The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 418, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Shawna Marie Mcgrath
Episode originally released on September 11, 2023
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: email@example.com
Transcribed by Mary Sharon
Transcription released September 29th, 2023
Copyright © 2023 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hey, my name is Chris Brennan and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. Today, joining me is Shawna McGrath and we’re going to be talking about astrology in psychotherapy. Hey, Shawna, thanks for joining me.
SHAWNA MCGRATH: Hi, Chris.
CB: Hey, so you are the host of a YouTube channel which I really like, which is The Astro Psyche YouTube channel, and you’ve been doing forecasts for years. I think you and I both got started doing YouTube around the same time, or at least I know we were both really focused on it around 2016/2017, right?
SM: Yes, I’m not sure when you started. I started my channel around 2014, so I think we were still both kind of coming into that sphere around the same time.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I remember just talking with you a little bit back then when I was starting to move more from just doing audio to video, but I’m excited about this topic because your background is that you’re actually an astrologer and a psychotherapist, right?
SM: Yes, that’s correct. [chuckles] Yeah, I’m really excited to have this conversation with you and to explore how the two work together.
CB: Yeah, for sure. Part of the context is that we’re going to talk about how Astrology can be used as a psychotherapeutic tool, but also discuss some of the pros and some of the cons and different ethical considerations for applying it within that context because there’s a lot of different things that come up and I always try to do a thorough job. You had put together an outline for us today that I really liked just in terms of talking about, while astrology can be a really powerful tool for psychotherapy, there can sometimes be some issues that people need to be aware of going into it, I think, right?
SM: Yes, and this is something that I do in my private practice, I incorporate astrology into the psychotherapy process. And it’s something that the more that I do it and the more that I talk to folks about it, I’m always aware of the ways in which it could go wrong or the ways in which there are things that maybe we don’t think of when we get really excited about putting astrology into something like psychotherapy. So yeah, lots to consider, I think, when we’re talking about this.
CB: For sure. What is your background, for those that are not familiar with your work, since this is the first time in our channel? What’s your background and training in both of those areas?
SM: Yes, I initially started with astrology. I started studying astrology around 2012 and was really influenced by Richard Tarnas’ work, Cosmos and Psyche, and Chani Nicholas’ work, and your book was a big influence on me as well. So yeah, I got really into astrology around my Saturn return and…
CB: Were you studying at CIIS, or what’s your educational background?
SM: Initially, I was very much self-taught. I think that I learned a lot just through doing a lot of readings and learning from my clients. In later years, I studied with an archetypal astrologer and psychotherapist, Jessica DiRuzza. She was a student of Richard Tarnas, she taught at CIIS. So, that’s a bulk of my influence but again I think that, I sort of came to later. A lot of my formative years as an astrologer was really just learning by talking to folks, so that’s always kind of stuck with me. I started doing astrology professionally around 2014 and was doing readings for a couple of years. And then at some point, I started to have these experiences where folks were coming to me with pretty extreme problems like things like experiencing addiction or eating disorders or suicidal thoughts and things like this. And I was just like, “Whoa, this is more intense than I’m prepared for.” Around that same time, I had been in my own psychotherapy for several years and with a psychotherapist who was also an astrologer. I share all of this because this is really a part of my own therapy process and working with my own astrology in a psychotherapeutic way is really, I feel a part of my training and the work that I do now. And so I ended up, through the encouragement of my therapist, deciding to go back to school to become a psychotherapist and I did that through Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara. They focus on depth psychotherapy, very similar to CIIS. Yeah, those are the highlights, I think.
CB: Okay, awesome. That’s really great, actually. Each individual astrologer always has actually a really interesting story if you ask about their background, and it’s always interesting the different influences and the key moments sometimes that shape the direction that we end up going. But I know I’ve heard other astrologers that have a similar history as you do in terms of starting to do consultations with clients and apply astrology in practice, but realizing that when you’re talking about people’s lives, sometimes you can end up talking about some really serious, really heavy stuff. And sometimes people can be a little bit unprepared for that and sometimes end up feeling like they need to go and get further training in order to be able to deal with that in a way that’s appropriate and healing and things like that.
SM: Yes, and I think that’s one of the challenges of the astrological field, is that we’re– at least this was my experience– I felt severely underprepared for how to hold space for people and how to interact with someone because yeah, we get into deep stuff. And how do you manage that in the room with the client, and then how do you manage that as a professional as well when maybe your own stuff is also activated?
CB: Yeah, for sure. And especially for people like yourself or other people, like if you’re in your 20s or something and you’re getting started reading charts or other things or maybe your background had not been in psychology or counseling or therapy prior to that point, a person might not be familiar with some of those different skills and different things that are necessary sometimes when you’re dealing with people in that context. So that’s part of where this topic comes up. But maybe we should transition to talking about why is this topic relevant now, and what’s the context of that.
SM: Yes. It’s relevant now because as I’m doing this work and starting to integrate and learn about, okay, what does it look like for me as a therapist to incorporate astrology into this work, I’m researching what other people are doing and the literature that’s out there. And I’ve come to realize that there’s a lot of literature, books, studies, etc., that address astrology from a psychological perspective. And there’s a lot of literature on how to read a birth chart therapeutically. So basically, how to infuse astrology with a psychological lens. And I think that’s valuable. I found myself saying, you know, what does it actually look like to bring astrology to therapy? What does it look like in the therapeutic room? Again, I had my own experience but that’s just one; my own lived experience. What does it look like when a therapist brings astrology into the room? What do they want to make sure that they do or not do? I frankly haven’t been able to find much about that. There are folks who I can mention who have written about that, but it’s very scant. And so it just felt relevant now to start to bring this more, and especially as astrology is becoming more mainstream and people are wanting to bring their awareness of their chart into their healing process.
CB: Yeah, that’s a really good point because you’re right. It’s like we hear about astrologers trying to find ways to integrate psychology or therapy into or on top of their astrology or the basis being astrology, but we don’t often hear about it from the other perspective of somebody whose primary profession or basis is therapy or acting as a psychotherapist who wants to integrate astrology on top of that because that’s a somewhat different orientation.
SM: Yes, and it’s a very different goal because well, this is on our agenda today is, what’s the difference between a therapeutic astrology reading versus a psychotherapy process that incorporates astrology? In my mind, they have similar values but very different endpoints.
