COLOUR THERAPY CASE STUDY
This client has multiple health issues including PTSD, Diabetes, severe depression, Hypothyroidism, bad bones and joints, food allergies, and gastric issues. He suffers from lack of sleep due to night terrors and has Sleep Apnea.
I chose client J as my case study for numerous reasons, the first of which being J is a man. We have known each other for a little over six months and have become good friends. J has had an amazing and difficult life. Before we met he was homeless and severely depressed. He has been to jail, worked closely with military advisor’s who consult with the President, lived a cultured lifestyle and raised children on his own. Our first meeting was as he was entering a building I noticed he was struggling so I came to assist him. When I got closer I noticed a Veteran hat he wore because my father wears the same hat; this started an intriguing friendship based on his life experiences in the military and how he came to be so poor of health.
We have had many theological conversations as he is a Born-Again Christian, something which occurred after his time in the military. From my experience with Veterans I understood and could carry on a spirited conversation regarding politics – we stand on very different sides. J has found himself in the awkward situation of having to ask for help, and as a male he is finding this to be very demoralizing. Many times (we have fostered a sense of community) I have asked for his assistance or advice and have been an open ear for him. Because of his religious beliefs, he finds it difficult to connect with some of my views regarding holistic modalities (chakras, auras, crystal therapies) but I knew from visiting his apartment and spending time with him that a Color Therapy session might be just what he needs.
I had to put myself in his shoes to prepare for our session and respect our physical and spiritual boundaries. I dressed in comfortable jeans and a spring green t-shirt with his favourite baseball team written in white and chose cobalt blue glass dangle earrings. I packed a bag with colored paint samples, colored scarves, and a box of crayons. Sitting in meditation I did some deep breathing to center myself.
Client J is a 53-year-old man. He has multiple health issues including PTSD, Diabetes, severe depression, Hypothyroidism, bad bones and joints, food allergies, and gastric issues. He suffers from lack of sleep due to night terrors and has Sleep Apnea. Client was in the military which he pursued as a career until his health issues became debilitating. He is an educated man, having graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree then went on to pursue a Master’s degree in Theology and Biblical Studies.
Because of J’s physical issues we did his treatment in his apartment. He lives in an old building that was converted into apartments. The apartments have large windows with high ceilings. J’s apartment is on the first floor and gets lots of sunlight. The walls, ceilings and floors are all the same off white color seen in most apartments. J’s door is the same color scheme and devoid of decoration. When you walk into J’s apartment the first thing you notice is his sofa which matches the walls in a dull tan color covered with a soft blanket with light tans, sky blues and earthy browns facing the windows. His coffee table sits in front of the sofa in the same middle brown tone as the sofa. Straight ahead is a tall bookshelf full of books neatly displayed in blacks, browns whites and a small section of purple books. To the right in the corner is a dining table set in a medium shade of brown which sits a red copier/printer.
Going into the kitchen you find the same off white color scheme in all appliances with no adornment or knick knacks. J’s bedroom is sparse, a queen sized bed always unkempt with charcoal colored blankets, two small pillows and devoid of any color. It is important to know there are no curtains in any room, and J has no pets or house plants. Every surface has something haphazardly left on it whether it belongs in that room or not. The only personal items in the apartment are awards framed on the walls surrounding the sofa placed high up; which I find interesting as J is very short. Centered directly above the sofa is a large ornate clock that does not work properly. There is a large cobalt blue flag from the branch of the military which he served covering almost an entire wall behind the dining table.
J is most days’ melancholy but a good natured giving person. We start the session by chatting about the weather and politics. J asks me if I need or want anything and I accept a glass of water and suggest one for him. J settles into the sofa looking a bit uncomfortable, I notice there is a red plastic cup on the coffee table and an orange and I ask him to clear off the table so there is no color. I sit in a broken desk chair near the sofa and J apologizes for the chair; I remind him I have been in his apartment before and laugh it off.
I begin with the paint samples which I hand to J and ask him to make quick decisions regarding the colors by putting the colors he really likes to one side and the colors he dislikes in another pile. He asks me what should he do with the colors he sort of likes; I tell him to do what he wants with them there are no rules it is completely his decision. I busy myself on my laptop while he makes his color choices. When finished I ask him to tell me why he chose the colors he did in the ‘Like’ pile; J begins by hesitantly picking up the first sample which is a deep midnight blue. I sit and listen as he goes through the pile describing how each color relates to his life, for example he remarks the purples are royalty and Jesus Christ is his king. He starts to enjoy the process and examines his choices, I stay quiet.
