TAROT COUNSELING vs. Predictive Readings

I’d like to share my thoughts and experience on the topic of predictive reading in contrast to what I call Tarot Counseling, a term I have been using since 1991. As a professional counselor, my style of relating to the Tarot, especially when reading for others, is more in line with the values involved with counseling. These values include ethics, empowerment of the client, and honoring boundaries. I own and take responsibility for my counseling bias, but hope to also honor the importance of diversity in card reading styles.

This article compares two distinct camps in modern Tarot work, those who use the cards to make predictions for themselves and/or clients, and those who look to the cards for guidance and insight, without making conclusions and future speculations. The former is much more popular and represents the stereotype the general population assumes is the purpose of consulting the Tarot. This stereotype includes the image of gypsy fortune-tellers and the like.

First, I will look at predictive Tarot work by breaking it down to its various aspects. The cursory level of prediction using the cards is to rely on the interpretation of the cards based on how the reader studied and learned predictive meanings of Tarot cards. For example, if the VII Chariot shows up in a reading, one would assume that travel will be in the client’s future. This is not the only interpretation of this card and can represent a very one-dimensional way to see the Chariot card.

Another aspect of prediction is when the reader draws from her/his intuition or direct psychic source. Developing one’s intuition is one of the primary purposes of the Tarot and as thus, very valuable for the reader. What one does with their intuitive insight is key.

A predictive reader will add his/her insight to the reading, as if it is The Truth to be learned from the reading. Part of the problem in this reading style is it gives the reader all the power in the relationship, with the client being a passive recipient. Unfortunately, most clients assume this is the way to receive a reading and are willing participants in this one up, one down, relationship. It also denies clients the possibility of bringing in their own insights and intuition, especially their personal experience and emotional connection to the message. Some predictive readers have learned to include their client’s input, but may unknowingly still dominate the reading experience.

To make the contrast between these two styles more obvious, I’d like to give you an example of the predictive style and what it might look like in a counseling session. The client arrives for her counseling appointment with an issue in her life she would like to change. Let’s say she is unhappy with her primary relationship. The counselor hears the issue and immediately makes an evaluation for the client and tells her what to do, with very little input or emotional connection from the client. “Just break up and find another love interest.” This is a very one-dimensional answer to an issue that may be much deeper and more complex.

Those of you who have experienced counseling or are trained in counseling skills may know that the job of the counselor is not to give simple advice or direct clients on what to do, but to assist clients in uncovering their issues and to support them in finding their power. If the counselor said, “Just break up.”, in most cases this would never happen and would not be useful information. If it were that easy, the client would not have come in for counseling in the first place.

I can understand why the predictive style of reading the cards is so popular. As the reader, it is very empowering and exciting to be able to give advice, share insight, be right, influence people, get people on track, view the future, avoid pain, etc.

Recently, I visited a friend who is a trained, certified, psychic reader. We decided to have a fun experiment and exchanged readings. First, we each gave a one-card reading in our preferred style, she being a psychic reader and me being a Tarot consultant. This gave each of us a sample of the other’s best work.

Next, we exchanged styles. I coached her through the subtleness of a non-predictive reading, which she did fine, although it was not as validating for her personally (see previous comments about the reader’s perks in predictive reading).

My offering of a predictive reading was very fun, included lots of information from me about my friend’s life based on the card as well as details that came from my intuitive awareness, including the first initial of the person in question, something I did not previously know. This was empowering for me and really engaged my friend as if everything I had said was true. As exciting as this was, it also made me feel very nervous because it gave me way too much power to influence other people’s lives.

In conclusion, I see predictive readings as entertaining and potentially informative. As readers, it certainly enhances one’s intuitive abilities, which is a major reason for working with Tarot in the first place. Unfortunately, I also see potential for misuse or abuse, especially when considering power dynamics and related ethics. Ultimately, my experience and training has shown me that predictions are not the most life-enhancing or transformative for the client, if that is what the Tarot client is inviting.

So then, what is different about a Tarot Counseling skills approach in one’s Tarot consultation?

As the title implies, counseling skills and values are utilized when working with the Tarot cards and the client. You may have noticed that throughout this writing I have referred to the querent as the “client”. In most readings the client is passive and receives information. This dynamic is completely different with Tarot Counseling.

One of the main contrasts between predictive and counseling styles is whether the reading is “prescriptive” or “descriptive”. Like it sounds, prescriptive is when readers report their interpretation of the cards and prescribe a particular meaning or action based on their point of view…if the VII Chariot appears in the reading, you will be moving.

