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Tarot and Counseling with Elise Mori

by Guest Writer on September 11, 2013 in Real Life Tarot

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.

eliseOver 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

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard Palmer September 11, 2013 at 8:39 am

In the course of my life I had the privilege of studying the Analytical Psychology of Dr. Carl Gustav Jung , who stated in his Collected Works that evoking the Unconscious Mind can be a path fraught with danger for the untrained for you are dealing with the Nature Consciousness itself and you may well invoke a psychosis instead of an increased level of insight if the forces slumbering beneath the surface of the individual consciousness are of sufficient power. It is unwise to tickle the tigers tail without knowing exactly what you are doing, as it may turn around and bite you. I speak from personal experience. Of this truth I am certain.


Elise September 11, 2013 at 9:51 am

Thank you, Richard. You are absolutely right, and this is a really important point about the responsibility of the reader – I’m sure everyone who has ever read cards has had an experience where the client has reacted to the reading in a way that was extremely difficult to handle. The images on the cards are supposed to be potent archetypes, that’s part of their value, but also the danger.

In his book, Arthur Rosengarten mentions a long list of people that you should never give readings to. As a reader with no counselling training, you should listen to your intuition, and do a guidance reading for yourself about the client before you start, so as to know what to expect.

Plus: “if you don’t want to know the answer, don’t ask the question.” As part of your professional tool-box, each reader should have a code of ethics and guidelines that lays down the limits of their expertise and responsibility and indemnifies them. The Tarot is a tool for self-discovery. The client needs to be made aware that with a reading they are taking the reins of their life in their own hands.


Delphine September 11, 2013 at 9:08 am

What an excellent article! And it couldn’t have come at a better time. I am about to start a counselling course tomorrow and the reason for that is because I am finding that my readings are going in a different direction. Where I used to predict and advise I now interact and include the client in their own healing process. I am now using the tarot as a tool for self learning which gives the client more autonomy over their life and subsequent decisions. I have been trying all these ideas you have discussed here without even realising it. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. X


Elise September 11, 2013 at 9:52 am

You are welcome, Delphine. Thanks for the comment, and enjoy the course.


Deborah September 12, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I have been in the helping profession my entire life and currently work as a counselor in a maximum security prison. I work with special populations: the seriously and persistently mentally ill and the developmentally disabled. I have been curious about how clients might interpret cards but of course, I would not take the risk as I have similar concerns to those voiced by Richard. Also, I am not sure the facility would view this as acceptable practice….still I sometimes wonder….


Elise September 12, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Hello Deborah,

That sounds like deeply rewarding and challenging work. You could ask your question, about the fitness for Tarot in high-security prisons, on the Tarot Professionals page on Facebook. Some people there might have experience of that.

Going back to Rosengarten, on page 44 of Tarot and Psychology, he lists: “actively psychotic, schizophrenic and bipolar patients” and so on, there’s a long list, that he thinks should not get Tarot readings.

I agree with you and Richard, even from my non-qualified point of view, that Tarot is a very powerful and transformative tool and needs to be handled with care. Thanks so much for your comments.


Brigit September 13, 2013 at 2:24 am

I’ve been really interested watching some of the responses to the post I did on Tarot cards for mental health. A number of people commenting have mental health concerns themselves and say that the Tarot has been very helpful for understanding more about their health concerns. Have a look at

I do agree, though, that this has the potential for being ethically ‘risky’ and would always say, proceed with caution!


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