The integration of Tarot, counseling and psychology is becoming an increasingly popular topic within the Tarot community. The Tarot partners so well with a consultative, therapeutic style of delivery, by creating a collaborative partnership between reader and client and guiding them towards a desired outcome.
This week, I welcome Elise Mori from Star Tarot to share with us how she integrates counseling skills with Tarot reading. The techniques she describes are easy to implement and ready for you to try on for size. Over to you, Elise…
Tarot and Counseling
“How can I support what is most alive in you?” says Katrina Wynne in her “Introduction to Transformative Tarot Counseling.” “I have no interest in predicting the future or telling people what decision to make. I believe that disempowers clients and their relationship to their life’s journey. I’m looking for guidance that comes from the clients, through their awareness, conscious or subconscious, which knows where they are on their journey and what step is next.”
In person-centred counseling, the client themselves hold the key to their own inner wellness – as opposed to other forms of therapy, where the analyst/therapist gives prescriptive advice, asks questions and directs the sessions (a great resource on person-centred counseling is the Association for the Development of the Person-Centred Approach). With counseling, the listening skills of the counselor elicit the client’s self-healing. So how can these skills be used in a Tarot reading?
First of all, let’s remain within the bounds of legality. If you are not a trained counselor or therapist, it’s illegal, unethical and dangerous to say or even imply that you are. However, what I’m proposing is a set of skills that should enable you as a Tarot reader to help the client become the catalyst for their own healing. In “Tarot and Psychology: Spectrums of Possibility“, Arthur Rosengarten states:
“The proper aim of psychoanalysis is to make the unconscious conscious. This to a large degree is a key function of Tarot as well, that is, to make possibilities conscious. Tarot cards either clarify, interconnect, or amplify what already exists in consciousness, or else they bring unconscious possibilities into conscious awareness.”
In order to facilitate this, the Tarot reader needs to set aside their own agenda, to be able to channel the message of the cards as directly as possible with unconditional regard for the client’s whole self, as a person in transition. Handled effectively:
- The client sees themselves in a new context, from a new perspective.
- The “voice” of the Tarot stays impartial – no side, no agenda.
- The Tarot can give answers that no-one else can, as with prediction, knowledge of the client’s psyche, knowledge of past events etc.
- The client experiences a feeling of connectedness to a higher agency that clearly seeks to help them, and develops faith in the Tarot process, as well as in the helping energy of the universe as a whole, since spiritual emotions are in themselves therapeutic. For more on how spirituality can help your state of health, see this study from the University of Missouri.
In a practical sense, how does this work?
Face-up, sandbox-type readings
With this technique, the client doesn’t need any knowledge of the Tarot, and the images of the cards are taken at face value. This is a great activity for strengthening the client’s bond with the Tarot, and for helping them to develop intuition. Even if the client knows the meanings of the cards, or later in the reading if the meanings have been explained and explored, the reader can suggest that the client place the cards into categories: people/situations, wants/dislikes, past/present, and so on. In a face-up, sandbox-type reading, the client feels more empowered, more valid and engaged in the reading process.
In face-down readings where the cards are turned over and revealed, the random aspect of the reading, where the client feels that a higher power selects the cards for them, the numinous, mystical aspects of Tarot all come into play.
In both approaches, first impressions count. The client is encouraged to notice and describe what they see. How does it make them feel? What do they associate the image with? A person, a song, a film, a place, a time? For example, on the 8 of Swords the client may see an escapologist, someone performing a circus routine, and that’s as valid as the traditional interpretation if it leads them to a place of self-discovery. The client may feel they are a performer or an escapologist. If they feel that this is a performance, is this dangerous? How does the person in the card feel about their performance? See this great blog post on Tarot Eon called “A lesser known Tarot Secret” for more on the subject.
With the sandbox-type reading, as with any reading, you can encourage the client to take photographs if you are in the room together, and these readings work well with distance readings over Skype and FaceTime.
Free-associating with the cards leads us to making stories about them. In 1970, Jungian scholar Marie Louise Von Franz described storytelling as “the international language of all ages, of all races and cultures. The universal themes found in good literature give children a sense of solidarity with all people. They transcend cultural attitudes.” Storytelling with the Tarot could extend to:
- The cards’ stories themselves, the “personality” of each card – either what the client associates with them, or what the “book” meaning of the card is. For example: the man in the 4 of Pentacles, what’s his story? How did he get here? Was he asleep and some naughty children put coins on his robes? Is this an acrobatic trick? Why doesn’t he move?
- Using the sequence of the cards as a comic strip – it doesn’t matter if the client knows about the Tarot or not for this activity. The cards are arranged in a sequence that satisfies the client, or encourages them to talk about their experiences. The reading can be voice-recorded by the client for later reference.
- Stories and myths related to the card’s meaning or image, e.g. Icarus with the Hanged Man, Hansel and Gretel with the 5 of Coins, Perceval and the Holy Grail with the Knight of Cups, etc. Here, the reader needs to be able to draw from their own storehouse of folk tales, legends and myths. In my experience, this has been a powerful technique that dynamically facilitates the healing of the Tarot.
Both sandbox-type and storytelling activities facilitate the client’s exploring of their own, unique reaction to the cards, allowing them to interact with the archetypal power of the images more directly. Other techniques that can also facilitate this process are:
- Dialoguing with the cards, where the client talks to the cards or the client imagines conversations between the cards
- The images on the cards generate questions that provoke self-discovery
- Making drawings: either of each card individually, or freeing the images from their boundaries where the characters and symbols of the cards mingle in a single picture
These techniques and more are explored fully in Mary K. Greer’s “21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card“.
However, there are some situations where a counseling approach isn’t suitable for a Tarot reading, and you need to be very clear before you book the reading just what you and the client expect from the experience. It could be that they are looking for advice and guidance from you as a reader because they respect your personal judgement, or they just want to know what the meanings of the cards are, without all the soul-searching. And why not? As long as the reading remains ethical, I’m prepared to be flexible. I never pick up a Tarot deck without learning something, no matter what the reading style.
Over to You
And now it’s your turn. Which of these approaches have you used? Which ones worked, or really didn’t? Do you know any other ways in which a reader could use a counseling approach to their reading? Leave your comments below.
About Elise Mori
Elise Mori has no formal training in counseling whatsoever, but has been reading Tarot cards for over 20 years. She describes Tarot as “a hotline to the Higher Self”. She is currently living in Japan and is a Tarot professional and healer. Visit her website at http://star-tarot.com.