What Is Color Therapy, What Is It For, And Is It Right For Me?
Updated November 28, 2019
Reviewer Wendy Galyen, LCSW, BC-TMH
Colors are all around us. They're in the natural world, in the homes we live in, the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, and the entertainment we watch. Colors aren't just meaningless parts of our environment, either. They can change the way we feel and react to different situations. Color therapy uses these powers of color to heal, energize, and soothe us.
What Is Color Therapy?
Color therapy is an alternative therapy that uses colors and their frequencies to heal physical and emotional problems.Color therapy is also known as chromopathy, chromotherapy, or color healing.
What Is Color Therapy Used For?
The goal of color therapy is to correct physiological and psychological imbalances. For instance, if you're stressed, color therapy can help soothe you so that you can regain your psychological balance. If you're depressed, color therapy can be used to invigorate you and give you increased energy.
When Did Color Therapy Start?
Color therapy has been around at least since the time of Ancient Egypt. Egyptians believed in the power of light and used different colors of light to promote healing. Color therapy has continued to be important in some cultures. Even in Western societies that tend to prefer modern, institutionalized medicine, natural healers have continued to use colors to help people improve their physical and emotional health.
Although Western medicine doesn't accept color therapy as much, Western researchers are studying the scientific properties of colored light and the light frequencies within it. Color therapy hasn't 'earned' a place in Western medicine yet, but there's a strong possibility that it might when all the research results come in.
Colors And Chakras
Eastern medicine is the source of many of the so-called alternative therapies in the Western world. In Indian philosophy, the chakras are considered the centers of spiritual power and energy within our bodies. There are seven chakras, and a different color represents each:
- The Root Chakra, located at the base of the spine, is represented by red. This chakra has to do with our grounding and connection with the Earth.
- The Sacral Chakra, located 2 or 3 inches below the navel, is represented by orange. This chakra is said to be associated with reproduction, the kidneys and adrenals, and pleasure. It is the mind-body chakra.
- The Solar Plexus Chakra, located between the navel and sternum, is represented by yellow. This chakra is associated with the pancreas, liver, digestive system, and gallbladder, as well as positivity, empowerment, and well-being.
- Green represents the Heart Chakra. It's associated with the heart, lungs, and immune system. It's associated with energy, the nervous system, mental focus, compassion, and empowerment.
- The Throat Chakra is represented by blue and is associated with the thyroid and metabolism as well as peaceful expression.
- The Third Eye Chakra, located between the eyebrows is represented by indigo and associated the pituitary gland and pineal gland and influences our sleep cycles, self-esteem, clarity, wisdom, and intuition.
- The Crown Chakra, located at the top of the head, is represented by violet and associated with the pineal gland, light sensitivity, sleep cycles, dreams, clarity, and spirituality.
Methods Of Delivery For Color Therapy
The alternative healing practice of color therapy relies on the delivery of the light frequencies of color to the body. The light either goes into the body through the eyes or via color therapy equipment.
One way to take advantage of light therapy is to view the color simply. You look at the color for a few minutes. That's all there is to the delivery. What you need to be careful with are the colors you choose. Green is considered the safest color. Red and orange may cause you too much excitement and agitation.
Color therapy is individualized as well. What works to help you might make someone else feel worse. For example, if you have a lot of anxiety and need to calm down, blue might be a good color to use. If someone else were depressed, though, blue wouldn't be a color they should use in color therapy.
Via Color Therapy Equipment
There are various kinds of color therapy equipment. Some of them can be made easily, while others can be ordered for a color therapist's use. This equipment uses the projection of colored light. Sometimes, the color is projected on a screen, and you look at it. The light comes from specific light bulbs of no more than 500 watts. With color therapy equipment, the colored light can be shone on your skin as well using modern and sometimes high-tech equipment that allows the hue and intensity of the color to be dialed in precisely.
Psychological Effects Of Different Colors
Colors affect our mental processes and can change our mood. Each color has a different effect, so different colors are used for different mental conditions and mood problems. The following list describes how each of the main colors used in color therapy affects us and what they can do for you.