CB: Yeah. I mean, what is the orientation? Part of the orientation is as an astrologer, you know, astrologers wear many different hats and actually, I was thinking about this recently. I made a tweet about it that you have to be like an astrologer, on some level you have to be a historian, you have to be a sociologist, you have to be a futurist all in one, just as a few titles that one could associate with the different things that astrologers do. But maybe part of the difference between being an astrologer primarily versus a psychotherapist primarily is the astrologer is primarily trying to be accurate at what they do in terms of the technical apparatus of astrology, which involves using planetary or celestial movements to look at the past and the present and the future to some extent. Whereas I guess, as a therapist, you’re talking about an ongoing process of seeing somebody and building a relationship over a period of time that’s focused on that dialogue and helping them as part of that.
SM: Yes, and I love that. I saw that tweet; I think that’s so true for astrologers as well as therapists because as therapists, we need to know about our clients’ lives and culture and humanity. It seems to me that an astrologer’s purpose is to provide insight to the client. It’s like there’s something that the astrologer has. And this is often collaborative, right? We’re asking questions as we’re doing the reading. But there’s something as an astrologer when I’m doing a reading where I am imparting something to you, and then how does it land and how does it connect in with your life? Whereas there’s this transmission from astrologer to client. Whereas in contrast with psychotherapy, psychotherapy is always about amplifying the client’s experience. It’s more about the client finding the answers within themselves and the therapist is sort of holding the frame for that to emerge. And of course, this is coming from my biased perspective as a depth psychotherapist more focused on working relationally, working with the unconscious, and having that sort of orientation versus behavioral. But that notwithstanding, yeah, psychotherapy is more about the client coming to their own conclusions versus me saying this is how you are.
CB: Okay, that’s interesting. It brings up something I say pretty commonly, which just something astrologers have to learn at some point, which is just because you can say something with astrology doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. And I think we get into part of that line here as well, where sometimes there’s some version of astrology which can be just as purely technical apparatus that can say things perhaps about a person’s life that are true but not necessarily helpful or not necessarily comfortable or inherently therapeutic, versus an orientation of maybe somebody that is a psychotherapist where their number one obligation is to try to be helpful and help heal the person or do what’s in their best interest in that sense. Not that astrologers shouldn’t have that ethical consideration, but there’s just a slightly different orientation about how they’re going about doing it and what some of their motivations are, it seems like.
SM: Yeah, I love that you bring that up because yeah, that feels important that, okay, how is this delineation in a chart reading? How is this helping the person? Versus could this be? And I think that’s why it is so valuable to have all of these resources on counseling skills for astrologers because it’s like, okay, how do we see what the person actually needs, versus just rushing in with all of our cool ideas about the way that things are?
CB: Right. For sure. For sure. Okay, so part of what we’re going to talk about here is how astrology informs the therapy process and what that actually looks like because I think one of your observations is that there are some people that are primarily psychotherapists that do incorporate astrology to some extent in their work. And while that’s not a huge portion of the field necessarily, it’s interesting just that that exists and it’s something that’s not necessarily widely recognized. So it would be interesting to look into how that works and what that’s about.
SM: Yes, and I would love to share with you a few quotes from Carl Jung about his process of using astrology in psychotherapy because I think this is the other thing is that we’re like, “Oh, yeah, Carl Jung! He valued astrology.” But did he actually use it? Did he use the chart in his process? Did he talk to his clients about it? Those are the kinds of things I want to know, like, what did he actually do? And we don’t have a lot on that, unfortunately. But there’s a couple of things. So, let’s see. Two different core quotes that I’ll share. Carl Jung wrote in a letter in 1911 to Freud, so this is very early on in his studies, this may be a popular one that folks have heard. He says, “My evenings are taken up very largely with astrology. I make horoscopic calculations in order to find the clue to the core of psychological truth.” And so that, to me, says that he’s pulling a chart and he’s looking at it to assess his understanding of the client’s case. And so this is—
CB: I love that quote because he’s writing that to Freud and I always just imagine Freud rolling his eyes and being like, “Okay.” You know? And what his reaction would have been. But yeah, that’s one of the core quotes and that’s from super early in Jung’s career.
SM: Yes. So later, there’s a letter that… I think this is also quite popular but it bears repeating. Carl Jung wrote in a letter to astrologer BV Raman, and this is in 1947, so this is fairly late in his career. He says, “Since you want to know my opinion about astrology, I can tell you I’ve been interested in this particular activity of the human mind for more than 30 years. In cases of difficult psychological diagnosis, I usually get a horoscope in order to have a further point of view from an entirely different angle. I must say that very often, I found that the astrological data elucidated certain points which I otherwise would have been unable to understand. From such experiences, I formed the opinion that astrology is of particular interest to the psychologist.”
CB: Yeah, for sure. So it’s like and then he’s also writing the papers on synchronicity and he’s doing his astrology test during those or at least during one of those, so it’s like it keeps coming up at different points in his life. And I’ve done other episodes going in more detail about Jung’s background in astrology but I think the conclusion with those was that there was no– I don’t want to say no question, but it seemed like it was easy to classify him as an astrologer although obviously he was primarily a psychotherapist.
SM: Mm-hmm. Yeah, from what I can tell, it’s definitely something that he used to inform his understanding, but maybe not necessarily with clients. As far as folks, psychotherapists who are using astrology, not just to inform the process but actively with clients, I know that one of my astrological mentors, Jessica DiRuzza, she works very strongly with psychotherapy as well as astrology with her clients and she’s written on this and spoken on this. There is a psychotherapist named Delia Shargel who wrote an article in the Archai Journal which is put out by Richard Tarnas or CIIS. She wrote about using astrology and psychotherapy, especially when folks are experiencing what they call psychological complexes or strong emotion. Yvonne Tarnas Smith wrote her Ph.D. dissertation on using astrology, especially using synastry between the client and the therapist and the consultation chart. Really interesting study. And then Greg Bogart is a psychotherapist astrologer who’s talked about incorporating this, and then Stephen Arroyo of course is a psychotherapist that’s written about that as well. But I share those names because I think it’s important to honor those folks who are putting it out there, but I also see a hesitancy to talk about the process. And I think therapy is a very private kind of process and it can be difficult to talk about it. So yeah, I just wanted to put that out there. Those are the folks that I’m aware of that are doing this.