I point out that each color in his ‘Like’ pile is a deep rich tone that he has described as “Earthy” or “Like the night sky”. He tells me he feels more himself when he is wearing these colors or surrounded by them. I ask J about the red color sample in his pile, he perks up and says it’s the color of his car so he likes it because it represents his freedom. He moves on to the ‘Sort of Like’ pile and we talk about the colors, which are all bright greens. He remarks they make him feel “Springy and light “. We move on to the ‘Dislike’ color pile and he becomes quiet. I ask him to tell me how the colors make him feel or why he dislikes them so much. He is hesitant but picks up the first color which is a very light sky blue, he has no words just pushes the color sample to the side. He picks up the beige card and describes it as “Hate this, don’t even know what you would call this”, and the next card which is a blush color and he just says “ugh”.
the positives, he notices and his mood lightens up. At this point I ask him to look around his apartment in particular the blanket covering the sofa – it contains all the colors he dislikes. He reacts with surprise and tells me all the furniture is second hand including the blanket which came with the sofa. I can see he is getting overwhelmed so I move on to the colored scarves. He enjoys this part. The first scarf is a bright cobalt blue with swirls of a shade lighter and a hint of gold yellow in places. He grabs it immediately and smiles remarking, “oh yea this is me!”. His body language becomes more relaxed as he describes how the color makes him feel and his connection with it to his time in the military. My next scarf is a gold-yellow, he says he is unsure how he feels about it but certainly would not wear it, it’s too bright and flashy, a remark he made about the white color sample. I pick a primarily neon green scarf swirled with a touch of blue; J loves it and begins to describe how it reminds him of spring and earth. The next scarf is turquoise, he hates it! The minute I take it out he starts to remark on how it’s fake looking and cannot stand anything with this turquoise color especially jewelry.
The last scarf is light orange with dark orange flowers. J takes it mulling over his thoughts, and tells me he likes the color but it reminds him of his time in jail so he is conflicted. I ask him what he likes about the color; he tells me how he loves oranges but is not supposed to eat them because of his diabetes. At this point we begin to discuss food and his diet. I ask him what does he eat on a regular basis, and all of his foods he discovers are white. J tells me he is unhappy but he can’t do anything about it. He settles back into a melancholy mood. I decide he needs to redirect his focus on what he ‘Likes’ and how he can take back the control of his life he seems to think he has lost. I ask J what he would like to change in his apartment if he could do anything he wanted. He immediately talks about painting the walls a sky blue and the trim a bright white. I take him around the room making small suggestions and pointing out
Closing the Session
We chat for a bit about some subtle inexpensive changes he can make to his apartment, maybe adding some candles in the rich colors he likes and/or a bowl of fruit with apples for the red, he quickly says green apples. I tell him how his color choices point to his loss of control over his health and ultimately his living conditions. J is on board and admits he feels unsettled and it makes him wary to ‘decorate’ his apartment. I suggest incorporating some of the blues he likes as pillows on the sofa and maybe a plant or two for some of the outdoors he loves. We talk about how he can balance his love of blues and deep tones with some small pieces of yellow and even orange to bring some joy into his life.
He tells me he hates the clock hanging on the wall over the sofa saying “it looked good in the catalog”. I nudge him to take it down, letting him know anything broken in his environment is giving off bad energy. I refrain from talking about Feng shui due to his religious beliefs. We go on to discuss asking the landlord if he can paint the apartment and J asking his neighbors and friends for help in painting. He hesitates on this as he feels it is an imposition to ask people for their time without paying them. This feeling goes back to his time serving in the military when he felt like he mattered.
I told J the session was over and asked what he thought about the color session. He told me he was very surprised at how much color was affecting him and how easy it would be to make some changes. Before leaving I asked him to do a little homework that night and write down three small changes he could make immediately, with no added expense. J was very open to this. It was time for me to leave and I thanked him for his honesty and assured him everything we discussed was private and anonymous.
*Follow up- January
After the holidays J and I met up again. He was excited to tell me one of his neighbors gave him a plant, he had never owned a plant before. He made a date to have some friends come over to help him paint his apartment also added a fern green piece of antique furniture for the plant. We discussed his diet and I made suggestions of foods to have in his kitchen, in the fridge and on the counter, that would visually stimulate his appetite. For the first time ever I noticed he was not wearing his black Veteran baseball hat; J replied he was trying something new! I was delighted to note his sofa was covered in a soft charcoal blanket and the coffee table cleared off. These are big changes for J and he asked me if I would be available if he had questions, I replied of course.
I loved this case study! J and I did some more work together, in particular his food choices. As a woman, and mother to three sons, I feel men are restricted where color is involved and I can see how this can lead to damaging emotional and physical issues. My client made reference to how some colors were “too bright” and how he much preferred the deeper tones. After the session I don’t believe this to be true of how he feels (his love of the bright blues and reds) and feel this may suggest how he interprets his world and/or how the world expects him to represent himself. His use of the words mattering and useful are indicative of male expectations, but J has much to offer the world still through his education alone. I am inspired to pursue Color Therapy with more men and hope to work with Veterans in the future