Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Winston Seegobin, PhD

Second Advisor

Kathleen Gathercoal, PhD

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Hamilton, PhD


Tattooing has been a form of self-expression and cultural participation for thousands of years. In the past in the United States, those who got tattooed were often viewed as fringe populations. Now, however, tattoos have entered mainstream society. Most current research shows that tattoos are tied to significant personal and cultural meanings for tattooed individuals. Given this and the growing number of people who choose to get permanent ink, the continued exploration of this topic can be useful for clinical psychologists in understanding clients and emerging themes of identity in our society. Perhaps of equal importance, is the unexplored topic of clinically active, tattooed psychologists; little research exists examining the reasons psychologists get tattooed. The purpose of this study is three-fold: (a) to examine professional attitudes toward psychologists’ visible tattoos, (b) to examine client reception of visible tattoos and the psychologist’s consequent personal disclosure, and (c) the psychologist’s personal meaning and purpose behind their choice in tattoos. A two-phased study was conducted using a general survey and a semi structured interview of psychologists with tattoos. A total of 120 psychologists and graduate students completed questionnaires in Phase I and 11 were interviewed in Phase II. Results indicate that not only are psychologists’ tattoo trends following those of the general public, but that tattoos are a multilayered medium to engage in clinical dialogue. Future research is needed to expand upon these results.

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