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…*
In Chapter 25 of Dr. Irvin Yalom’s Book, The Gift of Therapy, he discusses the dynamics of groups therapy. His experimentation seems to have had varying effect over the course of his career, with his most invested experiments having to do not only with group therapy of patients, but also with student observers of those groups of patients. Characteristically, primary reactions by the patients are negative; there are feelings not only of resentment, but of purposefully being made to feel like guinea pigs. For whatever reason (although obviously the reason was overconfidence that there was a solution to successful group-and-clinical observer collaboration at the expense of the group patients’ comfort…or manipulated comfort), Yakima tweaks his session parameters and environment until it satisfactorily accomplished—to his personal satisfaction—the clinical results he anticipates. All well and good for Dr. Yalom…
In the world of tarot, we readers don’t have quite the gravity of clinical group therapeutic sessions to be concerned about. But there are instances when clients request or are interested in group reading sessions—such as couples, or younger women who are intimidated to do things on their own, or more and more recently tarot readers are booked for bridal showers as entertainment. I’ve done group readings by request. But they have shaped my preferences towards conducting readings for individuals only. Why? Because people are different in group settings—either guarded or embarrassed or ashamed to divulge information that might seem too personal for a group setting.
Reactions, forthrightness, and transparency all seem to alter in response to having another observer in the reading (particularly if it is a newish or young couple, or if—in the case of bridal showers—there are multiple generations of family present). I’ve been in situations where one partner in the session is super excited and the other is skeptical at best but is there to entertain the partner’s excitement. It totally doesn’t work—the disparity between the personalities is like a bad ménage-a-trois. Where does your focus go? How do you determine to whom cards are directed at?
More importantly, if there are circumstances between the couple, it is going to affect how both clients continue to present themselves in front of their partner, continuing to withhold relevant—and possibly essential—information or emotions that could be relevant to a breakthrough in the couple’s circumstances. Furthermore, no reader deserves to be put in the middle of some couple’s marital problems as a mediator (unless you’re into that kind of masochism!).
Readings—in my method of reading—are meant to help [individual] clients take responsibility of the situations in which they find themselves. Because problems that people bring to the reading often involve other people and the relationships that people are involved in, it is generally beneficial to allow individual clients to have that space to themselves, so that they feel free to express independent feelings and emotions and thoughts…without being influenced by another individual (who happens to be a relationship-status partner or not).
Another facet of doing individual readings is their intimidation factor for tarot readers themselves… In other words, a lot of us learn the tarot in a class or group setting, in which case we are practicing our readings in a group setting all the time. Therefore, when we first start doing independent readings for clients, we are suddenly faced with a very unique one-on-one scenario. I remember when I was taking classes at the Seattle Tarot School, and I had booked one of my first reading session gigs at a local benefit event…and at the next class, the teacher and all the other students immediately gathered around me and wanted to know right away how it all went and ‘what was it like?’ And this was because we had all been doing readings and learning with one another as opposed to meeting with complete strangers and individual clients—and it was a big step to go from the “safety” of friends in the classroom to the “real deal.”
Of courses, this isn’t the experience for all tarot readers. Many tarot readers are self-taught, and many more practiced independently on friends and relatives and strangers at the bars…so that the slide into the professional reading life wasn’t such a shock.
I still subscribe to the fact that readings are better—in practicality—for individual clients. I most often decline to do group readings any longer, except in special cases, and even then only when I know the atmosphere is intended to be light and jovial and the expectation is for tarot readings that are “entertainment” as opposed to serious matters of compassion or distress. …But every tarot reader is different. Some readers out there might even specialize in group readings for all I know! But, for me, even when I do private parties, I prefer a room or area set off apart from the main party crowd, where each reading can be a “safe space” for any personal revelations that might present themselves in the moment.
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.