You’re well aware of traditional therapy (and its alternative, distant cousin, retail therapy), but what about tattoo therapy?
In many parts of the world, tattoos are used as cultural symbols to denote rank, accomplishment, spirituality, heritage or simple decoration. Today, at least in the U.S., we think of tattoos as a form of self-expression, and each and every tattoo tells a story. But tattoos can also help people heal and find closure. Not a cure-all but rather a means to an end, tattoos are also being viewed nowadays as recovery art. Would you get a therapeutic tattoo as part of your recovery process or to help you maintain your mental health?
The Mastectomy Tattoo Movement
Following breast cancer treatment, some women opt to get artistic tattoos to not only cover mastectomy scars, but to reclaim their bodies. There’s even an organization, P.Ink (Personal Ink), that matches breast cancer survivors with tattoo artists with mastectomy experience.
Some people living with mental illness like bipolar disorder or depression get tattoos for motivation – to remind themselves to take each day as it comes. Or, they get a tattoo to claim ownership over their illness.
A reality show on Spike TV, Ink Shrinks, paired clients with psychologists and tattoo artists who came up with an ink design created to remind them of their progress in whatever they were going through. The kicker? Clients didn’t know what their ink would look like until it was permanently tattooed on their body.
Ink Shrinks was also based on the idea that because the body releases endorphins to cope with the pain of a tattoo, people getting fresh ink would be more open to therapy. It worked for one client on the show who overcame his fear of needles.
Some recovery tattoos reflect sobriety and a dedication to continued recovery.
Some tattoos are designed in remembrance of a loved one and aid in the grieving process.
Some tattoo designs, like sak yant, are thought to have protective or mystical powers.
Perhaps having a well-known verse tattooed on your body can serve as a constant reminder of your faith.
The semicolon tattoo, made popular by Project Semicolon, actually represents a commitment to life.
Some tattoo shops, in addition to providing the ink, will approach the tattoo process in a healing way, incorporating breathing, reiki, coaching or meditation into the experience.