The Gift of Reading the Tarot: Avoiding Diagnosis


This blog post is part of a series inspired by Dr. Irvin D. Yalom’s book The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients, I am looking at each chapter through the perspective of tarot reading…*



From Chapter 2:


“[A] diagnosis limits vision…once a diagnosis [is made], we tend to selectively inattend to aspects of the [client] that do not fit into that particular diagnosis, and correspondingly overattend to subtle features that appear to confirm an initial diagnosis. What’s more, a diagnosis may act as a self-fulfilling prophesy…”


This is a tough topic when translated to the art of tarot reading, because it should refer to a very limited type of client…the type of client who comes for a tarot reading because they simply “don’t know what’s going on”… those who are having trouble or difficulty interpreting [on their own] the seemingly innocuous and irrational things going on in their lives—unknown causes to effects, in other words—as opposed to a client who seems very aware of the area and subject with which they are projecting the cause of their turmoil.


[NOTE: Interpreting and identifying pedestrian issues that a client is dealing with is not the same as diagnosing a client. Don’t forget that unless you have training and a license in the psychotherapeutic arts that you should NEVER be clinically diagnosing or even attempting to clinically diagnose a reading client. You should always refer the client to seek professional help if the concern appears to be psychosomatic in nature.]


The point Yalom is trying to make [in his clinical-professional expertise and judgment] is that professional psychologists are too often pressed by insurance providers and administration to make hasty diagnoses, when best-practice in the psychology field would indicate that extended observation and therapy are a much better way to distinguish the possibility of clinical mental health conditions.


Translating this scenario to the art of tarot reading is dubious. But the comparable solution in the instance of a tarot client who is trying to ascertain malignant causes of strife—in the sense of limiting an identification of the problem—might be to affirm the normalcy of life’s quirks and confounding conditions that sometimes make life unrecognizable or make us feel like we’re standing up in a rocking boat…


The boat (representing life and routines) is steadfastly still there to support us and keep us from drowning in the turbulent sea below us… And it helps to realize that we can’t always control the weather systems that come through, that make some really big waves, that throw us off balance, and even sometimes get us soaking wet…


Two of Pentacles/Coins, Rider-Waite-Smith tarot


This idea can be expressed through the imagery of the Two of Coins/Pentacles card. If you focus on one thing, you are liable to drop something else. But if we learn how to juggle all the facets of our lives, the swift movement of the juggling balls becomes an illusion of magically floating and flying through the air in a controlled way. Even though the storm might be causing a rolling sea, with practice and perspective you’ll soon get your sea legs and the routine will become second nature again…


But the situation could also possibly be represented by the Wheel of Fortune (X) card. In that case, be on the lookout for malevolent sea-monster octopus dragging you where you don’t want to go!


Sea Monster dragging ship down


In any event, the best way to identify issues, and process potential solutions is to spend value time engaging with the client, building trust, getting to “core” issues, having real discussion time, and not being too hasty in assuming that a surface issue is the culprit. It might be… but if you’re wrong and the client leaves your reading session under the impression that she needs to tackle something that in reality is innocuous and irrelevant…her initial problem isn’t going to go away.





Although I am exploring Yalom’s reflections on the profession of Psychology and Psychiatry, I do not claim or pretend to have any training in either of those professional fields. I am simply interpreting Yalom’s reflections and concepts from the perspective of the art of reading the tarot, which although it is a talent for which I have had certified training and for which I have several years of professional experience, is not a clinical or licensed profession or activity. Readers of this blog are reminded that unless you have training and a license in the psycho-therapeutic arts, that you should NEVER be diagnosing or attempting to diagnose a reading client for clinical symptoms. Rather, you should always refer the client to seek professional help if the concern arises that the client’s issues may be related to or appear to be psychosomatic in nature.






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