Art therapist Jane Gordon, in collaboration with Dr. Lark Eshelman, has created a unique therapeutic coloring book, “Color Me Closer,” designed for people to color in pairs. This coloring book, produced and funded by For All Seasons, is a resource for supporting children who have experienced trauma, or for anyone who wants to improve relationships or just relax and have fun together.
The coloring book began its journey after Gordon talked to Beth Anne Langrell, CEO of For All Seasons, about her idea for helping clients at For All Seasons where she works. Langrell comments, “I saw the power of what the pages could do for people.”
Gordon comments, “I am passionate about what I do with art therapy. I wanted to produce something that could support people with their mental health. Coloring books are all the rage now. Creating is a nice activity for people to do together and inspires and causes connection.”
Each page of the coloring book has a theme. As the coloring book progresses, the pictures evolve from individual images to images that connect to each other and from inanimate objects to animate objects. It can be used in guided therapy, or participants can select an image to address issues. The spiral-bound format has perforated pages so that pages can be torn out and saved. You can also add elements or notes to the pictures in the book.
A 12-year-old client from For All Seasons who lost a parent commented, “It’s so much fun! I love coloring with my mom, my pop-pop, and my mom-mom. It makes me feel happy.”
Caroline Eglseder, LMSW, who works at For All Seasons, states, “’Color Me Closer’ is a rapport-building tool for working with children of any age. It supports mindfulness, building healthy coping skills, and increasing emotional regulation.”
A For All Seasons’ client and mother of three adds, “I keep the book in the back of my car so it’s handy for appointments or for the kids where I work. Honestly, it gives me a warm feeling seeing the kids color together and knowing I always have something fun and relaxing for them to do.”
Gordon, who is a board-certified, licensed art therapist with a career spanning 35 years, has a wide variety of experience working with traumatized children and adults in numerous settings. Her long-standing relationship with For All Seasons goes back over 27 years, and through the agency, she has connected with hundreds of families and children to provide mental health support.
“Anyone can enjoy using the coloring book. I am excited to see how enthusiastically people are responding to it. Children have used it on snow days, adults have colored at wine parties, and mothers and daughters have colored together. I am doing it with my 25-year-old daughter,” she adds.
“Initially, I thought I would use it as a workbook, but it became fascinating to see what picture clients chose to do. There is diagnostic information there. It shows where they are. By creating art together, a therapeutic alliance can be formed. The power of connection is visual, tangible evidence that something has happened. It’s so wonderful to have this as a tool for healing.”
Dr. Eshleman has a long-standing passion for children and healthy development, spanning back to her early days as an elementary school librarian. After years as a school principal, as a trauma therapist, and teaching and sharing her work internationally, she wrote “Becoming a Family: Promoting Healthy Attachments with Your Adopted Child,” and developed programs and therapeutic treatment models for children whose early years are marked by violence or other traumatic breaks in attachment. Her programs are designed for use in schools, professional settings, and for families. “Color Me Closer” represents her exciting collaboration with art therapist and friend, Jane Gordon, and their mutual zeal for improving attachment and trauma for children.
“As an attachment specialist I have seen the benefits of structured parallel play to bring parent and child together in a therapy setting. But, I knew there was something much stronger that could happen if families were given a structured method of continuing their healing at home. We also have known for a while that there is a great calming benefit to coloring,” states Dr. Eshleman.
“Together we have discovered so many more ways that ‘Color Me Closer’ is able to help children — for example, my cancer surgeon wants to use it to help her patients with young children to stay connected through an emotionally difficult time. It’s so fun to create with Jane, who is a talented art therapist, and such a gift to be able to help children and families heal.”
In looking to the future, Langrell comments, “I hope the coloring book can go to places where people are experiencing trauma or disasters – places that need a bright light where things are dark.”
The cost of the coloring book is $10, plus $5 for shipping for one book. Each additional book to the same address can be shipped for $1 apiece. Coloring books may be purchased on the For All Seasons website forallseasonsinc.org.
For All Seasons provides therapy, advocacy, psychiatry, and education to Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne, and Talbot counties. The agency accepts all private insurances, medical assistance, and supports English and Spanish speaking individuals regardless of one’s ability to pay. For All Seasons 24-Hour, confidential crisis hotlines are 410.820.5600 for English Hotline and 410.829.6143 for Spanish Hotline. Text available in English or Spanish at 410.829.6143.