With the profession’s (and clientele’s) focus on personal improvement, astrologers today stand in for therapists much of the time. Even when we are not counseling clients as a practice, people generally reach out to astrologers for readings when they feel insecure about their position, abilities, judgment, and other aspects of their human experience. To feel insecure is to feel vulnerable, in a similar way to how a child with unmet needs can feel. For this reason, understanding how to hold space for those who exhibit vulnerability in a way that empowers them can make all the difference in how your clients feel about the readings, about you, and about themselves at the end of your sessions.
But why do I even care what other astrologers do or don’t do? I care about people. Astrologers generally start practicing to care for people in some capacity; whether it’s horary or evolutionary astrology, we are engaging in an act of service that theoretically benefits the lives we touch. So, one would think that we would care to measure how we are doing or to take on practices that refine our skills. Given astrology includes more skills than simply reading a chart, we need to hone those abilities as well. Communicating is an example of a skill used in astrology that isn’t unique to astrology itself. Here, we focus on counseling and communication.
With that said, here are 3 reasons to get some counseling experience:
- Frustration arises when we are not heard and we are paying to be heard. One of the last things we want to feel at the end of the session is frustrated with the professional and their lack of ability to listen. Real listening is a skill that requires practice, because it goes against colloquial speaking styles. In conversation with a friend, people often unintentionally interrupt to share relatable experiences pertaining to the topic at hand. To do this with a client who is paying you to attend to them is inappropriate. Small, personal examples used as teaching guides to help explain how, for example, a transit may manifest are fine and not what I’m discussing here. In fact, examples are counseling tools called personal disclosure. They are short and enhance the topic at hand, which is your clients and their needs. Examples do not serve to redirect the focus to yourself.
- Because astrology is not considered a real field by many, there are no regulatory bodies clients can call upon to hold astrologers accountable for their behavior. This allows astrologers to engage problematically with clients without ever having to take responsibility for doing so. Counselors, astrological or otherwise, are people who are paid to engage in supportive, strategic relationship. Most human beings have experienced the profound pain that relationships of any kind can leave in their wakes. The professional-client relationship is no exception to this. It is unique in another way though.
- The exception here is the client knowingly engages in a relationship with you that is unequal. We all do this when seeking out the guidance of experts. We open up to them and show them our lives, because in order to get their best work, they need to know what they’re working with. The assumption is that this imbalance between the two parties will not be abused or neglected via ill intention or plain ignorance. We impact real people and their real decisions whether we want to own that or not as professionals. Regardless of disclaimers, our clients make serious choices based on our guidance. Counseling skills help us engage ethically and with purpose while maintaining appropriate focus on the client.
- Counseling skills increase the accuracy of your readings. Big disclaimer here, I have not conducted literal research to “prove” this point; however, some parts of astrology are deeply affected by nuance. Having the ability to see what your client really cares about will change the nature of the entire reading. For example, with horary astrology, a question gives birth to a chart. Any horary astrologer can tell you that the questions received from clients are not always clear or concise. Yet, the practice requires clear and concise questions to work. The book I most recently reviewed, Horary: The Gemini Science, goes over this issue in the introduction; that’s how common it is. Counseling skills can help you figure out what your client is really getting at in a way that is respectful, honors their autonomy, and reinforces your rapport with them. You both may find that the initial issues brought forth have little relation to the hidden, unmet needs beneath them.
Luckily for us, counseling skills are not difficult to begin or develop long-term. I’m not suggesting you run off to a university and get into debt for the rest of your life, though some astrologers do want and take that route. However, I am giving you skills I practiced during my education in social work and my time as a conflict resolution educator to help you help yourself so that you can better help others.
Let’s get started with 5 counseling skills you can practice right now (maybe) for free:
I don’t know your life, but you can start these skills faster than getting a degree. I can guarantee that. Doing all of them is preferred, but you can totally work on one at a time or add them up. Schedule it into the time you have set aside for continuing education if you’re a scheduler like me.