CB: Yeah, and I think aware of is actually a good word as well because realistically, there probably are a fair number of therapists that might have some interest in astrology but maybe don’t make that interest public. Or where because they’re primarily therapists, it’s like that’s what they’re doing. And they’re not necessarily like some of the names you mentioned are people that have become have written books on astrology, for example, so that professionally they’re often categorized more as astrologers in some ways. I guess what I’m saying is just there may be a lot of actually psychotherapists that use astrology to some extent, even if we don’t know about it or even if it’s hard to quantify that number.
SM: Yeah, and I think there’s a bit of like, “Oh, this is something…” You know? It’s kind of like, “Don’t tell anyone.” You know? Even today when astrology is becoming more mainstream, there’s still a little bit of feeling protective against that interest.
CB: Yeah, I’m sure just because astrology is currently viewed as a pseudoscience, and already while psychology is on a much more firm standing over the past few decades, there’s always been a little bit of that tension sometimes of whether psychology itself was on a sure enough footing or something like that, or if you’re doing something that’s scientific. And I’m sure that associating oneself with astrology, for many people, would automatically be sort of a disqualifier or you could be seen as doing something negative or even potentially harmful.
SM: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of charged material there, for sure.
CB: Sure, sure. So that’s kind of the context. Why don’t we talk about how exactly it is used or could be used by some of the people that use it. One of the things is using the birth chart itself to some extent in a therapeutic context, right?
SM: Yes. And the way that I see it, there’s two different ways to approach this. Number one is using the astrology as a tool for the psychotherapist to conceptualize the case to conceptualize their client without ever using it in session, without the client ever knowing that’s what’s happening. And then the other way, the second way is to bring the astrology into the room. And I think that’s so important to name because of what we just talked about, that there is this scary thing around what does it mean when I use astrology. And so I think at a practical level, for me, that means using the natal chart to understand the temperament of the person, what they may be experiencing, their psychology, and then also using timing techniques like why are they coming in now? What are they talking about and how do we see that in the chart? I tend to use transits but I think that any type of timing system can be helpful. And then on top of that, and we can go more into these, I just want to name that I also find it really helpful to look at the synastry between myself and the client to see what’s being activated, and the consultation chart of the first session as well. So all of these pieces without even bringing it into session with the client can help to understand the client, who they are, what they’re experiencing, and what this phase of life is about for them.
CB: Right, and that’s really interesting because that brings it back to the previous point. But just that for some people, this can be… For some psychotherapists, this can be something that they’re doing in the back of their mind or somewhere in their mind that’s partially informing things a little bit, but it’s not necessarily something they’re bringing out overtly in the session itself. Which I guess is part of why I was saying it could be hard to quantify how many psychotherapists might actually incorporate astrology to some extent because for some, it may just be partially like a background thing that they’re using to some extent.
SM: Yes, and I think it can even be little pieces here and there too. I am thinking right now of a colleague who is not necessarily an astrologer, she’s a psychotherapist, she knows enough about the science just to have a sense for things, and her client is into astrology. And her client that she’d been working with for maybe about five months revealed their Moon and rising sign and my colleague, the therapist, was like, “Oh my god!” Of course, it just really clarified and helped her understand the client that much more. And so I think little things like that is, yeah, where that person they’re using astrology to understand the client. And it doesn’t have to be looking at the chart, it can be in this very subtle, piecemeal sort of way as well.
CB: Yeah, for sure. Or if you’re sitting there and the client’s talking about how they feel like they’re at a real turning point in their life due to their age and they feel like they’re letting go of childhood and moving into adulthood and they’re 29 years old, I think somebody that has any sort of astrological background it’d be hard for them not to then connect that and realize that this person is going through their Saturn return and that that might partially help them contextualize the part of this person’s life that they’re in. Or even to get even more specific with a transit, this summer I’m sure there were a lot of therapy sessions of clients talking about relationship stuff that was coming up, and just knowing the Venus retrograde was the backdrop of this summer for many people in terms of different relationship things.
SM: Yes. Yeah, a lot of Venus retrograde stuff this summer. And I think that yeah, as therapists, we can just having that understanding like, “Okay, what are you rethinking about the way that you show up and relationship? What’s working and what’s not working? Who do you want to be and how does this connect to your values?” All of these questions are informed by Venus retrograde. And, of course, a therapist may come to these questions without astrology, but why not have this additional tool in our toolbox to be able to help us really feel into what’s happening?
CB: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, because it just becomes an interesting access point sometimes for understanding things or sometimes giving additional context like, you know, the client’s talking about why did this relationship come back from eight years ago into my life and why am I reprocessing all these different things that happened eight years ago or what have you. And that you happen to know in the back of your mind, “Well, you know, Venus went retrograde in the same spot eight years ago and this is a repetition of some of that and that’s part of why things are being brought up again.” But all of this is almost like passive use of astrology that the therapist can be using themselves privately or can help them to some extent, but it’s not necessarily something that’s being used actively or even in any major way necessarily in the consultation itself, right?
SM: That’s right. Yes. And I think this is important because as therapists when we first start working with someone, we’re like, “Okay, what’s happening here? Who is this person? What’s going on?” And it’s not like we start by doing an intake and then knowing okay, this is exactly who this person is and what their challenges are. It’s a constant discovery, at least that’s the way that I experience it. And so yeah, the astrology is helping to contextualize what’s happening, helping us to understand, and yeah, for our own understanding of the client and what’s happening.
CB: Right, I forgot about that point. Because you really are meeting a stranger and then over a period of many therapy sessions, you’re getting to know that person and you’re getting to know their personality and the things they struggle with and things like that. So you’re very slowly uncovering more and more about who this person is, which is then helping you to formulate a better idea of how you might be able to give them advice or help them in different ways. But the astrology, the potential of the astrology at least, the thing that’s always been interesting from that perspective about astrology and the potential it holds is that it could act as a sort of shortcut, potentially, to understanding some things about the person or maybe accelerate that process.
