Bridging the Worlds of Tarot and Psychotherapy
I know both of the worlds of Psychotherapy and Tarot well, as I have spent much time in each of them. As you know, I ultimately chose the latter over the former, but my background in psychology and time spent as a psychotherapist has greatly informed my skills and style as an Intuitive Counselor and Tarot Reader.
The similarities between the two worlds are surprising to some, but the differences are also striking. Ultimately, both aim to help make people’s lives better. And both psychotherapists and Tarot readers can stand to learn much from one another.
Below is a list of the similarities between the two fields that have stood out to me the most, and the differences I encountered upon becoming a Tarot practitioner.
Creating Self-Discovery: Both Tarot and psychotherapy create a safe space for the exploration of the self. Both readers and therapists aim to help their clients open untapped potential, new information and guidance from within, and in so doing help their clients build a stronger, more confident and honest relationship with themselves.
Upholding Confidentiality: In order to create that safe space for clients, all psychotherapists and most Tarot readers have confidentiality agreements. Nothing said or discovered during session is shared with anyone else. For psychotherapists, this is required by law. Since no governing body oversees Tarot readers, it is a part of the basic code of ethics many readers share.
Utilizing Empathy and Intuition: Both psychotherapists and Tarot readers greatly benefit from the use of empathy and intuition to guide their sessions. Many psychotherapists will underestimate their use of intuition, but it is always there, signaling to them how and when to respond in the conversations with their clients. Likewise, some readers may ignore the need for empathy, but to do so would damage their work. All clients need to feel understood.
Building Trust: For both psychotherapists and Tarot readers, the trust they build with their clients is key. Trust keeps clients coming back, builds a solid relationship, and helps clients go deeper with their practitioner over time. Trust is built through care, compassion, and commitment shown to clients, as well as the quality and expertise of one’s field conveyed through the work that practitioners do.
Doing Away with the Blank Slate: Psychotherapists hold an ethical obligation to withhold personal details about themselves from their clients. The goal and theory is that the psychotherapist’s personal life may interfere with the needs of the client. The therapist should be ready to be whatever and whoever the client needs her to be (within reason, of course), and it is the therapist’s professional credentials and background that draws clients to her.
Tarot practitioners hold no such restrictions, and often find it helpful to share their own personal stories and reflections with their clients. In fact, as a Tarot professional, I find that the more honest and upfront I am about my own personal journey and past struggles, the more I attract clients my way. With Tarot readers, unlike with psychotherapists, the more clients feel they can relate to you, the more they will trust you.
Uplifting Beyond the Status Quo: Psychotherapists are trained to address and treat mental illness, and thus, work to elevate the mental and emotional health of their clients to the “normal” mark. The aims of Tarot readers are very different—we are ill-equipped to work with mentally ill clients and have an ethical obligation to refer them to licensed psychotherapists.
However, Tarot professionals may offer something that psychotherapists cannot. Clients most often come to a session at status quo, and the aim is to uplift them beyond it. Tarot has the capacity to open clients to new potential within and new possibilities and opportunities in their external world. Tarot helps clients grow beyond what is just satisfactory, and gain a more fulfilling, spiritually connected, and meaningful life.
Using the Cards as Buffer: Arthur Rosengarten spoke of this in his incredibly insightful and well researched book, Tarot and Psychology, and I have found it to be so true. As a psychotherapist, every reflection, interpretation or bit of advice you give your client comes from you. And thus, clients have ample opportunity to take their anger, resentment and other feelings out on their therapist. In fact this is a normal part of the professional relationship, and something I experienced first hand.
As a Tarot professional, the guidance we provide comes through the cards we lay down. The cards are, in fact, sparking our own intuition, and thus, the guidance is actually coming from us, but the cards sit between us and our clients and create a much appreciated buffer zone. Clients are far more likely to get angry or upset with the cards, not with the reader, leaving the reader in a more neutral position to help the client work to accept the wisdom that has been offered them.
Lacking Credentials: Professional Tarot associations exist, but no governing body screens and trains Tarot professionals. No degree, no test, no official practice period is required to become a Tarot reader. Industry reputation and client trust is built through reviews, referrals, and the articles, social posts and content that readers use to promote themselves. This is freeing for the Tarot professional, but potentially harmful to the client. Since no governing body exists to weed out the phonies and letches, the spectrum of reader quality out there ranges widely.
Psychotherapists have many governing bodies divided by professional degree and specialty. Years of training and countless hours of practice are required before being given a license to conduct business. The requirements are overly restrictive and limiting for many, since laws and ethics govern psychotherapists in how, where, when and who to do practice with. But the laws also ensure a baseline quality level, and protect clients against abuse and malpractice.
Ultimately, I believe some sort of training and credentials should be made available to Tarot professionals. (I have been told organizations for this used to exist, but shut down due to lack of funds and resources.) I have been to the psychic and new age fairs, and I can honestly tell you that some of what I see in the Tarot world scares and disturbs me.
Whether we are a Tarot professional or a psychotherapist, all clients come to us in need. Some clients are even desperate, grief-stricken, and lost. It is our obligation to honor their vulnerability and help them. We do this by upholding our own ethics, being honest about our background, training and knowledge, and continually improving our own methods.