5 Simple Steps to Read Tarot with Confidence

Transformative Tarot Counselling: A Book Review

By July 3, 2013Reviews

Something that has been ticking over in my mind recently is the question, “What type of Tarot reader am I?” Do I like to tell my client what I see in the cards, or do I like to create a safe environment for my client to work out the insights out for themselves? Do I focus the reading on what’s going to happen in the future or on what’s happening now so my client can change their future? And to what extent do I believe in a pre-determined future versus free will and changing one’s ‘destiny’?

These questions were raised once again when I started reading Katrina Wynne’s book, Transformative Tarot Counselling (available from Amazon as a Kindle book or as a paperback from Katrina’s website).

A Counselling-Based Approach to Reading the Tarot

katrina-wynneIn her book, Katrina challenges many of the ways in which Tarot readers work with the cards and their clients. She is a strong advocate for a counselling based approach which involves ‘following’ the client, rather than ‘leading’ the client, and being descriptive rather than prescriptive. Let me explain…

‘Leading’ the client means telling your client what you see in the cards and ‘leading’ your client around the Tarot reading. ‘Following’ the client, on the other hand, means creating the space for your client to interpret the cards and to pick up on the messages that are meant for them. For example, you might draw the Four of Swords. Instead of explaining what this card signifies, you invite your client to give their first impressions of the card and build the reading from there, mirroring and working with the client’s personally derived insights and interpretations.

It kind of reminded me of a story I heard where a Tarot reader was set up in a gypsy-style tent and would bring people in, draw a card, and spend the rest of the reading getting the client to interpret the card!

That said, it’s not that black-and-white, as is made clear by Katrina. There is still room, as the reader, to provide profound insight, it is just in the sense that it is building from what the client initially sees. For example, the reading might wrap up with the reader then connecting the client’s first impressions with the goals and issues that were stated at the beginning of the reading. Thus, the reader adds value by closing the loop and bringing it all together for the client.

Katrina also contrasts descriptive and prescriptive reading styles. Prescriptive reading is where you interpret a card and tell your client what is going to happen or what they must do. The Four of Swords again – “This card is telling you to rest and restore your energy because there are going to be more challenges ahead.”

Descriptive reading on the other hand is where you will simply describe what is in the card. Four of Swords – “We see a man lying here, hands in prayer position, in full armour.” There are no assumptions or conclusions made, no advice given, no future told. It offers up another invitation for the client to then make linkages between what is seen and what is intuitively known for them. “Oh, that looks like me doing yoga. Yeah, I feel great when I do yoga. Maybe I need to do more of it.”

Katrina makes her preferences quite clear:

“I have no interest in predicting the future or telling 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.”

Whose Tarot Reading Is It Anyway?

Katrina talks about power in a Tarot reading and who ultimately holds the power, based on the style of reading given. When the Tarot reader prescribes the action or the decision, they hold the power. They are the ones who are right or wrong. When the client decides their own path, they hold the power. It becomes more about their insights and change process, rather than the reader’s. “Whose Tarot reading is it anyway?” asks Katrina.

For me, this discussion on Tarot reading style and philosophy got me thinking at a deep level about my own approach to Tarot. The light bulbs were switching on and I truly appreciated the fact that Katrina’s book was a catalyst for re-evaluating my perspectives. (I generally find myself ‘leading’ the client, often in a ‘prescriptive’ mode. I think this has a lot to do with the format of my Tarot readings being via email – a very one-way exchange.)

From Theory to Practice

Katrina then moves into how transformative tarot counselling can be applied to the process of a Tarot reading, drawing upon some of the key principles of magic and alchemy as an underlying structure. What I really enjoy here is that she puts it into very practical terms with a step-by-step account of what ‘transformative Tarot counselling’ looks and feels like. She adds a number of sample readings to further illustrate the style.

Trying It On For Size – How I Practiced Transformative Tarot Counselling

Once I finished the book, I was inspired to grab my husband and coax him into a ‘transformative tarot counselling’ reading! I wanted to try it on for size and feel what this type of reading style was like.

I encouraged him to talk about first impressions and personal significance of the cards and was amazed at the level of insight he tapped into (even with no knowledge of the Tarot). I built on the reading, using his language and his insights, and by asking open-ended questions about what certain aspects of the cards might mean. We closed the reading with the question of, “Knowing what you know now, what is going to be different?” to plant the seed for transformation.