Descriptive readers share or reveal information based on the cards, without imposing their personal interpretation of what it means to the client. Of course, one must take into consideration the knowledge of the reader and scope of their understanding of the Tarot in determining how accurate that information may be. Ultimately, only the client can determine how useful the information is and how to apply it.

Another dimension involves “leading” versus “following” the client. Following clients, or one’s self, in a reading is more challenging for readers to grasp. It is easy to lead clients with your interpretation of the cards and what you think they mean while the clients follow your advice, interpretation, guidance. More difficult is listening to clients, involving them in the reading process, opening the clients to their own intuitive relationship with the cards, and then supporting them to discover their own solutions, actions, meaning. The reader takes a back seat to the clients and the cards, allowing the clients’ wisdom to shine on their own with the reader’s experienced guidance in the process, not the reader’s interpretation.

By the way, this also means clients work more in the reading and are not passive recipients. This may not be the most popular position for those hoping to leave the responsibility of their decisions or actions with some third party, such as the reader.

Most readings feed the intellect, an experience from the neck up, but do not necessarily touch one’s body-mind-emotion-soul. My goal as a Transformative Tarot Counselor™ / Transformative Tarot Consultant™ is to provide a safe and professional environment to afford clients the opportunity to go as deeply into their process as they choose to go. For more details on what goes into a transformational reading, please read my web article “The Alchemy of Tarot”.

Briefly, when offering Tarot counseling to a client, here is what I do. I must leave many details out for counseling skills are very fluid and diverse, but here are the basic steps.

Once the question has been clarified, the cards shuffled and cut, I turn only one card over at a time. This helps us focus on the one card. As I’m turning the card face up, I ask the client to give me his/her first impression … thought, feeling, association, reaction (intuition) … of the card. I follow their impression and do not offer my own. All the while, I am paying attention to the client, my intuition, and my knowledge of the card. This focus on the client’s impression anchors the personal relationship s/he has with the card and begins to connect it with the original question. My job is to guide the client through her/his experience of the card, not to interpret it for him/her.

Those who know my work are familiar with the fact that I can perform a very complete reading with only one card, but most clients expect a spread of several cards which makes it easier for them to follow the story.

So, the next step in my reading, after the client’s impression, is to add my intuition in a way that supports the client’s direction with the card. Last, I bring in my knowledge of the card that blends best with the client’s impression and my intuition in a co-creative process. This confirms the client’s impression of the meaning of the card, without the imposition of me leading the client to a particular conclusion. My role is more as a supporter…along with the cards, I’m just the channel, not the source. There is no ego or attachment on my part. I take no credit or blame for what comes through the reading.

There is so much more to my transformative style of Tarot consulting, but for now I wanted to express some of the most obvious differences between the predictive style and a more counseling-oriented one. For Tarot readers interested in expanding their repertoire of skills, I recommend studying and practicing all types of Tarot work and to develop your own style.

Tarot counseling is not meant to take the place of a professional counseling session, but it approaches the work with clients with the same respect for the complexity of life issues and/or spiritual concerns. All professionals are trained to know when an issue is beyond their scope of practice and are prepared to make referrals to qualified resources.

This article is something I have been wanting to write for some time. I was recently inspired by a weblog post and subsequent exchange on the TarotEon weblog. The internet is a wonderful resource for reading a diversity of opinions and experiences on Tarot. Below are some recommended weblogs and books.

78 Notes to Self
Corrine Kenner
Mary Greer
Shining Tribe – Rachel Pollack
Tarot Elements
Tarot Eon
Tarot Healing by Lisa
Tarot Spirituality
Tarot Quest


“21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card” – Mary Greer
“An Introduction to Transformative Tarot Counseling” – Katrina Wynne
“Professional Tarot – The Business of Reading, Consulting & Teaching” – Christine Jette
“Origins of the Tarot – Cosmic Evolution and the Principles of Immortality” – Dai Léon
“Tarot and Psychology – Spectrums of Possibility” – Arthur Rosengarten
“Tarot Shadow Work – Using the Dark Symbols to Heal” – Christine Jette

©2009 – 2023 Katrina Wynne, all rights reserved. Nothing herein may be copied, reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in any media format without express written permission of the author.

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15 thoughts on “TAROT COUNSELING vs. Predictive Readings

  1. Pingback: TAROT COUNSELING vs PREDICTIVE READINGS « My Sacred Journey

  2. Hi Katrina,

    I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this article and enjoyed reading it.

    It’s a fascinating subject and one that I think you did a good job with.

