How to Use Colour in Occupational Therapy

How to Use Colour in Occupational Therapy

Intuitive use of colour can be a suitable tool for a therapist, and blends well with a modern mind body spirit approach to healthcare.

Colour for Wellbeing LogoIt is also important therapists utilise research, when it is available. In the healthcare setting colour is part of evidence-based design, way finding, orientation, assessments and more. Pharmaceutical companies invest significantly in colour psychology research identifying what colour your pills and packaging should be to encourage you to take them. 

Colour is part of everyday language, life and occupations. Disruptive children may calm once an eye test has established that behavior is a result of colour blindness and the adults around them respond accordingly. Check out Neil Harbisson’s “The Sound of Color: Neil Harbisson’s Talk Visualized” on Ted.com for a fascinating insight into his response to a grey world.

An improved colour assessment and diagnosis test for pilots is designed to increase air safety internationally. Around the world, colour of skin can incite rejection, hatred, fear, love and acceptance. Colour is used to express political allegiance or sexual orientation.As an occupational therapist you might notice colour consciously, or unconsciously. This effects your intervention process. When building therapeutic rapport, do you feel better wearing some colours and not others?

Emerging approaches to using colour as a therapeutic approach include arts & health, colour well-being, colour breathing, use of nutritional supplements and psychodynamic methods. Colour perception is not reliant on vision.

Colour has a well established place within holistic healthcare, for example Chinese medicine, the Chakra system or the Medicine wheel, where each colour is ascribed specific meaning or attributes, and could be important for diagnostic or treatment purposes.

So, how to use colour within occupational therapy?  Understand your own response to colour.  Increase your own education and awareness of the role of colour within occupation. Work with your client to understand their response to color.  Incorporate this awareness within intervention, as appropriate. Ideas on how to use colour as a therapeutic tool within a mild to moderate mental health care setting are available (see Parkes and Volpe, 2012), and other references given on request. Further, begin your own evaluation or research.

The theme for the 13th International AIC Colour Congress 2017 is  ‘Color & Health’  – it would be a great place to see some OTs.

© 2013 Vanessa Volpe

Vanessa VolpeStarting life with a fascination of colour psychology, Vanessa studied the meaning of colours with Aura Soma, UK in 1991, and built on this foundation with continued colour therapy training and workshops with Aura Light, Mantak Chia Tao Colour Healing, Phytobiophysics, Colour Dynamics and other approaches. Graduating in 2000 with Bsc (Hons) occupational therapy, and working within traditional and non traditional settings has given practical experience of conventional and complementary therapy within a range of health and social care settings. Combining these methods appropriately allows the creation of a programme of intervention specifically for your needs and requirements, or refer onto other organisations if appropriate. Colour therapy training and colour workshops in Northampton, UK has included developing Colour for Wellbeing, as part of the Learn 2be non medical intervention with adults experiencing distress. Early results indicate using colour awareness techniques within occupational therapy can provide a low cost sustainable method of alleviating anxiety symptoms, improve confidence, aid relaxation, develop occupational potential and more. To enquire about collaborative working, RE, colour awareness skills for professionals or to book an individual appointment visit  www.colourforwellbeing.com.

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