookbooks, crime novels and autobiographies as people search for a therapeutic way to ease stress and protect their mental health.

But the question is, are these really the DIY art therapy outlets they’re being billed as? Can you deal with mental health issues using only a pack of coloured pencils?

Not exactly, according to registered Brisbane art therapist Justine Wake.  She believes that while colouring-in books have a valued place in our lives, they should not be used as a substitute for professional mental health care.

“The way I define art therapy in my practice is that it’s a psycho therapeutic approach to supporting someone,” she says. “ So it’s in the same realm as counselling intervention. If you were going to see an art therapist you’d want to see someone who has professional accreditation.

“It’s a bit different to, say, taking part in an art making workshop or using a colouring in book. That’s more about using art to get a good sense of wellbeing; it’s not the same as art therapy.

“I think the colouring-in books are fantastic and I think it’s great that people are using them but there is some controversy amongst art therapists who believe it’s not true art therapy.”

However, this doesn’t mean that people should be afraid to reach for the crayons, as taking time out of your hectic schedule is still good for your health.

“It’s great that people are using them to have a little self-care,” Wake says. “A lot of people have forgotten how to look after themselves because we’re all busy and we don’t often sit down and do tasks anymore.

“People don’t often sit down to sew or cook, so it’s just another way of making some time for yourself that is reflective.

“But colouring-in books are not an art therapy process, that is something you need to do with a person who is qualified. With any pyschotherapeutic process there is risk, because people can be very vulnerable.”

Have you jumped on board the adult colouring-in bandwagon? Do you think it’s good for your health? Have your say in the comments below!