Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Women social workers-Attitudes, Tattoed people-Psychology, Tattooing-Psychological aspects, Psychotherapist and patient, Therapeutic alliance, Tattoos, Visible tattoos, Clinical social workers, Narratives, Tattooed social workers, Tattooed women


The purpose of the study is to explore the subjective and objective experiences of female clinical social workers with visible tattoos in order to gain an understanding of how the body of the therapist emerges, influences, and impacts the therapeutic alliance with clients. Due to the lack of information on the topic, and a desire to reveal a deeper understanding of the phenomenon and its subjective meaning, this study used an exploratory research design. Nine female clinical social workers from all over the United States who had visible tattoos were selected using purposive and snowball sampling. These women participated in hour-long individual interviews that used unstructured open-ended questions. Data from these interviews was analyzed using a grounded theoretical approach (Glaser and Strauss, 1967), and was guided by a feminist relational lens (Dietz, Christine and Thompson 2004; Dietz and Thompson, 2004; Sommers-Flanagan and Sommers-Flanagan, 2009;Young-Eisendrath, 1990). Using open-coding and then focused coding, the interviewer connected ideas between interviews and discovered common themes throughout the data. These themes reveal the complex, simultaneously oppressive and empowering experiences of female clinical social workers with visible tattoos, provides new information for the field of social work to better understand how the physical self of a therapist emerges in the therapeutic alliance, and suggests exploration of the judgments within the field for further research.




iii, 64 p. : col. ill. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2011. Includes bibliographical references (p. 49-57)