SM: Yes. I like to think of it as another model for understanding humans, for understanding human nature and this human life. Just like in psychotherapy, we have all of these different models. We have psychoanalytic theory and we have behavioral theory and existential theory. We have all these different ways of understanding what is psyche, what is the mind, how does the mind work. What is our developmental process, even? What are the stages of life that folks tend to go through over time? And astrology is just another one of those that we can use. This is what’s really cool about using the natal chart especially is that it’s not just a stock theory, it’s connected to that individual. And so it tells us sort of a model of their unique mind whereas in psychotherapy, maybe we would use a model of development or even use dreams to understand where they’re at and what’s happening, the astrology is so personal to them based on their birth chart and based on their transits. I find that really, really cool because there’s nothing quite like that in the psychological field.
CB: Yeah. Yeah, to the extent that astrology is accurate and you’re able to do a good job with it, having a much more personalized model of a person’s psychological dynamics and communication style or all sorts of other relational dynamics and things that happen in their lives that’s really unique, and obviously would probably be the most helpful in that context out of any of the other professions that you could possibly apply astrology to.
SM: Yes. And I want to note, too, another piece of this is, especially when we’re looking at the synastry between the therapist and client, I think that helps the therapist to understand what we call transference or countertransference, which is essentially when there’s a strong feeling that is, you know, if I’m working with a client and let’s say they’re experiencing something in their relationship that mirrors what I’ve experienced in some way and then I have a lot of strong feelings around it, that’s transference. And then I look at the synastry and I’m like, “Oh, we have a Mars-Venus connection or something like this.” Or maybe I’m working with a client where we’re really working on… They’re working on their ability to have boundaries in relationship. That’s something that I have experience with too and then I look at our synastry and we have a Moon-Saturn connection or something like that. I’m like, “Okay, I can…” I think this is so important because when we’re doing therapy, it’s psychoactive. There’s a lot of feelings that get kicked up for the therapist and folks – and I think we can say this for astrologers too sometimes – maybe there’s a client that we work with where there’s a lot of feeling that gets kicked up and it stays with us. And I think that looking at the synastry can help us to understand what it is that we’re feeling and what’s ours as a clinician and what’s the client’s feelings, what our stuff is versus their stuff and where the two connect in together. I don’t know if that makes sense or not, the way I explained that.
CB: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. It’s something that’s really important for people to be aware of as you start integrating astrology is there’s all these different ways that can be integrated and one of them that becomes obvious is that you the therapist has a chart and the client has a chart and those are going to interact in different ways. And that for all humans, sometimes there’s different types of interactions that just click and go very well, and there’s other types of interactions that really due to no fault of either party, for some reason don’t mesh as well or don’t click, or bring up in some instances, issues from a person’s past for different reasons. And sometimes that can be trickier than others so it’s actually very useful to be aware of those potential dynamics within this context.
SM: Mm-hmm, yes.
CB: Yeah, I can imagine also you’re working through issues or somebody’s working through issues with their father and it’s connected with some specific placement in the fourth house, and you the therapist has their Sun, like you were born on the same day as the person’s father or something like that. That would be very interesting in terms of ways that different things might activate different things that could be either helpful or actually more challenging.
SM: Yes. And I think that knowing that okay, the part of me… Let’s say the client has Saturn in the fourth house and that they’re really working on their relationship to paternal figures and to themes in their family system around father and their experience of father. And then let’s say my Sun is conjunct their Saturn. That’s going to be an activator for them because I’m bringing light to that paternal part. That could go in a variety of different ways depending on the person’s temperament. They may experience me as rigid or harsh in some way. Yeah, they may experience me that way depending on however I am. And so when I see that, it’s a way for me to not take it personally and to know that okay, this is their experience and how can I be a benefic and helpful symbol of Saturn for them? How can I embody the Sun-Saturn energy in a new kind of way? Because I think that’s the other thing about therapy is that, ideally, we’re working out an old situation in a new way, and that the therapist is an embodiment to be able to do that.
CB: Yeah, that makes sense. It also makes me think of like… I haven’t found a good way to phrase this but I’ve been calling it the provisional nature of astrological prediction and interpretation, which is how to find that balance as an astrologer, which would be important here, between looking at something and having an idea of what it means or having an idea that maybe that could be problematic or there could be tension between the two of you, like, let’s say, in this instance. But then maybe not forming too hard of a preconception or an assumption that it will definitely work out in exactly the way that you suspect that it might at first, but instead letting things still grow and develop organically and see how that archetype ends up manifesting.
SM: I think that’s a great point. Yes, because that particular aspect, my Sun conjunct their Saturn, that could be that maybe the person feels… Yeah, maybe they project the positive aspects of paternal care onto me. So we never really know how it’s going to shake out and I think that’s a part of the challenge of using astrology in general, but especially in the psychotherapeutic space is that there can be this, “Oh, I know what this means,” and going into it with surety, whereas I’m always trying to come into the therapeutic space with a sense of not knowing. Because ultimately, we don’t know what someone else’s experience is.
CB: Yeah, for sure. That seems really important, and to let things sort of grow and develop organically and see where they go. That’s a careful middle ground to try to walk. So that’s one thing definitely to be aware of, like synastry. Also, I know you mentioned the consultation chart of the first session, like essentially, the first meeting chart is also sometimes being very relevant.
SM: Yes, and I think that even more. The consultation chart is something that I think needs time to blossom and for us to understand like, “Oh, this is what…” Because yeah, we meet and we work for a period of months or years sometimes. And sometimes it’s not for quite a while that we understand, “Oh, this is what the therapy is actually about.” Especially when we’re talking about depth psychotherapy, working a lot with the unconscious and relational patterns, someone may come in because they’re experiencing anxiety or depression or a relationship challenge that they want to figure out. And then that may be resolved, but then there’s more, there’s something else that they want to get into. And I think that the consultation chart can be an inkling into that and give us a sense for it, but then it’s really cool to see how it blossoms and develops and then we can… I like to look at the consultation chart almost in retrospect to understand a bit of what’s happened as well, because that helps me understand what it is that we’ve done and what this person is really about also in this phase of their life.
CB: Yeah, for sure. Which kind of goes back to Jung and that quote about astrology being connected to the quality of that moment, and the quality of the moment imprinting things. And that’s true for any time you start a new major adventure, that you can cast a chart for that and it will reflect that to some extent. But that’s really important and unique where in this instance you actually have what is essentially the first meeting chart and the quality of the connection between you and the client in some way being described in the moment of your first meeting in some ways.
