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’?
A Counselling-Based Approach to Reading the Tarot
In 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.
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.
Overall, 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.