Friday, May 6, 2016

Sensitive Topics in Tarot Readings

During my Closer Look post on Monday, I ended up discussing how we approach sensitive issues as tarot readers who are not necessarily equipped to deal with diagnoses and treatments.  In this example, addiction was the issue at hand, but there are a host of other things going on in a querent's life that may be difficult to address.  I was very lucky to have some members of my online communities give their feedback.  I'm especially prioritizing the comments of one person who disclosed that they are in recovery from addiction.  After reading Monday's post--and after I solicited feedback--they observed:

 "'s easy for me to imagine somebody on the outside not realizing how huge something like addiction is, especially for people like me who don't seem like a stereotypical addict/alcoholic. I can certainly understand the reluctance to ask that kind of thing if the client hasn't mentioned it, but most addicts know on one level or another what they're doing to themselves. In that sense, acknowledging that addiction can be a major obstacle in any area of life seems like an important part of the interpretation" (emphasis mine).

I think this is a really important point, because ignoring an issue or displaying a lot of discomfort with it can add to stigma.  That's the last thing I want to do during a reading!

Other readers shared that it can be difficult to find the right words for disclosing topics like addiction or mental health, and so querents might be taking their cues from you.  If we seem reluctant to talk about it, querents are not likely to feel comfortable disclosing.  So how do we, as card readers, make sure we are upfront with our querents not only about the limitations of our readings, but the fact that we are somebody who is open to talking about sensitive issues?

I think for me, the answer is to incorporate it into my spiel. Before any reading I do, I tell the querent my approach to tarot.  Here is what I plan on including:

Tarot readings can bring up unexpected, sensitive issues.  Please know that anything you share with me in this reading will remain confidential (unless it poses an immediate threat to you or others)*, and that it is not my role to judge you or make assumptions about your life.  I also have a list of resources available that I can provide after the reading. My goal is for you to leave this session feeling more empowered.

*Different states have different laws regarding mandatory reporting for things like child/elder abuse; I recommend checking your local laws (apologies for the U.S.-centrism!)

Ultimately, the querent decides whether or not we are a safe person to disclose to. We simultaneously do not want to stigmatize through avoidance, nor do we want to assume that the querent owes us information.  It's not easy, and we may not get it right all the time, but it is important to work on it.

I'll leave you with what I see as a really great example. At Autostraddle, Beth Maiden of Little Red Tarot provided an online reading for a querent experiencing anxiety.  Beth included this lovely explanation before launching into her reading of the cards:

"First, a note about anxiety. For some, ‘anxiety’ may be a temporary feeling of worry or fear, and perhaps a period of sleepless nights. For others, this is a serious mental/emotional health condition which shouldn’t be taken lightly. A tarot reading aims to shed new light on your situation, to encourage you and help you to find approaches that can help, but I can’t diagnose you, and a tarot reading cannot ‘cure’ anxiety. If you’re worried about your mental and/or emotional health, please consider talking to a professional counsellor or doctor."

She touches on the important stuff in a gentle tone that doesn't sugar-coat nor stigmatize.  She doesn't make it the focus of the reading, but she gives it the weight it deserves.

Are these approaches realistic, in your opinion?  What are other ways we can be accessible and responsible in our readings?

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