SM: Yes, and Yvonne Smith Tarnas’s dissertation really explored this in a very thorough way, where she talked about the synastry as well as the consultation chart where sometimes there are themes where we can see like, oh, there’s this synastry. Let’s say there’s a Saturn-Moon connection between the client and the therapist and then the transiting Moon happens to also make an aspect to that synastry as well, or something like that, where it’s like all three of the charts sort of connect in together. I think that can get a little complicated and a little heady but also nonetheless, really interesting again to look at, especially if you’re like, “Okay, what’s actually happening here, and what are we doing, and how do I make sense of this?”
CB: Yeah, that’s really fascinating and really important. It kind of brings us around where you had said that the purpose of this would be understanding, validating, and amplifying what is happening and things with the client. Could you expand on what you mean by that?
SM: Yeah, I think that when we’re going to bring astrology into the room with the client, I like to follow the client’s lead. I think that it ideally should come from the client, something that they want to talk about. And I always like to say the least amount possible as far as what I think the transit is. Sometimes if someone’s like, “Oh, yeah, because I’m having my Saturn return, or I have this darn Saturn square Moon aspect in my birth chart,” I have to stop myself from saying, “Oh, well, of course you would feel that way because Moon-Saturn is really difficult and it means X, Y, and Z.” Instead, I would say, “Well, so what does Moon-Saturn mean to you? How do you experience that in your life?” That gives them the opportunity essentially to teach me what that means to them and how that correlates to their individual life. From there, I can add more to that and I can add more if they ask, of course. But I’m always very curious about how someone experiences the transit to their personal life, like what are some examples of the way that you see that showing up in your life? What connections are you seeing? It’s possible that I may see more connections than they do but I want to be very cautious about sharing that because it’s so important for the client to come to their own realization and understanding and to… I think of it as it’s like they have this delicate flower that is their understanding of what’s happening and if I walk into it, I’m smashing that and I’m not allowing it to bloom more fully.
CB: That is actually a really important point. I want to circle back to that about a potential problem with scenario number two which we’re about to get into, which is actively using astrology within the context of consulting session, which is like what if your approach to astrology is different than the approach that the client is having, which can be a huge problem. But I just want to wrap up the previous section. We were talking about using astrology passively. So there’s an entire way that a therapist could use astrology passively just to help better understand, to help validate the perspective of the client, and to amplify some of the things they are saying. They can be operating on these different levels of their birth chart and knowledge of it, timing techniques, knowing the synastry between you and the client, and finally, the consultation chart of your first session that just gives you additional helpful information that you can use somewhat passively as the therapist, but not necessarily that’s being brought into the session itself. And that that can be perfectly valid and effective and useful.
SM: Yes, exactly. Well said.
CB: Okay, cool. Scenario two that you started talking about is that there’s another scenario where we bring astrology into the session much more actively, in that it’s actually actively being discussed openly. And you’re saying that point one for you with that is to do it in a way where you sometimes try to let it arise, especially from the client themself, and you’re saying that if the client themself has an interest in astrology?
SM: Yes, and I think it’s going to depend on the client and what they’re like. My practice, I’m very open that I’m an astrologer and I tend to let people know that I incorporate astrology into the therapy process, if they like. For someone who maybe is a little bit more private about it, I think, you know, you’ll get a feel. People are going to talk about astrology and therapy if they’re into it, I think and if not, I think they should. But yeah, I think always it’s like time in therapy as the therapist, it’s not my agenda. I am not in charge of this process. It’s like the client is always in charge and if they’re wanting to bring something in, it’s like, “Okay, yes, what wants to come in?” And I think that’s one of the challenges of wanting to bring this in is that we get really excited about astrology and we’re like, “Oh, my gosh!” Like, if you only knew that you were having this transit, then you would just… It would make your life so much easier.” I think that we need to kind of reality-check that a bit and keep in mind that this is what the client wants. And if the client wants to bring in astrology, that will happen organically. And yeah, yeah.
CB: Okay. Yeah, so if the client wants to discuss that they’re going through their Saturn return with you and they want to process that. Or if they’re aware of that Venus retrograde transit and they’re already in their mind connecting it with what’s going on with the relationships, and so the two of you then share then a common language that you’re using as an access point to discuss some of those things that are going on in the person’s life.
SM: Mhm, yes. Yeah, and to bring it back to, you mentioned– I can’t remember how you languaged this, but if the therapist and the client have different systems that they use, different astrological systems, what to do there.
CB: Yeah, that seems like it would be a big issue. That seems it could be a big issue because I know that’s already an issue just for astrologers… Well, astrologers talking to astrologers. But also in the context of a normal, purely astrology reading, let’s say, it can be difficult if the astrologer has one approach but then the client has a different approach and they’re wanting to ask questions about a perspective or a technique, let’s say, that the astrologer doesn’t use then there’s kind of a disconnect there.
SM: Yeah. Okay, I have a couple of different thoughts about this. I think number one, this is why it’s so helpful for us as astrologers to be multi-lingual or well-versed in different techniques. I think that that can be really helpful. I laughed when you brought this up because my therapist, who is an astrologer, she uses a different system than I do. And I haven’t found it to be an issue and I think that’s because when, for a few different reasons, I think the challenge of that is if we feel really attached to our system, then it becomes a challenge. And when the client is like, “Yeah, this is how I experienced this or I’m experiencing.” And maybe we could talk about— I’m having a hard time thinking of an example other than house systems, that’s just what’s coming to mind. Because I have a lot of folks who… I use whole sign houses, a lot of folks use Placidus, and the way that I handle that is I’ll use the system that they use and I feel comfortable with that. Maybe there’s other techniques where that’s a little more challenging and a little more clunky. But I’m totally like, “You tell me what it is that you’re experiencing.” I don’t need to use my system. I will, of course, because I like it. But I’m always more interested in what resonates with the client and how they’re linking that to their life because that has nothing to do with my preference for astrology, it’s really about them and what is meaningful to them.
