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Psychotherapy and The Tarot

Three of Cups from the Luna Sol Tarot

One reflects the ups and downs of life, the other helps you to deal with them more effectively. Viewed that way, one can perfectly complement the other, but how?

This is a special guest article by Daniel Fryer

Many years ago, a local medium came to see me for therapy as there was a particular problem she needed help with. It was one that she could not resolve herself and one she did not want to take to anyone in her line of work. She came across my website and, finding what I did to be the antithesis of what she did, decided to engage my services.

I’m a rational emotive behaviour therapist (REBT) primarily. REBT is a form of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) that takes the point of view that it is not the events in life that disturb you, but what you tell yourself about those events that disturb you. So, if you’re stuck; if you’re thinking, feeling and acting in ways that you don’t like but don’t understand or seem able to change, we don’t look at the ‘thing,’ we explore what you are telling yourself about the ‘thing.’ Change what it is that you tell yourself and you not only gain understanding, but you change the way you deal with the problem.

We got on very well and I was able to help her successfully deal with her issues. At the end of our work together she advised me that, should I ever need help myself then, considering what I did and how I did it, I should seek out the services of someone like her. She even gave me what turned out to be a very informative reading for free.

Temperance from the Luna Sol Tarot

And I took her at her word. As therapists, it’s advised that every now and then we should take ourselves off to therapy, not only to help us deal with our issues, but to also remind ourselves of what it is like to be in the other chair.

With that in mind, I regularly take myself off to therapists that advocate disciplines other than mine but, I’ve also explored methods such as psychic readings, reiki and tarot. And it’s the latter, to my mind, that has the closest connection with psychotherapy as I know it.

There are many different forms of psychotherapy and, whilst the CBT approaches have a structured ‘here and now’ approach, many other therapies are less structured, more exploratory, and can involve a lot of psychoanalysis. This is a theory and approach that treats mental disorders by looking at the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the mind.

Many therapists use cards to help them in that approach: mood cards, emotion cards, cards that deal with narrative archetypes and so on. Some therapists even use tarot cards, others still use runes.

Three of Disks from the Luna Sol Tarot

When used as a tool for psychotherapy rather than for fortune telling or divination the approach is one of ‘the same but different.’

When you think about it, tarot cards have always had deep roots in psychology and are an ideal tool for looking at the interactions between the conscious and the unconscious mind.

The famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung approved of the use of tarot cards. He said they were a route to the unconscious mind and thought they are an easy way to represent the archetypes of mankind.

Used in a therapeutic context, tarot can help you visualise your situation from a new perspective, gain a measure of objectivity, externalise your problem, stimulate your unconscious mind to find new solutions to old problems and harness the power of metaphor (always a good thing in therapy) to highlight alternative ways of looking at things.

Tarot cards in the therapy room became a tool that gives you something to think about and meditate on.

A psychotherapist is there to help the client solve a problem from the client’s perspective, using the client’s belief systems. So, if a client wants to talk about tarot, we talk about tarot.

Cards from The Luna Sol Tarot deck

I don’t use tarot cards in the therapy room myself but, over the years I have had several patients use them alongside the therapy I provide. Some like to read a card before coming in and use it as a discussion point, whilst others draw cards after the session and use whatever the cards reveal to add a little more depth and colour to what was discussed or discovered in session.

One memorable client even came to see me because the cards told her to (not to me specifically, but to therapy in general) and that recent reading helped us in the first session as we discussed what they wanted to work on and all the factors relevant to that issue.

I have colleagues that also work that way, encouraging the client in the same way, using recent readings to explore in therapy sessions and using either tarot or runes (with clients who are already into tarot card and runic readings) in sessions as part of the therapy work.

The major arcana in a tarot deck, especially, represent life lessons, karmic influences and the big archetypal influences that Jung liked to focus on. They reflect a person’s journey towards enlightenment. From The Fool at the start of his journey, to the World, which marks that journey’s end, the Major Arcana represent both the conscious and the unconscious and contain many life lessons.

Just as a Major Arcana card can set the scene for an entire reading, so too can one affect a particular session of course of therapy. But, again, I can’t stress this enough, only when a client wants to bring this into the therapy room.

Tarot cards help people gain insight into the past, present and future and can help people make the right decisions in the face of a difficult challenge or problem. Essentially, this is what therapy is doing too.

Rosie Peacock is a coaching psychologist who often uses tarot cards and oracle cards in her work. “I base it on the same logic as coaching psychology,” she says. “We look at images, at how they are subjective, and less fixed than words.”

The Ten of Cups from the Luna Sol Tarot

She discusses semiotics and sign systems, highlighting how people can allow their own minds to interpret or explore what is going on.

“Using tarot allows someone to think around their own solutions and find the answer they were looking for. You are being more reflective than directive, which is more empowering. People are making an interpretation of their life from a non-fixed sign system. It can help people with creative thought around problem solving.”

And problem solving is what lies at the heart of all therapeutic modalities. At the end of the day, tarot cards are a tool. It’s up to the individual on how they are used.

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About the Author

Daniel Fryer is a psychotherapist, public speaker and the author of The Four Thoughts That F*ck You Up And How To Fix Them (out now from Penguin Random House imprint, Vermillion). Find out more at www.danielfryer.com

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Read more about Tarot and Healing

Featured in this article: The Luna Sol Tarot (coming spring 2021)

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2 Comments

  1. November 25, 2020 / 3:55 pm

    Such a great article! As someone who has a BA in Psychology, I love that tarot cards are being used in psychotherapy practice! It’s such a great tool to incorporate into therapy.

    • liminal11
      Author
      November 26, 2020 / 2:36 pm

      Having a different type of “visual vocabulary” to work with can be so powerful in expressing complicated feelings!

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