The Tattooed Mental Health Professional: How Would It Make You Feel?

The Tattooed Mental Health Professional: How Would It Make You Feel?

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The Tattooed Mental Health Professional: How Would It Make You Feel?

Tattoo girl How do you view tattoos? Are you okay with them? Does it matter to you what the tattoo is or means? For many people, “body art” is either the object of much criticism or the object of a strong personal association with a belief or person. A parent posed a challenging question to me a few years ago while I trained at a semi-prominent clinic: “Why is the Clinical Director sporting a tattoo in clear sight and she knows that I have trouble trusting doctors in the first place?” I found myself not only floored, but a tad upset by the social stigma that swept into the clinic and across multiple clinicians. What I had failed to realize is that although I saw the situation from various perspectives, clients often felt threatened or defensive after noticing the tattoo(s). But….can you blame them?

As far back as the mid-1800s when  Martin Hildebrandt became the first to open a “body art” shop in the U.S, tattoos have been viewed negatively. Of course, we don’t want to judge unnecessarily or defy a wonderful personality and set of clinical skills because the person happens to be interested in sporting tattoos. But it is understandable (and reasonable) that many patients, clients, families, and fellow-clinicians would question the social status, mindset, and ultimate goal of a professional who openly displays tattoos. Interestingly, some psychiatrists and researchers have attempted to understand the personality of the individual professional interested in pursuing tattoos. What is it about this person that finds tattoos attractive? Are they rebels? Are they “hip” mental health professionals? Are they socially or characterologically disturbed? It’s hard to tell. For many clients and their families, a tattoo would cause them to second guess not only the knowledge of the professional, but also the quality of care given. Many people who question tattooed professionals are not necessarily being discriminatory, but rather wise and curious. They are exercising their right  to question […]