The Gift of Reading the Tarot: Why the Here and Now is So Important


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…*


One of the major differences between a clinical therapeutic patient session and a tarot reading session is that clinical therapeutic sessions are ongoing and repetitive in nature, so that the therapist can really observe a patient’s personality, as well as note changes over time that may be useful in diagnosis. The tarot reading session, on the other hand, is often a one-time deal, or for clients who become repeat business clients, sessions will tend to be spaced-out over a longer time period than would be routine for a clinical therapeutic session. Many tarot consultants prefer not to do regular reading sessions with the same clients, or have policies that restrict tarot reading visits to once-a-month or even longer periods of time between sessions.


What is the reason for that? There are several, in fact. One is that it reflects an ethical standard that prevents tarot readers from taking advantage of psychic reading junkies. Believe it or not, there are some individuals out there who would get a reading every day or every week if they could—and obviously some of those people do, if unethical readers are willing to continuously take their money when—really—it’s obvious that the client is transferring responsibility for living life onto the whims and fate of psychic readings. (Temperance is an important virtue in the tarot deck!)



Ethical tarot readers don’t take advantage of clients like that—the ones who need a psychic “fix.” The point of a tarot reading is—or ought to be—trying to work through issues that seem to have brought life to a standstill; they are meant to provide another perspective in order to think things through; they are meant to offer the client the opportunity to come to some additional insights and to draw some additional ideas or choices or options for moving forward. A tarot reading should give the client ammunition for moving past barriers that previously seemed impenetrable. In light of this, receiving consecutive, repetitive tarot readings would be unhelpful. The client must to do their own work with the ammunition provided during the tarot reading. Thus, many tarot readers set a time period that must be observed and respected before another tarot reading will be provided. Obviously there are exceptions to this, and most tarot readers know how to gauge their clients in order to provide them with the time they need to make their own progress outside of the reading sessions. Also, note: I am obviously not referring to novelty tarot readings such as at benefit events or fairs…when most customers are obviously getting readings for entertainment purposes.


Because tarot readers often only get the one-session shot at providing insight to their clients, the value of the session period holds much more expediency than a therapeutic session (where therapist and client understand that they will have the opportunity to follow-up or make additional observations at the next weekly meeting). In a tarot session, there is a time limit, so time is of the essence; observations have to be keener; relevance has to be pinpointed faster; the core question must be revealed with swift precision. No pressure!!


And in fact, there shouldn’t be any pressure. Another facet of a great tarot reading involves the reader’s ability to provide a stress-free experience and environment conducive to revelation and insight. I think this is why so many tarot readers rely on a strong intuitive muscle—getting to the crux of things efficiently is important.



That said—oh-Boy!—there is also a certain kind of client out there who has become adept at manipulation, and has learned how to work the system. (In lots of these cases, the manipulation itself is the client’s goal—something that I feel some people are addicted to: power-playing.) In such cases, the client will ramble on and on for nearly the entire session… and then, “BANG!” at precisely two minutes to go before the end of the session’s time limit, the client breaks down and cries or reveals some piece of information that they have withheld until that precise moment. The client’s goal—ridiculously—is not to try to get any sort of advice or insight from the reading. The whole point of this game is to extend the time limits of the session in order to see how much “free” time he or she can access. Yes, this is warped. But just like online trolls, there isn’t any substance behind the game…it’s merely a game to see how far they can get. These clients don’t want any help; the resolution of their “problems” would mean that the game was over.


Don’t get me wrong—I am ALWAYS going to give the client the benefit of the doubt in a session, whether that means through extra free session time to work through a complex card interpretation, or an extra long preparation period to get to the core question, or in getting grounded and comfortable before we dig in. What I’m talking about is when a situation becomes obviously manipulative. While, a reader has to be sensitive to individual scenarios and individual circumstances, the type of situation described above tends to end in one of several predictable manners. Here’s how it goes, including the appropriate measured response:


The client feigns indignation that they didn’t get their full reading… “Well, no; you didn’t…because you wasted your entire hour rambling about nothing that had to do with any issue we could look at.” …Which inevitably results in a client wanting to refuse to pay… “Which is completely your right if you were dissatisfied with your time. However, at this point one of two things can happen: you can either refuse to pay my service fee after having wasted my professional service time, in which case, you will be placed on the banned client list, which I will share with other local readers; …or, you can pay the fee for the time I have provided to you, and we can arrange for a follow-up session where we can look more succinctly at your issue. But as a professional reader, and as someone whose time is a valuable asset of my business, I charge a certain fee for my time, which you have used, and for which you are in debt, regardless of whether you chose to utilize the time advantageously. For all I know, you were trying to work through your own issue by using me as a sounding board…which I have been during the past [however many] minutes. But if you wanted me to spend longer reading a card spread for you, you have to be aware of your environment—I periodically gave you notices of how much time we had left—and allow me the chance to equitably do my part.”


¿Estás un poco triste y decaído? Derrama unas cuantas lágrimas, respira hondo, espera unos minutos y verás como te sentirás mucho mejor… Si eres una de esas personas que llora por cualquier cosa y no puedes evitarlo, comparte tu opinión y...


In the clinical therapeutic session, the therapist may observe client reactions, emotional outbursts, or manipulative tactics, and use those observations to follow-up or as the springboard to discussion in successive therapeutic sessions (usually the next week). However, it behooves the tarot reader to take those observations and utilize them more immediately,…because there likely won’t be a successive session, or won’t be another meeting with the client for a good time span. Thus, observations of client reactions, emotional reactions,…”whether the client is demanding or fearful or arrogant or self-effacing or seductive or controlling or judgmental or maladaptive interpersonally, etcetera…” should inform the reading session itself and help the reader arrive at a suitable purpose for reading the cards (which is the “core question”).


So… addressing issues and raising questions that cut to the core of the matter are more pertinent in a tarot reading session. This may involve a kind of directness that may be shocking to some clients… But in most cases is appreciated for its intimacy. That’s part of what the tarot reading session does—is create a heightened sense of intimacy that isn’t always available or socially reliable in normal public settings.


But also—being direct does not mean rising to the bait that a client might put out for you. If the client is being manipulative, demanding, arrogant, or exhibits any other form of maladaptive social communication, the reader’s job is to observe and address that aggression…with your own even-keeled temperament. The reader is supposed to be the reasonable grown-up in the session relationship. If we are to teach virtuous options for our clients, we have to be the models of virtue we are trying to teach.


Dr. Yalom’s chapter titles (chapters 20 –through- 23) could almost serve as an intuitive’s checklist, of sorts:


  • Use your own feelings as data (intuitive observations are completely valid indicators to incorporate into the tarot reading’s issue)
  • Frame … comments carefully (sensitivity and respect are important)
  • All is grist for the mill (everything on the table—figuratively and literally—is fair game)
  • Check-in (ask questions…follow-up on intuitive indicators)






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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