Green is the most balancing of all the colors. Color therapists usually consider green the safest color and typically start color therapy with it. When you're feeling sad, hopeless, or depressed, green can improve your mood. However, it's important to have a pure green color, as a light green can cause you to tip into anxiety.
Green is said to enhance the emotions of love, joy, and inner peace. It can bring you hope, strength, and serenity. Green is said to increase your wisdom and facilitate change and independence.
Blue is a color that must be used with extra care, as it can zap your energy if you're feeling low. Blue does help you express your feelings, though, and is related to your inner truth. Blue is a cold color that can be used to help you become more peaceful and relaxed. Primary blue is often used in therapy settings used for meditation and relaxation.
Blue can also be associated with wisdom, creativity, loyalty, and spirituality. Too much blue or blue that is too dark can lead to sadness, depression, and a feeling of emptiness. Light blue promotes serenity. It can also be used to help with insomnia.
Yellow can be used in color therapy to bring energy and encourage action. This color can make you feel happier. It can bring out your intelligence and wisdom. Too much or too-bright yellows are associated with betrayal, cruelty, and deceit. It can remind us of our mortality. Yellow is the most intense color in the spectrum.
Orange signifies abundance, pleasure, well-being, and sexuality. Orange may be used to stimulate different organs in the body for physical healing. It revitalizes you and gives you increased mental energy. It can increase your feeling of connectedness between your mind and body. However, color therapists usually avoid this color for you if you're prone to anxiety.
Red is even more stimulating than orange. It influences emotional issues like financial independence and physical survival. It's mostly used for physical healing because its emotional effects can be extreme. Color therapists avoid shining red on your head, as this can cause intense agitation. Infrared can also be used by a skilled color therapist if done so with caution. Neither red nor infrared is used for someone who has severe mental conditions.
Purple is most strongly associated with beauty, spirituality, and bliss. In color therapy, violet is often used on the forehead and neck to initiate feelings of calm and relaxation. However, it's recommended for use anywhere on the body.
The Use Of Color In Art Therapy
Color is a major consideration for art therapists as well. They may instruct their clients to paint with a certain color that will bring out their issues or help them deal with them. Or, they may leave the color to the client and simply notice what colors they choose and how they combine the color with lines.
In art therapy, the client's use of orange might sometimes be an indication that the client suffered some form of sexual abuse in their past. Gray might show that they're feeling depressed, hopeless, or cut off from their emotions.
While art therapy isn't technically color therapy, the two methods do recognize many of the same effects of each of the colors in the visual spectrum.
Why Is Color Therapy Controversial?
As a science, color therapy is in its infant stages, if it's even been born into modern thinking. Some research is in progress, and some has been completed. So far, the studies have not revealed any reliable evidence about if and how colors affect us.
One 2004 review of studies on color use in healthcare settings revealed some interesting problems with the concepts behind color therapy.
- There's no direct link between specific colors and health.
- There's probably a connection between color and mood, but one specific color isn't directly associated with one specific mood.
- Color changes the way we perceive and behave, but just how it affects us isn't clear.
- Current thinking on color seems to be an oversimplification of a much more complex type of influence.
In some countries, color therapy is recognized as a healing treatment and is regulated by law. In other countries, color therapy is considered a scam and a waste of time and money. As research continues, color therapy may become more controversial or less so. For now, each person must decide whether color therapy is something they want to pursue or not.
Is Color Therapy Right For Me?
Color therapy may be helpful to you, and it may not. It's hard to say at this point. When deciding whether to have color therapy or apply it to yourself, consider these questions:
- Am I willing to try something that isn't yet proven?
- How much am I affected by colors in my environment? (Color more influences some people than others.)
- Do I know enough about color therapy to try it for myself?
- Would another type of therapy address my situation more effectively?
No matter what your mental condition, there is a therapy that's right for you. The good news is that you don't have to know when you first seek help. You can talk to a counselor at ReGain.us right away. If you find you want a different type of therapy, you can request that your therapist use other methods that make more sense to you. Or, you can change to a different therapist whenever you choose.
Color therapy is proposed as a method of physical and emotional healing. Whether you choose to pursue color therapy or some other, science-backed therapy, the most important thing you can do is talk to a counselor to set your course for mental health and happiness.