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Tattoo in clinical practice

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by paperweights, Mar 7, 2011.

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  1. paperweights

    paperweights

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    Hello everyone,
    This question may seem slightly ridiculous but I’m somewhat concerned about it regardless. I’ve wanted to get a tattoo (small black one) on my wrist for a few years now that has a lot of personal significance. I have been accepted into a clinical psych program and I was just wondering what your opinion is on visible tattoos in clinical practice. It would be possible to hide it with long sleeve shirts ect, but at times it may be visible. Too unprofessional? Or am I worried about nothing?
    Thanks for any opinions in advance.
  2. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychology Fellow Moderator

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    I personally would never get one in an easily-visible place, which I consider the wrist to be. However, I know at least a few people in my program who have tattoos on their wrists, ankles, and feet. If it can be covered with clothing, and if the content of the tattoo isn't terribly controversial or provocative, you should be ok.
  3. busybusybusy

    busybusybusy

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    Not that this will necessarily help because it's not the same field, but maybe

    My sister has a medium sized tattoo on her wrist that she loves but she works in a very public position for a top airline. As part of the requirements of her job she is not allowed to show it while at work. Instead of consistently wearing long sleeve shirts (which is not always practical) she bought a watch with a wide band that easily covers her tattoo. Even if it occasionally peeks out it has never caused her any issues at work. Something else to consider...
  4. Lisa44201

    Lisa44201

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    I have three tattoos, and am planning a fourth. All are in easily covered locations. I wouldn't risk putting one in a place you can't cover, just 'cause. While they are more widely accepted culturally now than, say, 20 years ago, it's still one of those things.
  5. Phipps

    Phipps

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    ...there are individuals who would say that tattooing is closely related to cutting. I heard that and know there are opponents who research that in certain populations. I myself have two tt but can always cover them up.
  6. kea2115

    kea2115

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    Personally, I think that it is fine. It is small and on the wrist (i.e. easily covered up if need be). I had an internship where the psychiatrist had a whole colorful sleeve of tattoos. The adolescent patients loved him. I think they found him more relateable, especially since he was an older gentelmen. In my masters program (in counseling) I knew a few doc students who had them. A few with nose piercings too. One doc student even had it on her wrist too.

    One thing that I may advise, that a doc student mentioned to me, is that a tattoo can technically be a form of self-disclosure (say you get a religious symbol for the sake of arguement). So, make sure that if it is to be seen by clients it isn't something that you wouldn't mind them knowing.
  7. Lisa44201

    Lisa44201

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    The nose piercings surprise me. When I was an EMT, I was not allowed to wear piercings of any kind, even ye auld 14ga studs in my earlobes, just in case a patient took it upon him/herself to remove them for me.
  8. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychology Fellow Moderator

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    I would imagine that most hospital/medical settings (especially state-run) would require you to remove any piercings other than in your ears, and to cover up visible tattoos. Back when I worked in the ER, like with your experience, this was definitely the case. When it comes to counseling centers and private practices, though, the policies could potentially vary widely.
  9. DOCit2me

    DOCit2me

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    I too considered getting a tattoo in that location, but decided against it due to the visibility piece. I have a number of tattoos, but none are in easily visible areas. Though a number of people in my program have tattoos in such places, I would worry too much about it being visible. It's just not realistic to wear long-sleeved shirts all the time. Best of luck with your decision!
  10. JockNerd

    JockNerd

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    I have multiple tattoos, all non-visible.

    To me, a single small visible tattoo almost seems more conspicuous than, say, a half-sleeve that pokes through a short-sleeved shirt.

    Also, my counseling center didn't like it when I shaved my head, let alone visible tattoo. Just sayin.
  11. phillydave

    phillydave Doctoral Student

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    Is the shaved head problem common? I've had a shaved head for almost ten years. That makes me nervous..
  12. psydtobe

    psydtobe

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    I think that tattoos are not entirely abnormal, but I know that I have encountered people who are more concerned with the content of the tattoo. I also have noticed that when working in settings with adolescents/children tattoos are somewhat a bigger issue. I do know an EXCELLENT psychologist, who is amazing with children, that is covered in tattoos and she has made it clear that it is her choice and form of expression. They are not particularly inappropriate...so I guess her quality of work supercedes any initial judgement of her appearance?This has only been in my experience though, I can't say particularly for a clinical psychologist position.
  13. JockNerd

    JockNerd

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    Well, in fairness to them I'm also a good bit over 6 ft tall, and 235 lbs of decently buff.
  14. thelittleowl

    thelittleowl

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    I have a tattoo on my wrist and it has never posed a problem or raised any concern in my clinical internship for my master's degree.

