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.
“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
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