CB: Yeah, I think that does show a fundamentally important difference in orientation between if you’re just an astrologer and you’re doing an astrological reading and you’re talking about the system that you use, because you think it’s the most effective and therefore that’s going to be your basis for telling the person about their life and in that context, it’s almost more the client’s role to go along with to some extent the system that the astrologer that they’ve hired is using if that’s the advice that they want to get, versus going to another astrologer that uses a different system. But in this context, that makes a lot of sense what you’re saying because if part of your orientation as a therapist is just understanding the person and how they are conceptualizing their life and allowing them to speak on that and use whatever access point that’s relevant, then it’s less about you telling the person what their life is as an astrologer and giving a delineation but instead, you’re just using the astrology itself to some extent just being used just as a language that the two of you speak that you’re fluent in. Just as in the same way if you were a therapist and you have a primary language but somebody comes to you and they speak a different primary language that they would feel more comfortable speaking to you in, and if you happen to have fluency in that language, that you can connect more effectively. It helps to facilitate what you’re trying to do with the therapy itself. And that’s sort of what you’re describing, it sounds like there.
SM: Yes. And I love the term that you use, ‘access point,’ because that’s the way that I’m thinking about it when… That’s the way I’m thinking about astrology when we’re using it in therapy. It’s like, okay, how do we get into what someone is experiencing? How do we get into ideally the unconscious or the unsaid? Or, what is going on here that we’re not aware of and how do we explore that? That could be the whole natal chart, that could be their correlation of Venus retrograde, but it’s not about Venus retrograde, it’s about their experience of Venus retrograde or whatever.
CB: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I do think you could run into issues though, occasionally, if you ran into a situation where it’s like the person thinks about and has become disturbed about a technique that they heard from another astrologer that you personally might think is wrong. Or where if the person’s becoming obsessed about something that’s become detrimental, then at some point, whether you have an obligation to be like, “Hey, I’m not sure if that technique is…” I don’t want to say true because obviously, we get into all these debates in the astrological community about what techniques are true or whatever, but if there was hypothetically let’s say something that was really off the wall that’s disturbing the peace of mind of the client, and if you as an astrologer think that maybe that’s not as important or compelling as they think it is and that you maybe feel compelled to tell them that.
SM: Yes, I think that’s a great point. And frankly, I think that that kind of thing can happen even when I’m looking at the chart with the client. There could be something that I say that invokes fear or dread. I think there’s a lot of negative delineations around some more challenging chart signatures like the eighth house or the 12th house, there’s a lot of fear that’s invoked in that and I think that even… I think that… Yeah, I think that’s a danger of astrology is that it can, instead of inspiring hope and understanding, it can bring about fear or something challenging and… Yeah, go ahead.
CB: Yeah, I guess I was thinking of the worst-case scenario where somebody’s like this astrologer told me I was going to die next year or something like that. And I don’t think that’s a common thing and I think most astrologers would say that that’s unethical, and I’ve really been putting off doing a whole episode about astrology’s whole history with that topic and the topic of death in general because it’s very tricky, but when it was something let’s say extreme like that. And then as the astrologer, maybe you have more of an ability actually to maybe be able to pull them back from that and say, you know, astrology tends to be more of an archetypal and symbolic system and so becoming too attached to some prediction like that might not be healthy and it might not end up being true in the end. So maybe that’s where you could be helpful in being able to have that perspective and maybe pull them back if they’re using the astrology in the way that’s maybe not as helpful or healing within reason in terms of criticizing other astrologers or other systems or approaches to astrology.
SM: Yeah, I like that, in that, it’s like, okay, it sounds like this, maybe, if someone says, “Yeah, an astrologer told me,” which I hope that’s not what anyone is saying, “An astrologer told me that I’m going to die in X amount of years.” I would want to say, okay, can you tell me more about what they said? And let’s look at your chart and let’s see what we can figure out here. And oh, I can see how maybe they saw this Pluto or whatever transit or aspect. I would say that also maybe means X, Y, and Z. And like you just said, Chris, that things can be more symbolic and oh, so you’ve been working with that astrologer for a long period of time. Okay, are you finding it helpful when you see them? How do you feel when you see them? How do you feel talking about this now? What about what I just said resonates with you or not? And yeah, I think even that can be an entry point. But yeah, definitely challenging, for sure.
CB: Sure. Sure. Yeah, that’s a little tricky issue, maybe that’s too big to get into. But it does bring up a whole side topic we’re going to talk about, which is that there may be contraindications for using astrology in a session or instances where maybe astrology wouldn’t either be appropriate in that context or wouldn’t be appropriate for certain people.
SM: Yes. So, rule of thumb is essentially incorporating astrology into the therapy session, and I think this goes along with things like dream interpretation as well, is that it’s not really ideal for folks who are experiencing extreme psychopathology, for folks who are having trouble telling the difference between symbol and reality, and then for folks who maybe simply tend to assign power outside of themselves already. Like, they are already looking to… For example, if I’m finding that someone tends to say, “Oh, this transit is making this happen in my life,” or they’re talking about astrology in a way that either they’re a victim of it or that it seems to take away their power and control and autonomy in their life. I’m really going to want to dial that back and even maybe not use it because insight and awareness and these ideas and understanding, that’s not really what those folks need. What those folks need is being grounded in the physical reality of life and having more containment, so to speak, versus having all of these cool and interesting ideas and connections.
CB: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I think there’s definitely different personality types where sometimes on the one hand, the distinction we might make is between somebody that’s using astrology and they’re using it in a way that’s empowering them, versus if there’s somebody that’s using it in a way that’s disempowering them, then that might not be healthy or it might not be a good thing. Or there’s certain personality types that I see sometimes if a person is given more towards really extreme, let’s say like conspiracy theories for lack of a better term, something like astrology sometimes can not be very helpful because it can just exacerbate some of that or they can start using it in a way that might not be very healthy.
SM: Yeah, I think exacerbate is a good way of saying it. We don’t want to… Someone that’s already living outside of themselves, we don’t want to continue that. We want to keep things more grounded. And I think, essentially, having astrology as a part of the process, it should foster the client’s connection to themselves and having a stronger sense of self, and then also ideally foster the therapeutic relationship as well. If that’s not happening thing, then maybe it’s not a right fit for that particular person.