This tool is used when clients tell stories or speak for long periods of time without many breaks. It is exactly what it sounds like. It’s so simple; I know. Yet, so few people do it. When your client is done with their story or part of it, simply share a summary back to them. This may seem annoying to just repeat what your client is saying, but it allows for some advantages. The first is you’re letting the client know you listened in the first place. Secondly, you’re giving the client an opportunity to correct you. Remember, you’re the one with influential power (think Scorpio, sign of psychology, influence, and power) in the relationship, it is less emotionally bruising for you to be corrected by the client than the other way around. (Note: If you’re summarizing a situation that describes how they feel about something, use the words they used to describe their emotions. Do not use synonyms, as they do not colloquially share the same gravity or meaning. For example, upset and angry are only the same thing to the person who is not experiencing that emotion then.)
This one is easy for this community since it overlaps a lot with new age and spiritual groups who already value meditation practices. Understanding yourself and the experiences you have that lead to a surge of different types of thought processes (depression, anxiety, paranoia, self-defense, etc.) will help you stop yourself to reacting unconsciously to clients. We all unconsciously react to external stimuli. Meditation, journaling, whatever you do to better understand yourself in your body in the moment will help you listen even when a client says something that brings up memories or feelings that distract you, positively or negatively. The more you practice mindful awareness, the more you’ll be able to use it in session while listening.
Similar to summarization, this tool is used here and there with small phrases and words to let the client know you’re listening. It should be obvious that I do not mean you should act like a child who repeats every sentence word for word to the point of annoyance. You can fit these repeated phrases and words in the same place one would say “mhm,” “okay,” or any other word filler used to mean, “I hear you. Carry on.”
- Information Giving:
Many of my clients want to know what lies in the near future and what skills they can call upon to move through those moments with dignity and grace. This requires some extra effort. Counselors just have to read up on the writing of their own profession. Astrologers need to read other astrologers’ as well as other counselors’ publications. This allows us to develop skills with our clients that work best for them. The reason I personally love astrology in mental health work is it helps cut the time one would normally waste on trial and error and instead fast tracks the client down the road of wellness. Why? Because charts can show us what will resonate with a client. Learning the next steps your client may need to take depending on your specialization can help diminish their anxiety and move in the direction they genuinely want but feel unprepared for. I recommend sharing information you know works. I do not recommend only sharing information that aligns with your spiritual beliefs. You’re serving the client; they are not there to serve you or your agenda.
This skill is simple and incredibly effective at building rapport with and the self-esteem of your client. All you do is react in agreement to a subjective experience the client has shared. For example, a client is going through a Pluto transit on their moon. Currently, this would mean your client has the moon in Capricorn, an already emotional burdensome experience. The client’s stories during this time are expected to be difficult, and as astrologers who predict this, it’s easy to say, “Yes, your horror is going as expected. Everything is fine!” That is until it is us who are hurting from a difficult, powerful transit. When the client shares about feeling overwhelmed with paranoia or loneliness, let them know you hear their literal words and feel their emotions: “Wow, that sounds difficult!”
The astrologer can also employ this on the positive things a client cannot see during their time in need: “Wow, I am so sorry to hear about your father. It sounds overwhelming. And at the same time, you’re still doing to work, getting out of bed in the morning, facing the day, etc. That’s a lot to feel while accomplishing so much.” Achievements that can be listed here should not first go through the filter of your personal expectations of worthiness. Personal standards for to be applied to ourselves alone, not to our clients. We’re not their parents. Standards of accomplishment vary from person to person, and the things you will list here will have come from someone’s story. The client will likely list them as additional burdens on their plate when discussing their experiences.
You really can start ASAP.
All you need is someone to talk to, and in some cases, you can practice on yourself in your thoughts instead. No money, experience, training, or anything extra is needed other than something to communicate over and an intention to hold ethical space. It will feel awkward at first, because you’ll be paying attention to what you’re saying and the other person at the same time. Over time, you’ll build a muscle memory (literally, you use muscles to talk, don’t you?) that encourages your mouth to blurt out the empathetic thing to say at the time.
If you do try it out, let me know how it affected the conversation or your behavior in it.
With light and love,
P. S. This post is cross-posted on my personal website and Medium.