Introduction to Color Psychology

Johnny Cash always performed in black because he wanted the hopeless, hungry, poor, down beaten, and prisoners of injustice to know he remembered them and understanding for their lot in life.

Color is a silent communicator of a client’s emotional state. Counselors, however, should be aware of cultural differences color can symbolize when working with clients. Color does not always mean the same thing to everyone. Before making a decision the therapist must consider many factors, as ethnicity, eco-social level, sub-cultures, religious preferences, age and is the client trying to say something through his/her color selection?

The president of a business may wear black as a power color, a widow as a sign of mourning, and a teenager as a symbol of belonging to a sub-cultural group. While others may wear black because he/she is depressed or perhaps the patient is trying to look thinner. If a person is aware of the significance of color he/she may wear a color to say something specific that may or may not be true.

To add to the confusion, each American Native tribes attach different meaning to colors based on their heritage.

While some colors have universal meaning, many colors have vastly different meanings. In China the bride will wear red to symbolize happiness, and joy. White is associated with death and tragedy, and a bride wouldn’t dare wear white for fear of bring hard times upon her marriage.

There was a time when the color green represented fertility and the bride wore green to be blessed with many healthy children. Green is a holy color to the Muslins and represents heaven.

There are mixed reviews about the affect of color on people and the power of color to heal. In the seventies a study investigated the affect Pepto-Bismol pink had on prisoners. Initial studies found the color calmed the prisoners. Later studies indicated that the prisoners became immune to the color after a while and went back to their former aggressive self.

Studies have consistently up held that certain colors have a universal affect on individuals regardless of cultural, religion and age influences. Sky blue is generally considered to have a calming and steadying affect, because of the consistency of the blue sky always being blue and still being blue even when behind clouds. Yet an over abundance of blue can have a chilling affect and even a depressing affect on the clients.

Green encourages peace and harmony, again because there is an abundance of green in nature and most cultures find a sense of peace when in nature. Yellow is usually associated with happiness because the sun is yellow and gives us light and warmth which makes us feel good.
When in doubt about the association of color with your clients of diversity, ask the client about the significance of the color in his/her culture rather that make a judgment that is incorrect.

The client is not the only one who may silently communicate through color, a therapist, can influence the client through color also. When decorating an office the counselor will be wise to include some sky blue and grass green in the color scheme to promote a calming, smoothing atmosphere. This will help the client to relax and feel comfortable. Some brown will convey you are a down to earth person. A little black will assure the client you know what you are doing and ivory will promote trust-worthiness.

Color does affect people. Whether dealing with a client with psychological problems or promoting a product a smart counselor or salesman will use color as a silent communicator to from trust and reliability and to read the non-verbal message the client is sending.