CB: Yeah, for sure. I guess what I was saying with the previous comment is especially if a person is having extreme delusions of some sort, the astrology may not be helpful in that context. It may be something that– I don’t want to say makes that worse, but for some people, it’s potentially something that certainly is not necessarily going to help because that’s something I think as astrologers we always get into the mindset that astrology is great, it’s such a cool tool, surely, if it was more widely known about, this would always help people in their lives, it would make society better or whatever. But I think there’s sometimes instances where certain people maybe astrology doesn’t help them as much and that you do have to be a little careful about that.
SM: Definitely. Yeah.
CB: Sure. All right, that’s good. Let’s move on, because we had some other… I guess we’re already getting into some of these other sections in terms of ethical considerations but also we were going to talk a little bit about how to conceptualize astrology within the context of this application, and maybe this would be a good time to do that.
SM: Yes, I would love to. Yeah, I thought about this a lot and I think that we can start to de-stigmatize the idea of using astrology in therapy when we think about astrology as the way that we may use dreams in psychotherapy. Because, you know, dreams or free association or act of imagination, because the dream is essentially a psychotherapeutic technique. It’s like, okay, what’s happening with you? How do we see how the symbols relate? And we’re simply using astrology in that same way. I think that that makes astrology seem sort of less scary and sort of contextualizes okay, like, how do we actually bring it in? If that makes sense.
CB: Yeah, I think so. In the same way of persons having nightmares about something and that that’s bringing up something in them, or it’s reminding them of something or awakening something that they’re actually wrestling with that’s actually central to or relevant to some therapy session that you’re having with them, then that’s certainly something you could talk about because maybe it does speak to something broader that they’re actually dealing with on a core level. Similarly, the astrology might be used as a similar jumping-off point.
SM: Yes, exactly. And just like dreams, typically depending on the kind of therapy work that we’re doing, but typically it’s not like, “Okay, hello, what dream did you have this week?” It’s not an every-session kind of thing. It’s more spontaneous, it’s more organic, the client brings it in when they want to and I think that we can have the same sort of guideline with astrology in that sometimes I’ll go weeks or months without astrology ever entering the therapy room, and then sometimes we’ll talk about it a lot. But yeah, I guess my point is just that astrology doesn’t have to be this ever-present thing in the room. It can come and go in divine timing, so to speak.
CB: That makes a lot of sense. So, using it when relevant or when it arises naturally, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be forced because your primary focus is the psychotherapy session itself and the things that that’s what’s being centered rather than the astrology itself necessarily always being at the center of everything.
SM: Yes, exactly. Yeah.
CB: Okay. And in that context, I know you talked about astrology being used as a symbolic language or a form of divination or other things.
SM: Yeah, and I think that you mentioned this a little bit ago, too, is that we can think of it as yeah, as a language, as a symbolic language just in the way that if, you know, I have someone that that speaks Spanish and then I happen to speak Spanish and maybe it’s more comfortable to speak Spanish, in this case, astrology, I think of it as a language of psyche of the human experience. Some folks may say it’s an archetypal language. I mentioned the divination too, because there’s this synchronistic or spontaneous element, especially when we’re thinking about the time when someone comes in, and we can see this through the consultation chart, the kinds of clients that a therapist tends to attract and the synastry that they have with them. And so and I’ve found this, being an astrologer too, it’s very interesting the kinds of people that come into your life in time and over phases. So there’s something sort of divinatory about it as well.
CB: Yeah, for sure. It’s like the parallel is that famous story by Jung, where he’s talking about this client who’s describing this dream where there’s a beetle and it’s featuring very prominently in their dream. And then all of a sudden at the same moment, a beetle starts knocking on the window and he picks it up and hands it to the client and it’s this big breakthrough moment that similarly, the chart for, let’s say, your first meeting might describe something that’s actually going to be very relevant about what the two of you are going to focus on. And sometimes your ability to see that symbol, not just as a therapist but as an astrologer, could help to be part of that breakthrough moment in order to be able to get to the core of somebody’s issues, but it’s something that’s arising sometimes spontaneously and organically that has to come from the moment. And there is that random or chance element to that, which is something that’s always underlying different forms of divination.
SM: Yes, exactly. And I think it’s important to in this context think about astrology as more of that language and art, a divination versus a more rigid scientific technique that can always be applied in a very particular kind of way. I think, though, of course some folks like to think of astrology as science when we’re putting it into this context but there’s a little more… Yeah, there’s more… It’s more of an art than a science at least the way that I experience it.
CB: Sure, yeah. And I think there’s elements that are really important and true and that it can also be used just purely as we were talking about on that level of a language that two people can share regardless of the validity of astrology in and of itself. I have though been thinking about recently that it’s like there is an empirical component to astrology. And even as a psychotherapist, I think that’s going to be relevant in your practice because let’s say you are at least paying attention passively to the charts of different people that you’re seeing regularly, you’re going to see certain combinations or certain placements in the chart. Let’s just say something like you mentioned Saturn in the fourth house, for example, and how a past client experienced that placement and their birth chart and some of the issues that came up in the area of parents, let’s just say. And then you see another client that has Saturn in the fourth and you see their experience of that placement. And then you see a third person. There’s a certain point as an astrologer where there’s an empirical element where those data points are sometimes informing how you see that placement because you do start seeing repetitions and you do start seeing a correlation between a similar range of meanings about how different people will experience the same placement. I think it’s important as astrologers sometimes to recognize that to some extent or talk about that because it means there is an empirical component, and it also means that astrology is not purely a language in the sense that it’s just like poetry or something that doesn’t have any grounding in reality, but in fact, it is speaking to something that’s actually really happening or some sort of real phenomenon and nature of some sort.
SM: Yes, and this is a part of why I’m so excited to use astrology in therapy is because we meet with someone every week, sometimes over the course of years, and then we really get to understand the nature of whatever it is that’s in their chart and so we get such a deeper understanding. And I think that, yes, there are certain themes where it’s like, “Oh, this is what Saturn in this placement tends to look like, and this is all the different ways that it can look.” This is a conversation for another time but I’m very interested in looking at how we can do qualitative research as astrologers versus quantitative, where it’s more about studying broad themes and looking at things within the context of an individual’s life versus looking at just the numbers than just the statistics. And I think that astrology, because it’s more of a humanitarian or at least to me more of a humanitarian kind of practice, I think that the more that we can use qualitative data, I think that serves us. But that’s a whole other side tangent.