    All the best for the New Year,


  3. Hi Doug,

    Thank you so much for your visit and comment. Coming from you, it is a real compliment. I admire your weblog with it’s deep thought and fine writing. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Love and Light, Katrina

  4. I have come to think that it’s in the crossover between prognostication and developmental assistance that the real gold mine may be found.

    Developmental stages and courses must first be understood, or the core of good advice goes missing. However, a general template representing systematic processes can be applied to everyday decisions. Archetypes then merge with ‘tidbit’ signs that lend themselves as pointers applicable to pretty much whatever decisions are at hand.

    While some predictive people and automated systems attempt get the vaguely universal ‘tidbits’ right, few have a handle on core universal stages of development. With the latter, advisors are free to use skillful means to in whatever form, trivial or complex, superficial and fun or deep and serious.

    This, as you may guess, is PsyKees’ modus operandi.

  5. Greetings Dai,

    I’m glad you read this article and shared your depth of perspective.

    I agree with your expression of the importance of recognizing the developmental stages and courses represented in the Tarot. I’ve been teaching this for many years and call it The Sacred Journey of Your Soul (notice the name of this weblog).

    Your book Origins of the Tarot (see my review under Articles and Information) details the roots of these evolutionary steps found in the major arcana. I encourage every dedicated Tarot person to read your insightful book.

    I’d like to quote myself from a comment I made on Aeclectic.net on the subject of counseling skills and fortune-telling in reading the cards.

    Historically, the essence of Tarot, or oracles, have had several roles; game, gambling, divination, spiritual tool. One can take a dualist approach to the cards and only study one aspect, or can embrace all the beauty and possibilities with this powerful tool. To paraphrase my friend, Diane Toland, from her book (Inner Pathways to the Divine) … Tarot is like a precious Samurai sword that some folks reduce to only a tool for cutting bread.

    Dai … I look forward to learning more about PsyKees … sounds intriguing.

  6. Katrina –
    Love your article. There’s so much valuable information in it. I found the concept of “leading” and “following” to be especially helpful to me. I’ve looked for a long time for a simple, direct way of expressing this. I also like how you analyze who is actually empowered in a reading.

    Mary K. Greer

  7. Welcome Mary,

    Thank you for your comment. Following the client is a Taoist concept, much like following nature, flowing with the river, rather than pushing up stream.

    Utilized along with the well described techniques from your book “21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card“, a Tarot reader can assist a client to find personal symbolism and meaning in the reading.

    In Spirit – Katrina

  8. Hi Katrina,

    I found this article very interesting and informative. I’m a new student of Tarot and have a lot of questions about Tarot ethics, the differences between “psychic readings” and using the Tarot as a source of guidance and inspiration, and have been trying to be thoughtful about my style and approach. I’m particularly sensitive to power dynamics and interested in learning to create a safe space for myself and others. This article is very helpful on my journey!

    Thanks very much.

  9. While I agree with you about the two very different ways of using tarot with a client (predictive/guidance), the tone taken toward predictive reading is unfortunate. Guidance oriented tarot is talked about as subtle, shaded, as a greater challenge to the reader, predictive tarot is talked about as if it is as simple as throwing down a card and stating the interpretation that came in the little booklet with your deck (“travel in your future soon.”) Perhaps your perspective on what goes into predictive reading comes from not practicing that style yourself, though I don’t want to assume that you have not studied/worked in that style in the past, but it is simplistic regardless. It is continually dismissive – your style is more work, predictive tarot about the reader’s ego, predictive tarot is just saying the obvious thing about the card in question, etc. That’s unfortunate, because it is not necessary to simplify and belittle predictive tarot and the work of predictive tarot readers to make your point. Your core point seems to be that it better serves an honors the client to help them use the tarot as a tool to navigate their own inner waters than as a way to give their power over to another or to some cards in an effort to avoid being the captains of their own lives. In my past experience as a predictive tarot reader I found that the cards were being used by clients to toss away the responsibility for charting their own course in life and, at the same time, to reinforce their belief that they are not empowered to know themselves but need others outside of them to tell them who they are. It is the reason I left paid tarot reading behind. Its not necessary to pretend that all that goes into the work of predictive readers is memorizing basic card meanings, a touch of intuition, and a lot of ego to make this point. Good predictive reading is much more subtle than tossing off a few standard meanings, its a subtle process of being present with the client and open to the sea of meanings each card, listening for how they are interacting and “speaking” with one another and to the client. Its an art that takes deep inner work and concerted effort to do well. While some predictive readers use the tarot as a blunt object, just passing on the most basic, set meaning for each card, that does not define the art of predictive tarot any more than an untalented tarot councilor would define yours.