The ‘Verdict’

As the reader, it was a very engaging experience. As the ‘client’, my husband said it was insightful, but he was still wondering when I was going to start to tell him what it all meant. His comment was that most people would probably expect the Tarot reader to have the answers, and not the client, especially if they’re paying for the reading.

He raises a good point. Playing in the counselling space was very enjoyable and I believe it created a catalyst for change in my husband. But, oftentimes, people come to the reading with the expectation that they will be told something, rather than being asked to answer their own question. Whether that’s right or wrong, I still think we need to address where our client’s expectations lie.

So the question is, “How do you deal with clients who want you to have the answers?” Do clients ‘self-select’ because they know you’re a ‘counselling’ type of reader? Do clients engage in the transformative tarot counselling process anyway and realise that it is in fact a highly insightful and valuable process to be involved in? Or do clients walk away, annoyed that they weren’t told the answer?

The second question the book raised for me was, “How does transformative tarot counselling apply to other Tarot reading formats, such as email Tarot readings, where there is not as much opportunity for dialogue?” The book doesn’t cover this, primarily because Katrina has not worked in this space. But I can start to see how small modifications could be implemented to encourage this style of reading, such as being clear about boundaries and style in marketing material so that clients know what they’re signing up for, sharing the layout before a reading to get input from the client (just started doing this with great results!), including images of the cards in the reading, and asking open-ended questions throughout the reading.

The Lowdown

transformative tarot counsellingOverall, Transformative Tarot Counselling is a very well written book that presents its ideas and processes in a very clear and smart way. I would recommend this book to experienced Tarot readers who are open to exploring new ways of reading Tarot and engaging with clients. I personally appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Katrina’s style and evaluate how I might integrate some of her techniques into my own reading style. And you don’t have to subscribe to every one of Katrina’s philosophies or approaches to get value from this book.

I would especially recommend this book if you are a Tarot reader who is interested in how you can conduct interactive dialogues with your clients in ways that will engage them in the reading and that will open them up to their own, personal insights. And I would recommend it for those readers who are more naturally inclined to a counselling style of Tarot reading.

Disclaimer: This post uses affiliate links for Amazon (which gives me the opportunity to buy and review even more wonderful Tarot books!). I purchased this book on my own accord.

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  • rich says:

    Will everything work out and am I doing right by every one and I love reading your predictions thank you

  • Shelley, Sparrow Tarot says:

    What a well-written review, you really summed this book up in a brief and super informative way. I love your critical insights. I did the same thing as you, Brigit! I practiced this style on a good friend of mine after lunch at the beach last week. I also wanted to get a “feel” for it. I didn’t follow Katrina’s recommended 4-card spread or her specific approach, but I did employ tactics such as asking first for my friend’s impressions and insights. Truth be told, I actually felt like I got a lot of learning out of the session. My friend pointed out all kinds of interesting perspectives on the cards that I hadn’t considered, and she related figures and images on the cards to her particular situations in a way that was very unique and personal to her. It was very much a “mirror” for my friend and I added in details about card interpretations as appropriate. I also tried to do a sort of tie-together at the end. But I absolutely agree with you, it felt a bit different to me because I did feel like the “client” my friend was doing all the work, and sometimes I think she felt a bit put on the spot by having to give her insights, as if she was thinking “but you already know what this card means” so it almost felt like a test in a way. I think if I were to employ this practice in a paid reading, I would definitely distinguish it as an “active listening and feedback session using the tarot” or something of that nature. I wouldn’t call it a reading. Great review Brigit!!!

    • Brigit says:

      Hi Shelley,

      Good to read your comments and review also! This is definitely a particular style of reading that will not suit all types of situations, clients or readings. And it certainly doesn’t ‘cancel out’ every other style of reading there is, as in it’s not ‘the only way’. But, it is great to try out different styles and see what elements we can integrate into our own personal reading style.

      And, good idea about labeling it as a special type of reading to make sure your client is clear about what type of reading they are signing up for.

      Thanks, Brigit

  • Shelley, Sparrow Tarot says:

    One last thing to mention, at the end my friend went “Well. That was very helpful. It makes me wonder why everyone doesn’t get a tarot reading? It felt really good to just take a moment to step back and reflect on my situation.” 🙂

  • Katrina Wynne says:

    Dear Brigit and friends,

    I am honored to have my book reviewed by Biddy Tarot and so happy with the time and thought that Brigit put into writing this wonderful review.