    I also can cover it with my watch easily.

    In my opinion, tattoos are becoming more socially acceptable and more and more common. In my opinion and from my experiences, it shouldn't be a problem. However, you may run into a supervisor here or there that doesn't like tattoos. Bottom line, if you can cover it if necessary, I would say go for it.
  15. BellaPsyD

    BellaPsyD Correctional Psychologist

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    i've got an inscription on my inner wrist and I work in the most conservative of places (feds) in one of the most conservative states (moved from where I came from...) and it doesn't affect my work, supervisors, promotion potential, etc. However, I act and carry myself very professionally anyway...I think much has to do with the aura (for lack of better word) you put off and the quality of your work. Plus, while I don't hide it, I certainly don't flaunt it either. HTH
  16. rileybear

    rileybear

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    also consider your program...another person in my program got a tattoo that was on her chest, by her collarbone, and it was really tasteful and pretty. A older professor saw it and asked her to cover it in class while she was in the program, and probably suggested that she cover it on practicums (I dont know for sure). It wasn't the opinion of the entire faculty, but enough so that she was asked to cover it.
  17. FemmeFeline

    FemmeFeline

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    I wanted to resurrect this thread because I have been considering a tattoo for several years. I want the first line of Hojoki, a classical Japanese text written in 1212. I want it tattooed in the original classical Japanese kana (not modern Japanese).

    After considering many location options, I think the upper arm or even a half-sleeve would look best.

    What I want to ask is:

    Is there anyone here who has a half-sleeve or arm tattoo? What have been your experiences about people in your program and in the field accepting or not accepting it? Is it a total pain in the butt to cover up on a day-to-day basis?
  18. erg923

    erg923

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  19. MajorPsych82

    MajorPsych82

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    Hi,

    I have a sleeve on one arm and a lower arm tattoo on the other. It's totally fine. I did a year long Clinical interim btw my MA and Doctoral at a prestigious hospital in NYC this year in pediatrics and picu and wore long sleeves.
    Schools that accepted me know about my arms. They couldn't care less.

    Go on with your big bad self. ;)
  20. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Moderator Emeritus

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    It has never been an issue for me, but I admittedly rarely have it visible (on calf).
  21. FemmeFeline

    FemmeFeline

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    Haha, no offense taken. :) I was wondering if someone was going to ask this question... I don't know where to begin. If it's "qualifications" you're looking for... My B.A. is in both Psych and Japanese; I can speak it, I can write it. In regards to the tattoo itself, I took an entire course devoted to analyizing Hojoki in its original classical Japanese text (think Old English vs. modern English).

    Based on these things, you could argue that my tattoo would be more meaningful to me than a non-Asian person wandering into a tattoo parlor and getting the kanji for "strength" or "flower" tattooed on their arm. However, I'm not sure anyone should have to justify why they attained a cultural tattoo. It's such a personal form of expression. As someone who is not Japanese but has studied it extensively and lived in Japan, I of course am of the opinion that cultures are fluid, ever-changing, and that cultural exchange is inevitable and can be positive. Should only people of a certain culture "reserve the right" to access pieces of that culture, or even claims to pieces of that culture? I personally don't think so.

    Would the average Japanese person in my same SES and age group get a tattoo like this? Probably not --- most in this category don't get tattoos, period. And if they did, most of those 20-somethings in Japan probably haven't really studied Hojoki the way I have, the same way an international person who majored in post-modern English literature may have studied an important text much more extensively than the average American. What does it mean for a non-Japanese person to personally "claim" an inherently Japanese piece of history in a format that most Japanese people don't even partake in? Who knows! :laugh:

    As for the exoticism of Asia, American obsession with Japanese culture, the cross-cultural adaptation of East and West, etc... This is a huge cultural anthro and East Asian topic that deserves its own thread on a different forum. And even then, we would never be able to fully address the questions surrounding it, because cultural questions are so complex! :confused:

