Some diviners present themselves as counselors, therapists or “life coaches” offering advice via the tarot for dealing with life’s problems. Some are very good at it. But the fact remains that by doing so without the requisite technical training, they often risk straying into the territory of the licensed mental health professional. I have talked to readers who position themselves as grief management specialists, others who advertise as marriage counselors, and many who adopt the currently fashionable title of life coach, all of which are apparently exempt from formal credentials or certification in some jurisdictions since they are informal and anecdotal rather than rigorously scientific. These are serious professionals who shun the “for entertainment only” disclaimer but nonetheless may be courting legal repercussions if their remedial recommendations go awry. Their healing wisdom is of a more shamanistic than clinical type, and not really something that can be derived or dispensed from books, but that argument can be a hard sell for ostensibly damaged parties (and their lawyers).
I consider its mystical inscrutability to be part of the “magic” of tarot; the cards speak a symbolic language that bypasses the faculties of rational comprehension and penetrates straight to the subconscious level of awareness. But translating its testimony into actionable guidance can be a dicey proposition, fraught with liability. For my part, I shy away from offering advice that might be easily misconstrued or poorly implemented by the querent, such that a less-than-optimum outcome ensues. I take pains to make it clear that the story in the cards is determined by the sitter through the acts of shuffling and cutting the deck, thus imparting ownership of the answer. The cards communicate directly with the querent through subconscious induction, telling them what they already knew at a deep level of self-discernment. In that sense, the shuffle creates a kind of psychosomatic channel between the consciousness and the fingers, painting a visual portrait that symbolically mirrors the querent’s private universe. As the translator, I strive to connect the dots between the images in ways that generate useful insights but I don’t purport to be an infallible fount of practical wisdom. The idea is to point the way, albeit sometimes cryptically, but to refrain from offering a hand in steering the course.
The most legitimate use of the tarot for therapeutic purposes is probably in the area of self-understanding and self-improvement, where there is nobody to blame but oneself for any regrettable consequences of flubbing the interpretation. At their best, these failures are invaluable learning experiences; at their worst they may incite a hesitant false step or two but, if handled prudently, are seldom irreversible in their implications. The cards may still lead the seeker astray, but it takes a willing suspension of disbelief to follow their advice blindly to an unfortunate end.