  10. Dear JQ,

    Thank you for your comments. I invite you to describe the art of “predictive” reading showing the subtleties that you refer to in your work with Tarot. I would also like to hear more about why you left paid tarot reading behind, if that is not too personal. It seems you have an awareness of how easy it is for Tarot clients to give their power away to the reader or the cards.

    I intentionally wrote this article from a biased perspective hoping to stir up thoughts, feelings, but mostly awareness. Since my experience and training represents a minority in the Tarot world I felt I needed to push the envelope, speak from a contrasting perspective, but did not mean any disrespect, just to challenge. I honor all styles of reading and know there are more than predictive and guidance oriented ways of Tarot work. Variety and diversity is the rainbow of life and we need all options so there is something for everyone.

    Finally, this was my first article on this topic and I have since written a booklet (“An Introduction to Transformative Tarot Counseling — the High Art of Reading”, see my website: TarotCounseling.org) going into much more detail than could be included here. I hope you have a chance to read my work and develop a better understanding of where I am coming from in my work. My greatest hope is that it inspires readers to be more professional in a way that honors all their skills as well as their clients.

    In Spirit,

  11. My theory is that a really good reader uses all the techniques when appropriate. Therefore a tarot counselor would occasionally be predictive or prescriptive when it seems called for.

    I’ve given several talks on what the reading styles that I’ve named:
    • Predictive,
    • Prescriptive (Advice/Healing),
    • Descriptive/Options (Choice-Centered – Gail Fairfield),
    • Insightful/Perspicacitive,
    • Pedagogic

    As you can see, I separate advice and prediction. The pedagogic can also be dangerous (partly because it goes unseen) in that the tarot reader might present a situation in terms of their own view of karma or the four temperments or the ‘truth’ of synchronicity, etc., despite the querent’s not relating to these concepts. Yet, there’s always a bit of pedagogy in our readings, for instance, simply in explaining that the trumps are “major arcana” or archetypes.

    Personally, I find Katrina’s description of the counseling approach (a combination of descriptive/insightful in which the reader acts as guide through the querent’s own process) as the most rewarding, but there are times when one of the other approaches may be more beneficial to the querent.

    I’m reminded of a non-tarot counseling session (following a session in which my husband and step-daughters had attended); the therapist turned to me and said,
    “I’m not supposed to say this, but I don’t understand why you are staying in this relationship!”

    It was exactly the shock I needed to recognize that whereas the rest of the family saw me as the only one with a ‘problem’ that, to the outer world, how they were living and what they were demanding of me was truly unreasonable (if not crazy). It was the impetus I needed in order to leave.

    There’s a time and place for everything. I’ve tried to study with the most talented in each of the above categories, but then I had to discover for myself the style(s) in which I know I am doing the best (most truly helpful) I have to offer while doing the work I love. I find that I’m really good at helping another to discern their own truth and make their own choices. I feel most satisfied when I see the look of self-empowerment radiating from their whole body.

  12. Dear Katrina,
    I came to read your article as i read on your comments posted in tarot eon.

    I particularly like your words:

    “My role is more as a supporter…along with the cards, I’m just the channel, not the source. There is no ego or attachment on my part. I take no credit or blame for what comes through the reading.”

    On this journey as a tarot reader( i just started to read for the general public 4month ago) i realized the changes in my style as i set out to be the predictive reader. but now…at times i will just smile when the question pop into my mind: who is the real reader in a reading?” sometimes the client is the reader and i am the supporter to empowered them.

    I do tarot reading at the bazaar, so at times the neighbouring vendors would wonder why some of my clients cried while some had good laugh during the session. I see communication as vital and at times clients already know the truth and they just need a second opinion or feel,empowered,and being listen to. i particularly love it when they walked away confidently and with more clarity and feeling ready to face their fear.

    i feel you are like the lady in the RW version of the strength- warm,gentle, powerful, patience with loving kindness. 🙂

    thank you for sharing,
    love and light

  13. Dear Christine,

    Thank you so much for your kind thoughts. I especially appreciate your sharing about your shifting style of reading and interacting with clients. How beautiful to support their individual experience, be it laughter or tears.

    My simple philosophy when offering my services is to be useful, supportive, and always compassionate.

    Best wishes to you in your ongoing evolution as a professional reader, and as an amazing human being.

  14. I just wanted to tell you I enjoyed this article. It’s a subject I haven’t seen addressed much and one I have done allot of wondering about. I have considered myself a tarot counselor for 17 years now and always wondered how other readers went about this. Thank you for some insight. Namaste!

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