    By getting this tattoo, would I be contributing to the western exoticism of Japan? Maybe... Would I be the target of scrutiny by the general public and stigmatized for being a non-Asian person with a Japanese tattoo? Definitely. There are many reasons why I haven't gone through with getting it done... :oops:
  22. neuronic

    neuronic

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    Everyone has their own preferences and the right to do what they want to their body regarding piercings/tattoos. With that said, as health professionals, we are held/should be held to a higher standard regarding professionalism and presentation. It is a sacrifice I am willing to make. At least for men, we are typically required to wear long-sleeves/ties/coats, so an arm tattoo would likely not be visible to patients. The "visible" aspect is the key term. Remember that anything that is visible to a patient can provide revealing information about oneself. This includes things like wedding rings, necklaces (e.g., fancy vs. cheap), makeup, ear piercings, long-hair (for men), etc. Some of these may be distracting to patients, which should be avoided at all costs. It is likely not the same as wearing a short skirt/tank top in-session, but may manifest in a distraction nonetheless. In contrast, some patients may build more trust if they see a tattoo if they also have a tattoo, however, it will really depend on your patient base.
  23. FemmeFeline

    FemmeFeline

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    I think these are all very fair points. I agree that when it comes to practice, especially in a field that involves sensitive interpersonal interactions, professionals should strive for an appearance that does not negatively influence this. Even if my work allowed tattoos, unless I was working at a high school (in which the students seem to positively connect with their tattooed educators), I would conceal my tattoos. I never heard about the wedding ring thing, but that does make sense. Are most people advised not to wear their wedding band while in a therapy session? That's very interesting to hear.
  24. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Moderator Emeritus

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    I have never heard that, though during my time in a very conservative part of the Midwest I was asked (more than once) if I wanted to attend the patient's church so that I could, "meet a good church-going woman". :laugh: Evidently inviting someone to worship with you is the Midwestern equivilant of inviting people over for drinks/dinner.
  25. erg923

    erg923

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    When we moved down here, everyone at our new church asked my wife "So, do you work?" :laugh:
  26. Veit

    Veit

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    Two things:
    1. I think the only person that would really have an issue with your tattoo is Edward Said, but ultimately whether or not your tattoo could be interpreted as an orientalizing or exoticizing is up to the viewer and how you interact with them. Unless you're the kind of person who will be getting random characters tattooed on your body to show off how exotic you are, or describe them with a line like "I just think that the way those people write is so exotic and beautiful, you know?" then it doesn't really paint the Japanese as an inherent other.
    2. Nothing is funnier to me than seeing a kanji or hanzi tattoo, asking for the meaning, and hearing something wildly outrageous and not at all correct. The best is seeing a series of kanji and being told that it's someone's (American) name. Frankly, I think that people really should have to justify their tattoo, when it draws on another culture, simply because of the potential to orientalize and offend. When your explanation is personal, it's fine, because tattooing should be a personal act. When your explanation is inaccurate to the point of being plain silly, maybe someone should sit down with you and have a chat about exoticism.

    I think a tattoo referencing Hojoki sounds like a good idea.
  27. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Moderator Emeritus

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    I know a number of physicians who have DNR (or some variation) tattooed on their chest. I chose to go the Living Will, DPOA, etc...route, but to each his own! :laugh:
  28. zensouth

    zensouth

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    I am practicing as an LAPC at the moment. I have 3 tattoos, two of them are on the inside of my bicep of each arm, fairly large. I work with kids, and I often wear short sleeve shirts or polos and sometimes my tattoos become exposed. The kids don't mind. I once had a parent state to me that they were offensive to her because from where she came from she interpreted tattoos as a gang symbol. Mine are religious in nature, I explained it, but she still didn't like it, and they terminated therapy early. It can go either way.

    Also, as another poster put it, it is a form of self disclosure. There have been a few times where my tattoos peeked out and I had to explain their non-Christian significance to strongly Christian clients earlier than I would have preferred in the course of the therapeutic relationship.
  29. ClinicalABA

    ClinicalABA

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    In my experience, very few people will have a problem with your tat (or even notice in any significant way). However, I recommend checking out the following site before you get any oriental themed ink: http://hanzismatter.blogspot.com/
    There are a lot of very permanent mistakes out there- including people who think they have tattoos of ancient Chinese or Japanese sayings, but at best have gibberish, maybe have names of dishes from Chinese or Sushi restaurants, and at worst have insults (e.g. character for "ho", instead of "tree"). Be sure of your text and of the honesty and competency of your tattoo artist. This can be particularly true if you're using ancient or traditional characters. As a Japanese major, you might be aware that caligraphers/artists study for years to get proficient with these characters, and a stray line or part of a symbol can really mess things up (the character for "samurai" is very close to the character for "hemorrhoid" http://www.kirainet.com/english/hemorrhoids-痔/). Expecting a tattoo artist- even a good one- to accurately copy traditional characters may be a mistake.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2012
  30. Pragma

    Pragma

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    I have a tattoo that is easily covered. Most people don't know I have it because it doesn't show at work.

