I’ll soon be offering a course called Tarot Counselling for Self and Others. Why tarot “counselling” as opposed to tarot “reading”?
For me, tarot reading involves a lot of activity on my part and a lot of passivity on the client’s part. There’s an implication in that terminology that I’ll read the cards at people as if reading a bed-time story to a child. The cards are mixed, the reader lays them out in a favourite prescribed pattern/layout, and talks while questioner sits and listens, is entertained and informed (or not), and we part company. “Reading” the cards for someone feels like stuffing people’s heads with a wad of information, then hoping it makes sense to them. This style of working with tarot often, but not always, emphasises events and how and when they’ll happen. The power is percieved, whether consciously or unconsciously, to lie within the reader and there’s an expectation that s/he is an all-seeing expert on every aspect of every person’s life. This is not a model with which I am comfortable.
On the other hand, tarot counselling is interactive, co-created, and client-centred. There’s an emphasis on the present moment and the options that lie therein. The tarot practitioner employs the cards, skillfully crafted questions and layouts, and hir capacity to create safe, non-judgemental space to assist the client to have insights and make meaningful connections. Counselling with the tarot involves as much listening as it does talking. It involves the client as much as the cards. A tarot counselling session (note that I don’t use the word “reading” in this context) serves the client’s personal evolution and the well-being of all of life around hir. The power is placed in the questioner’s hands as s/he makes hir own decisions about how relevant the insights are and how to apply them. The tarot counsellor acts as a sort of host and tourguide in the process. I am very comfortable with this model of working with tarot.
If this is a counselling/guiding session rather than a “reading”, why bother with tarot cards at all? For one thing, there’s less chance that the practitioner will take on the client’s projections and vice-versa. The symbols and characters in the card pictures are the recipients of our projections in the neutral space between us. Second, the surprise factor involved in a randomly chosen image can stimulate our creativity and imagination, taking us into territory we might not otherwise enter and suggest strategies that challenge us to stretch and grow. Third, for many people, to take a life issue to a deck of cards feels playful at first. They may think, “Oh well, it’s only a deck of cards. I can go along with the game. It’s not like I’m going to therapy or anything”, talk more openly with the tarot practitioner (I’ve heard things that even their therapists and families haven’t heard), and startle themselves into a helpful realisation.
Why does tarot counselling matter? In these times of change, transition, and perpetual motion, it’s good to have an oasis, a process that encourages us to slow down to our natural human pace. In those moments of reflection, the tarot’s symbols and concepts invite us into the presence of Self, of soul, and even of Spirit. These wise and accepting aspects of ourselves and Life are always whispering guidance, but 21st century stresses block their voices. Tarot counselling is a spacious hour or two for our Wisdomsource to be seen and heard with greater clarity. In this time of what Joanna Macy and others call the Great Turning, a time when humanity can either self-destruct or evolve, it’s healthy to honour our Wisdomsource and to allow its messages to ripple into our personal situations and into our culture.
For me, tarot counselling is a profound vocation. The cards and I have been acquainted since I was 12 years old. My interactions with the tarot and with groups and individuals over the tarot have changed me for the better. I love who I am. I love our world more. And I continue to discover, accept, and make more conscious choices about many aspects of my life. What a joy! This is why tarot used in a counselling manner matters to me.