    “An Introduction to Transformative Tarot Counseling” was written to give folks a taste of another way of relating to card reading that may allow more personal associations to the material for the client, a “mirror” as expressed by Shelley, Sparrow Tarot. These skills may enhance your current reading style or send you in a completely new direction.

    While it remains true that many clients enter a reading expecting answers, as a counselor I know that answers may serve as band-aids or short term fixes. That might be enough for many querents, so I respect the importance of offering this type of service. But, I also find that the expectation of the client is often reinforced by the consensus reality of what a reading is believed to be and by the readers who perpetuate that particular style of relating to the cards. Good on you gals for stretching and experimenting with something different. It is more work for the client, yet can be immensely rewarding if they are open to it. If not, no worries, one can always go back to reading “for” the client, instead of “with” the client.

    Ultimately, my style of reading is a beautiful blending of the client’s intuition, my intuition, and my knowledge of the cards. From these ingredients meaning emerges and is personalized by the client.

    Other aspects I would like to highlight are the two chapters on basic, and some advanced, counseling skills and ethics. Too often some of these essential qualities may be missing from a session or reading relationship. For example, confidentiality, or boundaries. These can be thin or slippery areas for some readers.

    My hope to is raise the bar for all of us as readers and clients to create a more life-affirming experience with Tarot, or other oracles, as we move our art beyond the stereotype of “Woo Woo” and into a respected field of profession, as so many of us practice it today. Thank you for moving us further in that direction, Brigit.

    Light & Love,

    P.S. Special note to Shelley….to explain my 4-5 card reading would require a whole ‘nother book, something I would enjoy sharing with the world once I have time to write it. I do introduce it in some of my advanced classes. Thank you for your interest.

    • Brigit says:

      I can tell, Katrina, that your work comes from a very heart-centred place, which is very special. And thank-you for mentioning the other parts of your book that I didn’t touch on (because I was running out of words/space!).

      I do think there is room for many different styles of Tarot reading, and each client will be drawn to a style that is the right fit for them. I can see how many would appreciate this style of reading, as well as other styles that many reputable readers offer.

      Warm regards, Brigit

  • Johan Baker Steinfeld says:

    Dear Brigit ~ This approach to using/reading the cards as a tool makes so much sense to me as my background is in health care and education. That is ~ my focus tends to be towards helping people learn how to take care of themselves. If one has the opportunity to see a mental health professional, they most likely are engaged in this process. I see their role (and this is an extension of that in my opinion ) as helping people understand their own personal dynamics and make their own decisions based upon this. A ‘shrink’ does not usual tell someone What to do, but rather acts as a coach assisting them to ‘see’ what the possible realities might just be. OK ~ I do find it refreshing when there is a give and take to the interaction rather than just a nod and a ‘hmmm’.
    For me personally, I see these cards awesome tools for greater personal understanding ~ granted that may not be everyone’s style ~ both client and reader. I would be quite interested in learning how you would use this approach with an ‘absent’ or email client. One could point out the symbolism involved and what it ‘might’ mean ~ each of us interprets the world around us from our personal point of view and there certainly needs to be wiggle room.
    I find astrology descriptive in terms of energies that might be in play. Tarot seems much the same way though perhaps even a bit more subjective.
    Thank you for sharing this perspective ~ it is an excellent one indeed. Now ~ to a follow-up addressing the email issue.
    Namaste, Johan

    • Brigit says:

      Hi Johan,

      I do think it becomes more challenging with using this style for email readings, unless you’re willing to have a 20+ email exchange!! I mentioned some ideas in the post for how to use it with email, but some further ideas might be to set ‘homework’ for the client, focusing on one card that captures the essence of the reading and meditating with that card for personal insight. Or, encouraging the client to explore the imagery before launching into the reading, to ascertain their own insights. Or, including the card images and refering to those images throughout the reading with open-ended questions such as, “See how he’s lying there? What does that represent for you in your life?”

      It’s certainly a bit more challenging, but it is possible to still modify and adapt to this style within the scope of email, I believe.

