Charlesgate’s Therapeutic Coloring Program Is Not Just for Kids

Charlesgate North's Therapeutic Adult Coloring group

An MSW Student’s Journey in Group Therapy at Charlesgate North

Nicole Swanson, Social Work Intern

I am a social work intern at Charlesgate North Apartments and Charlesgate Assisted Living getting my MSW. During my foundation year in my coursework at Simmons College in Boston, I took a class called Social Work with Groups. This class proved to be something that continues to resonate with me throughout my evolution as a social work student. In my research on group work with the elderly, there are many positive behavioral changes that can be observed in this kind of therapy, such as an improvement in self-expression, and an increase in the joy of living. Group therapy emphasizes emotional sharing, the giving and exchanging of advice on getting through tough situations, and the use of empathy with other group members that can form connections.

At Charlesgate I was given many opportunities to interact with the residents, collaborate with staff, and form relationships that have helped me grow and build my knowledge of the of the human experience in its infinite permutations. I learned of a resident who was running a group titled Therapeutic Adult Coloring, but unfortunately the group had dissolved over the past month due to lack of interest. I felt the group could be a success, and merely needed a rebirth of sorts to gather new interest. I felt empowered to give this resident-run group another opportunity to proliferate. I had a short meeting with the resident who leads the group and we set about a plan for me to co-facilitate and create a structure for the group. Flyers went up and the attendance sky rocketed right away!

The therapeutic adult coloring group does not operate like a clinical group, as it is resident-run, but despite this, mutual aid among members is still achieved through the sharing of information, the empathy the members have for one another, and the shared experiences they are able to process in the group. Discussion around mindfulness tend to be the theme of the group, what it does, how it can help each member, and the genesis of it becoming part of the Western therapeutic process.

Overall, this group has taught me that clients are experts in their own lives, they have the tools to cope with challenges, and they will show you in different ways what that looks like. Residents in the group prove to me every day what resiliency and survival look like, and I seek out those strengths in our meetings to create brighter and more empowering solutions for the future. My hope is that this group will have enough structure to continue after my semester is over, as it has been a great success since its restoration.

Therapeutic Coloring

So what is therapeutic coloring anyway? Therapeutic coloring is the activity of using colored pencils to color in intricate designs, such as a mandala, which is a round frame with geometric patterns inside. Many studies conclude that the process of coloring has the therapeutic potential to reduce anxiety, create focus or bring about more mindfulness. The act of looking at the shape, size and edges of the image, as well as picking out colors, occupies the same part of the brain that stops any anxiety-related mental imagery from happening as well. This kind of coloring has also been associated with reductions in PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorders, stress disorders, depressive disorders, eating and binge eating disorders, anger management issues, and substance abuse issues. The time and focus that adult coloring takes helps the individual remove the focus from the negative issues and habits and focus them in a safe and productive way. Doing therapeutic artwork can help reduce feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness associated with lengthy medical treatments. The focus we place on the project at hand, and on an object can replace negative and unhelpful thoughts from entering our minds. The step of acting and doing vs. observing is a powerful deterrent to focusing on physical or emotional pain.

The Charlesgate North Therapeutic Adult Coloring group is still going strong, thanks in part to Nicole’s work re-energizing the group and now to our new Activities Assistant, Tynel Jordan. You can see a display of the groups work in the Charlesgate North Lobby. Therapeutic Coloring Group happens every Tuesday from 2:00pm-3:00pm in the Charlesgate North Community Room. All materials are provided. All residents are welcome!

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