The Gift of Reading the Tarot: Avoiding the Crooked Cure


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…*



Another theme that Dr. Irvin Yalom uses in his book is one that he ties to Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz…SQUEEEEE!!


In his explanation of how patients (read: clients) transfer authority onto their therapists (read: tarot readers), Yalom makes an analogy with the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz. “Pay no attention to that man behind the screen!” shouts the exposed Wizard to his motley crew of devotees. And for the most part, tarot clients have no desire to see the funny little white-haired man behind the screen; they would much rather be awed by the smoke and mirrors and radiant authority of the mighty and powerful Oz. It is the same with psychotherapeutic patients and their therapists, claims Yalom.



Yalom worries that this dynamic/relationship is ultimately deleterious. He worries that he is encouraging regression, regardless of whether the patient/client** is “satisfied” with the results of the session, because the satisfaction is based on the “shifting sands” of the patient’s/client’s inauthentic view of his authority, that the patient/client has the perspective that positive results (calmness, resolution, courage, peace, etc.) are due to some shamanic power attributed by the client onto Yalom, himself, the therapist—these clients have effectively given him the keys to the city and proclaimed him Wizard of Oz.


I LOVE this analogy because it’s so easy to stay wrapped up in one’s slight-of-hand tricks and confabulations behind the curtain. But, if we learned ANYTHING  from The Wizard of Oz…it was that the client/devotee/Dorothy ALWAYS HAD THE POWER TO MAKE HER OWN DREAMS COME TRUE AT ANY TIME SHE HAD WANTED TO.


…Sure, the Wizard of Oz was the tool and catalyst for her to finally come to that realization after she had endured so many trials and so many adventures. But Dorothy—herself—always had the power to send herself home to Kansas and the love she desired there.


Dorothy finds herself back home in Kansas


As a tarot reader, are you a wizard hiding behind your deck of 78 cards? Sure you are! Sometimes—sometimes—we need our emerald or rose-colored eyeglasses to make everything appear like we know what we’re doing. Sometimes we might even drape ourselves behind that velveteen curtain and send a few smoke-bursts out from the pipes. But the greatest wizards of all know how to help the devotees of our trade—they show those devotees/clients how they’ve known the answer all along; they show those devotees/clients that they’ve ALWAYS had the power within themselves to accomplish great deeds; they show those devotees/clients that they are the most powerful wizards of their own lives.


I’ll be honest—I’m no powerful wizard. I’m about as bumbling and ill-fated as Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs in the Technicolor movie that celebrates his elevated station in the Land of Oz…and I’m just about as ill-fitted to the society I find myself in sometimes. I can’t even think how many times have I found myself terrifyingly caught-up in a metaphorical tornado and thrown into a foreign circumstance, where I might’ve been mistaken for someone or something that I’m not because of my cataclysmic awkwardness


…But I DO know that one of my strengths is to be able to point out the gifts and virtues of others…which makes me a pretty awesome accidental wizard… or tarot reader, as the case may be.


Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs




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.


**In quotations taken from Dr. Irvin Yalom’s book that are presented here, some terms are exchanged in order to make their pertinence relevant to the art of tarot reading. In particular, “therapist” is often replaced with “tarot reader”; and likewise, “patient” is often replaced with “client” or “querent.”






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