10 Ways Tattoos Are Being Used As A Form Of Therapy

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"Tattoo pf"


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.

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What everyone sees: I'm fine What I see: save me • – "Today, I am coming out with something that only few of you know. I am ready to have a conversation about my mental illness. Last year, I was diagnosed with depression. And in all honesty, I believe it was a problem for quite a while before that, but I think it just got worse to the point of hardly functioning. So today, I got this tattoo. I feel that my leg was the best place for the meaning behind it. When everyone else sees it, they see “I’m fine,” but from my viewpoint, it reads “save me.” To me, it means that others see this person that seems okay, but, in reality, is not okay at all. It reminds me that people who may appear happy, may be at battle with themselves. This is one of the most difficult things to open up about because it’s extremely hard for me to feel vulnerable…but this needs to be talked about. Mental illness is serious, but so shamed in our society. We care so much for our physical health, but hardly a thing about our mental state. And that is seriously messed up. Mental illness is not a choice and will likely hit everyone at some point in their life. If it’s such a huge issue, why aren’t we having this conversation about it? That’s why I got this tattoo; they are great conversation starters. This forces me to talk about my own struggle, and why the awareness of it is important. You’d be surprised by how many people YOU know that struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental illness. I may only be one person, but one can save another…and that's all I could really ask for. " – Please take the time to read the full post about the meaning behind this tattoo on Bekah Miles's Facebook page. Instagram doesn't allow captions as long as her post but I think everyone should take a few minutes to go and read about it!

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Mental Illness

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.



Ink Shrinks

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.



Overcoming Fear

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.

ashamed of addiction



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.



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.



Therapeutic Approach

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.

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