    Not sure if it is a neuropsych thing, but I have had multiple neuropsychologists make negative comments about tattoos. Since they have been in a supervisory capacity, I don't self-disclose that I have one. In some ways it is off-putting, because tattoos are so common these days. I see it as some old-timers being a little out of touch, but try not to take it personally.
  31. paramour

    paramour

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    Although tatts may be more common, I don't think they are as accepted as some people may perceive them to be. I've worked in a number of places where they were not allowed (to be visible), so if you did have any, they better be covered up at all times. There were no exceptions for "but it's small" or "it's not offensive" or "you can barely see it" or whatever folks want to throw out there. If you didn't think you could cover it with clothing, you were told to use make-up to cover it up. No exceptions. [I worked at one place that was quite strict on facial hair, piercings, etc. as well. Of course, the only one piercing per ear (for females only) rule seemed to be common across work sites.]

    My partner is a master certified technician (fancy way of saying he works in the automotive business :smuggrin:). He recently was hired for an international manufacturer/marketer of large trucks, diesels, etc. In his line of work, folks are typically expected to get a bit grimy at times. It's bound to happen playing around with engines and things. :p He was amazed to learn that they have a tattoo policy. A guy got reamed yesterday because he removed the light jacket he had been wearing. Not in dress code? Nope, he was wearing a short-sleeved dress shirt, and it revealed part of his sleeve tattoo. Nothing was offensive about it, but the fact that he had one and that others could see it was a major finger-shaking problem (even if he was in the back lab of a building where he was to have no major interaction with folks other than his coworkers that day). He was required to put his jacket back on for the rest of the day.
  32. FemmeFeline

    FemmeFeline

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    :laugh: I've seen that site before. It's unfortunate, since most of the pictures on there to be translated are already permanent tattoos. Of course, another barrier to my tattoo dream is the fact that I want to find an experienced irezumi artist, preferably a native-speaking Japanese person. Like most people who take tattoos seriously, I would be spending a lot of time meeting and greeting to find the right artist for me, spending a lot of money for quality and artist experience, working with the artist over the course of several consultation sessions (previewing the art), then proofreading the final stencil on my body. Since I can read the classical phrase myself, I hope I am the one who doesn't make a mistake! :p Another thing to note about classical kana... It doesn't look at all like modern kana or traditional/simplified Chinese characters. It's in a different language than modern Japanese, and the characters themselves are different. There are many versions of the oldest written Hojoki manuscripts (the original has not survived), and I want to have the mixed hybrid version.

    (First sentence, blurry photo, but you'd get the idea if you read Chinese/Japanese):
    [​IMG]
  33. BlackSkirtTetra

    BlackSkirtTetra

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    I actually know a guy who is a Masters-level CADC who has full sleeves, and a dragon of some sort crawling up his neck (which you can see even if he has a suit on). When I first met him I remember thinking (erroneously or not), "There's no way this guy can be the person I'm looking for." But he was.

    I don't mean to stereotype drug counselors, but to me it seems like for some reason they seem to have an easier time than other counselors/therapists with tattoos and piercings.

    I have a tattoo of a butterfly on my foot, and I have to be careful about the kinds of shoes I wear at work. Nothing has ever been said to me, but I think a lot depends on the workplace, especially for small tattoos.
  34. Markp

    Markp Post-Internship (ABD)

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    I have a Kanji tattoo, it is rather risque to begin with, I can't imagine a mistranslation possibly making it any worse! I know it was done accurately. It's in a place where I have control over where and when it will be seen. It's directly in the center of my back.

    I knew I hit it just right when a younger Chinese woman and an older Japanese woman had very different responses to it. :) The younger lady thought it was quite appropriate and the older woman had a visceral negative reaction to it. I didn't get it for either of them, I got it for me. It captures my irreverent sense of humor beautifully.

    Tattoos in military practitioners are quite common however.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2012
  35. candice1984

    candice1984

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    You should read "The tattooed therapist: Exposure, disclosure, transference" by Addy Stein. It's an article from the Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society Journal. It a great article on how tattoos can be a form of non-verbal self-disclosure. It also talks a bit about clients looking their therapists up on social networks.
  36. erg923

    erg923

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    Heh, yea, sounds like something analysts would pontificte about. But, so it my Calvin Kein belt buckle and my studded cufflinks. I would like to be viewed as human by my patients, so I am ok with all the non verbal self-disclosure that happens in human relationships. Some people, for some reason, seem scared of this (or super catious), i dont quite get it.
  37. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Moderator Emeritus

