Using Cool Temporary Tattoos in Therapy

by Tara Deliberto PhD

Decreasing eating disorder behavior is a main part of any treatment for anorexia nervosa, but in BITE, we also focus on increasing recovery behavior.  Recovery behavior can be anything from actively using coping skills to eating an entire meal without having an emotional outburst.  Providing reinforcement to adolescents with eating disorders is an important part of increasing recovery behavior in BITE.   But coming up with ideas for reinforcers can be tough!  Sure, non-verbal cues like smiling or providing verbal encouragement can be tremendously helpful, but what can the adolescent work for in treatment?  Just working towards "getting better" isn't going to cut it with this crowd.  Working towards obtaining something enticing can be a powerful motivational tool in eating disorder treatment.  The problem is that tangible rewards for teens can become expensive pretty quickly.  

So, what about the really cool temporary tattoos that Tattly makes?  Those seem like a good idea, and not just because they're affordable.  Any Tattly would make a good reward because so many adolescents love them.

Beyond just making a good reward, Tattlys can be used more artfully in treatment as well.  Because most eating disorders are accompanied with poor body image, simply placing any cool temporary tattoo on a body part judged to be "disgusting" by the patient can begin to create a new mental association with that area.  The idea is that while that body part used to be negatively judged, the addition of a Tattly would now add a positive judgement.  And perhaps more importantly, if an adolescent is prone to avoiding looking at that body part, having a cool temporary tattoo on the area might facilitate a decrease in the eating disorder symptom of body avoidance.  In addition to placing Tattlys directly on negatively judged body parts, the Tattly intervention can also be helpful more broadly to patients with eating disorders.  Below are examples of how Tattlys can be used in conjunction with BITE.  

Specific to Stage 1 BITE:

Specific to Stage 2 BITE:

Specific to Stage 3 BITE


We some of the ideas in this post inspired you!  Keep us posted on how your intervention with Tattlys went over.  Please feel free to leave comments for us on this post.