      Warm regards, Brigit

      • Shelley, Sparrow Tarot says:

        Hi John and Brigit,
        Thought I’d jump in too since at the moment I only perform email readings and I was actually already using some of these techniques even before I had the good fortune to find and read this book.
        In my email readings I do summaries of first impressions and wrap up at the end of my written interpretation report, but I also do a break down of each card and explain how I see it relating to the overall story. In those individual break outs, sometimes if I feel that the client needs to access their own feelings and impressions about a card prior to my particular interpretations (for example in very specific positional meanings such as “How does my partner view our relationship” or “How is my behavior helping or hurting this situation”) then in my written report I first say something like “Before I go into my thoughts on this card, take a moment to look at it and record any impressions, thoughts, words, or feelings that come to you, as well as what figures or images you’re particularly drawn to in the card. Then keep those in mind as we’ll come back to them.” That way I feel the client can capture initial impressions and weave them together with my interpretation. Sometimes I also phrase questions for further exploration, since I can’t ask the client directly, they can answer the questions internally and come to more meaning beyond what I write.
        I am so excited and energized by this marriage of using our own skills in interpreting the cards along with accessing our clients’ own inherent intuitive process and inner knowing. I feel like this helps, as Tarot Professionals so aptly phrases it, to “restore the spiritual dignity of the tarot.”

        • Brigit says:

          Thanks for sharing, Shelley!

          Again, I do think we need to be mindful and respectful of other styles of reading. So, I love that transformative tarot counseling encourages an approach that is professional and ethical, but let’s also acknowledge that it’s not the only way to read Tarot in a way that restores the dignity of Tarot and that raises the bar.

          • Shelley, Sparrow Tarot says:

            Absolutely agreed on respect for any and all systems that practice tarot in a professional and ethical way to restore dignity and raise the bar. However in terms of restoring spiritual dignity, I have a very hard time figuring out how providing predictions or telling clients what to do based on a tarot reading is in line with spiritual dignity, or in other words, respecting the individual client’s inner sense of knowing on a higher level (spiritually) what to do that is best for them. That’s where I think there’s a bit of distinction here. Generally I think clients who want a descriptive instead of a prescriptive reading are looking for a more spiritually-aligned experience, as opposed to someone looking for a prediction to simply tell them what’s going to happen or what they should do. Not that one is better or worse, but they are completely different aims. I guess I just think it’s important to be aware of this detail or distinction when choosing a reader and when targeting a client group to work with, otherwise with wrong expectations both sides can end up unsatisfied.

  • Kate (Daily Tarot Girl) says:

    I love this approach to Tarot reading! I will be getting this book for sure. For the past couple of years I have been trying to gradually shift my reading style to a more interactive format and I have been getting some great results. However, I do find that people expect you to answer their big questions for them. But I think that if you are clear about how you do your readings then this shouldn’t be a huge problem. I feel like people in general are so used to denying their own power and just want to be told what to do – but I also think that this is changing. The more involved someone is in their reading, the more of an impact it will have on them – I can’t wait to read this book, thank you, Brigit for reviewing it 🙂

    • Brigit says:

      I think there will always be clients who do need that extra guidance, and that’s OK. It’s important that there are many different readers and reading styles in order to accommodate these different client needs, but also in a way that is ethical and professional, no matter what the chosen style is.

  • Sofiasky says:

    Bom dia or buenos dias 🙂

    As i am interested in a therapeutical tarol approach, i am inclined to agree with Johan that this perspective is very interesting.

    i am still learning the tarot and practicing with friends but funny enough, this weekend when i laid the cards for a friend and on came the seven of wands reversed i asked him what it meant for him. His answer was: someone falling (as he is my friend i understood what he meant) and i used that insight to follow through the reading, asking him for frequent feedback as sometimes i give away more than one meaning to a card and i ask which one makes more sense to the person.

    thanks for the review Brigit and thanks katrina for the book

    have a nice day

  • Michaela Rosenberger says:

    I enjoyed your review of Katrina’s book because of your perspective of being open to receiving the information, and then using it to transform your own work. When we keep inquiring,, we become better. Sometimes it takes us on a new journey of our own.

    The best readings i have had are where I am a partner in the reading. i resonate with descriptive, and sometimes prescriptive. My work with clients is from a coaching perspective of guiding my client with open ended questions, to give them information, and also to invite them to see what is of value to them. The best outcome of a consultation is when they receive actionable insight. What do they do with the information now that they have it. I will read this book because I know that I can always offer more. And yes, I always learn from my clients. We are partners and equals.