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    My favorite tattoo story involving a patient:

    When I worked with Veterans, their tattoos often were a source of good/bad memories. I had a Korean war Veteran recall the entire story about when he got his first tattoo (it was hysterical)....and this gentlemen couldn't remember much anything else day to day. It was a great way to build rapport during a tough evaluation (I was consulted to do a capacity evaluation, and he was salty). The best part of the interaction was that I found out later he convinced a friend and their health-aid to get a new tattoo with him. He had good and bad days, but on his good days...he could be pretty persuasive. :thumbup:
  38. Neuropsych2be

    Neuropsych2be

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    Being of a certain age, I just don't get the whole tattoo and body piercing thing and I have a strong bias against them. But I recognize that for my generation in the 80's it was earrings on men that was the de rigeur sign of coolness. So to each generation their own. But I believe that these things should be discrete or covered up in a work setting. That can be a problem. I have a rare painful untreatable incurable skin condition that causes the appearance of dark red lesions. There is a makeup product called Dermablend that can easily and quickly cover up anything including tattoos. There is rather famous guy whose name escapes me with a whole body zombie tattoo. He recently did an ad for Dermablend where he was able to completely cover up his tattoos and appear to have a normal skin coloration. Once you get the right color blend for your skin tone, you can cover a visible tattoo up in just a few minutes and it stays on quite well.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2012
  39. 3rdWave

    3rdWave Licensed Psychologist

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    I have a tattoo on my upper arm. My clinic director in grad school said it was up to me whether I covered it up, or allowed it to be visible. In really hot weather with patients with whom I had an established relationship, I sometimes allowed it to be visible. Some patients had a very positive reaction to it. No negative reactions yet that I know of.

    I am on internship now, and the hospital policy is "no visible tattoos" so I respect that and always wear sleeves that cover it. However, I do see many employees with visible tattoos each day, and nobody seems to care.

    Anyone know what the VA System's tattoo policy is?

    I personally, would not want a tattoo on my wrist, because it is not easy enough to hide when necessary.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2012
  40. erg923

    erg923

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    The VA does not have a no visible policy as an organization. Too many vets work for the VA .
  41. thepug

    thepug

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    I see visible tattoos as a form of transference that you cannot remove. I dunno I just think people view visible tattoos in kind of a stereotypical way and I myself would not want to be stereotyped based on such a simple thing.

    Tattoos are lame, don't even bother with them.

    *I have a non-visible tattoo.
  42. FemmeFeline

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    Thank you for the very insightful and diverse responses, everyone! Definitely lots of food for thought. This has become a really interesting discussion about non-verbal self-disclosure and what it means to be a "professional practitioner."

    I'll continue to indulge in my mental fantasies of becoming tattooed, and will probably start with something small and simple like a California tattoo on my foot. :thumbup:
  43. 3rdWave

    3rdWave Licensed Psychologist

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    Thanks!
  44. BellaPsyD

    BellaPsyD Correctional Psychologist

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    Femme- did you ever get that CA tattoo on your foot? I'm thinking of doing the exact same!
  45. Markp

    Markp Post-Internship (ABD)

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    Just put it somewhere you can control how and when it is seen.

    Patients, co-workers, and supervisors will all make assumptions about the meaning and significance of any visible tattoos. And that significance and meaning might be totally different than the meaning and significance you place on the tattoos.
  46. affectiveH3art

    affectiveH3art

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    I just recently met someone at an interview with two full sleeves! And female too...I wonder if that will ever be an issue for her in the future...She never told me until I saw a hint of it after we had dinner post-interview.

    Strange but true ( I was interviewing Phd counseling)...
  47. affectiveH3art

    affectiveH3art

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    I just recently met someone at an interview with two full sleeves! And female too...I wonder if that will ever be an issue for her in the future...She never told me until I saw a hint of it after we had dinner post-interview.

    Strange but true ( I was interviewing Phd counseling)...
  48. smearedblackink

    smearedblackink

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    .
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
  49. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychology Fellow Moderator

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    In all honesty, this is going to happen regardless of whether or not it should. People will of course be affected by it to varying degrees, but it's something to at least keep in mind when making these types of decisions. It's just up to the individual to decide if that's something they want to take on or not.

    Beyond that, I don't know that I'd say colleagues have no right to judge ability based on appearance; rather, it's perhaps that they shouldn't, in large part because they very well could end up being wrong. But I'd argue that sure, they technically have the right do to that if they so choose.
  50. smearedblackink

    smearedblackink

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    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013

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