    Even in a mail reading, a follow up e-mail asking what their greatest take away from the reading is, and one action that they are planning might just give them that lovely support that they want. It is always the Client’s best outcome. I encourage clients to make a copy of the cards and create a vision board, writing key words, and then looking at it every day.

    • Brigit says:

      Great question – “What’s your greatest take-away from the reading?” That helps to show the client that they are in the driver’s seat and take responsibility for what happens next.

  • johanne says:

    Being a counselling student and also learning the tarot I feel that this book would appeal to me .sounds really interesting and I think I’ll purchase one

  • Emma says:

    Another great book to go on my ‘must read’ list. Thanks for providing us with the review, Brigit!

  • Fox S. says:

    I really enjoyed this review not just for the info on the book, but the time you (and your husband) put into it.

    It seems like this book would be really helpful in bridging the gap with a client that expects a fortune-teller style reading; it is so frustrating to give a reading that you feel really nails some pertinent issues, but the person you’re reading for shrugs it off because they wanted to know if they should break up with their partner, if their boss was going to be nicer to them, or if they had magical money coming their way. Doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does, it leaves the reader and the client feeling disappointed!

    Thank you for the in depth review — Fox

    • Brigit says:

      Hi Fox,

      Yes! I totallly understand what you mean about when you do a reading with some really relevant issues uncovered, but they still want to know what to do!! Helping the client to explore the cards and the reading may engage them more in the process and have them come on board with what the cards are trying to tell them.

      Thanks, Brigit

  • Aasheesh says:

    A nice perspective to fine tune the Tarot reading process.I feel it requires a very high level of expertise to get into the ” Client leading …” mode. As a Tarot reader you have to be absolutely sure your own thoughts on the reading before asking the client to intrepret the cards.Else the entire process would become very muddled and lead nowwhere.And once the client pays up he expects to get some Earth shattering answers form the Universe ! So it would indeed be very difficult to get the participative process going.This so especially if the client is not at all knowledgeableor /and reluctant to judge for himself. I agree with Katrina that it is a wise combination of mutual intution.This way of reading has really got me thinking onto new lines altogether.Thanks Katrina for your amazing insights.
    Katrina can you let us know how much time you took to get comofortable with this innovative process and what kind of obstacles or roadblocks you had to contend with ?.A detailed sample reading would indeed be very helpful for readers to truly understand the process.
    The Predictive Vs Counselling approach is an eternal debate with no ready answers.There are human emotions and attitudes involved which are difficult to change.So i guess as a Tarot reader one has to judge from a client’s perspective what approach to take.
    A big thanks to Brigit for bringing this to the readers.Your blog posts are indeed very inspiring and an absolute pleasure to read. I am sure your readers would like to hear from you on how you have been able to incorporate this process in your own readings.

    • Katrina Wynne says:

      Dear Aasheeshh,

      Thank you for your interest. I will try to answer your questions.

      1) “Comfort” is such a relative term. I am continually challenging myself and expanding my knowledge and approach to working with Tarot, and with reading. My style is a blend between counseling skills and awareness, Process Work Psychology, and my deep and personal relationship with the Tarot. This blending of influences developed around the same time I was in graduate school for my M.A in Counseling Psychology, around 1990, when I created what I now call my Transformative Tarot spread. Prior to that I had been a solitary student of Tarot, living it as a book of wisdom, not as a reader. I did not begin to offer public readings until requested, in 1992. I certainly distinguished my style of reading around 1995 when I started calling it “Tarot Counseling” and created my first website, by the same name, and still up today (

      2) For samples of my style, I recommend reading the book reviewed in this lovely post. In addition, last Wednesday I was the guest on NuLife Radio’s “Kosmic Koffee with Kooch…and Katrina” where I happened to offer two small sample readings. I say small for my reading is minimum 30 minutes, but preferably an hour. Here is the link to that podcast:

      I am working on my video making skills and hope to provide an educational video within the next six months. My YouTube channel is “SacredRosePro”. You can always check my website for information and links to these materials.

      Thank you to everyone who has taken the time and interest in my offering to the world. I’m glad to see that it has stimulated such meaningful discussion and, perhaps, inspired new life-affirming ways to relate to our art.

      In Spirit,

  • intuitve tarot reader says:

    My best wishes to Katrina for her book “. Since i am also belongs in the same profession, i hope such book will help many professional like me to know about ideas and processes of Tarot Reading.

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