CB: For sure, for sure. Yeah, but that seems important and relevant just in terms of talking about how we define astrology or the role of astrology as a language, and that that’s going to be part of what you’re doing. I had some other point to make about that but I think I’ve lost it. Yeah, I think that might be good in terms of conceptualization of astrology and setting that foundation of how we’re actually thinking about it. And that we’re thinking of it not necessarily, or most astrologers that are using it in a therapeutic context are not thinking of the planets causing people to behave in certain ways, but instead they’re thinking of it in the sense of the placements reflecting something about what’s going on in reality.
SM: Yes, yes.
CB: Yeah. Okay. We started to get into this but maybe it’s worth circling back to if there’s anything else we didn’t touch on, but just ethical considerations when you’re using astrology within the context of psychotherapy.
SM: Yes, we sort of have touched on but not maybe specifically named. There’s an ethical consideration around the therapist, there being a power imbalance. And I think that already, in therapy, there’s inherently a power imbalance and that the therapist or even in astrology readings, the astrologer is the one that knows lots of things and is the expert, and then the client is the one that is seeking assistance. And I think that it’s so important to be aware of this, and folks who are therapists have received training on this and how to manage this. And there’s a potential for astrology to exacerbate or amplify that power imbalance that’s already present by the therapists being the one with the wisdom about the astrology. I think we’ve talked about how to manage that by deferring to the client and how they’re experiencing things but I think that it can be… You know, astrology can be very seductive in that we’re like, “Oh, I know what’s going on here and I’m going to tell the person,” even if I’m not going to tell them, I really see the truth. And I think that as therapists and counselors and even astrologers, we always need to be kind of looking at how we manage that and how we see ourselves and where we feel huffed up by having all of the astrology knowledge that we do.
CB: Yeah, for sure. That’s a really tricky thing just because the astrology, anytime somebody is approaching astrologers for a reading, they’re doing so with the presumption that this person through the astrology knows more about their life than the client does or might be able to provide insights. And there’s going to be different levels of how much they feel like the person will know about their life and be able to tell them especially about their future, because that’s also maybe sometimes a different orientation is different astrologers in their focus more on the present and what’s presently relevant or what’s relevant about the chart and the astrology about a person’s past and what he can tell you about that, versus what it may or may not be able to tell you about the future. And the client sometimes put a lot of… There’s a lot of power in that which is very important to be able to wield carefully, and that would be even more so in this context.
SM: Yeah, I’m also talking about this acknowledging I’m a human and these are things that I struggle with as well. And I think that anytime that I find myself telling the client, “Oh, this means this,” or, “This is your exp—” I’m like, “Okay, Shawna, dial it back because that’s not what that’s about.” I think it can be helpful to share, and I’ll even say, too, depending on what someone wants when they come in, sometimes we will start with an astrology reading before we start formal psychotherapy, just to get all of that stuff out of the way. So, where it can be like, “Okay, I’m going to be the astrologer in the session and I am going to tell you things, but then it’s going to be the ball is in your court, so to speak.” And I think that, yeah, it’s like a constant checking-in process, whether or not we use astrology if, as counselors and therapists, we’re finding ourselves being the authority in the room on the person’s experience.
CB: Yeah, I like that approach, that’s a really cool approach to maybe get the reading out of the way first and then that sets you up to be able to then do the psychotherapy after that or what have you. Because going back to what I was going to say that I lost earlier was just that’s always been one of the most fun parts of astrology or most interesting parts to me, is seeing clients and that you have this person who’s a complete stranger to you and you have no idea of background of their life or anything else. And you look at their chart and you read it ahead of time and you get an idea about how the person’s life should be or different things about their life. But that you really until you start talking to that person, you have no reason to think why that should be the case or why those parts of the person’s life should be the way they are. But then as you start talking to the person, you learn that they are and you learn how the chart does actually match, oftentimes very well, what this person’s lived experience and circumstances and sometimes character or psyche are like. That’s such an interesting and fascinating process but it’s one always that you go into blind and always with a certain almost amount of skepticism of, you know, I don’t have any background information on this person’s life, but then all of a sudden you find out that oftentimes the astrology is describing it actually rather well and that’s a cool part of the process.
SM: Yeah, I’m really enjoying that flow because it also sets a baseline of like, okay, what’s happening? What is happening over the next couple of months, the next years? And it’s kind of like… Yes, sets a foundation for maybe what the person may want to explore going forward in therapy. And I think we get out of the way what I think and I can just put it out there and we can see what resonates with them and what also doesn’t, and we can also get out of the way if their approach to astrology is different than mine and how we come to terms with that, so to speak.
CB: That brings up two other points. One is that astrology works better in context, and so while it’s good to do a reading early on, it’s like the more context you learn about a person’s life, the more you understand how the placements actually fit into their life. And as an astrologer, that actually gives you even a better ability then to say how certain transits or other things are working out or are going to work out probably within a certain range, just because the birth chart, it could be a birth chart for people born in different places at different times. And depending on the person’s circumstances or cultural things or other things like that, there’s going to be a certain range of possible manifestations of the planets that might not be available to them. But once you know the context, then it helps you to really sharpen your understanding of what’s possible and what delineations might be relevant.
SM: Yes. I think also there’s so many things that people don’t share in an astrology reading for whatever reason. And through the therapy process, things start to come out that maybe a person hasn’t shared for like a year into the process and there’s something really critical in their life that finally they’re ready to bring out. And yeah, that we can see that in the chart and make sense of that.
CB: Yeah, that actually reminds me of sometimes astrology can be a really serious thing because it’s talking about people’s lives and it can talk about things that are really serious in a person’s life and sometimes you can accidentally tread on that unknowingly. I remember this time years ago when I participated in a thing at an OPA conference where I think there was like five astrologers and we all read a chart blind for this person. And then they were supposed to get up, we were to understand at the end and tell us who got it right or what have you, who did a better job or whatever? Two or three of us ended up focusing on this one part of the chart where there was a stellium or something, but it was kind of there were some challenging placements. And the person later got up and didn’t really say anything like afterwards and so we assumed that it just went horribly and was a bad event, but learned later that what happened was, in fact, we had picked up on something but it was a very difficult to traumatic spot from the person’s past and it wasn’t something that when they got up there in front of a room of a hundred people at the end that they really want to talk about. That always ended up being a really good illustration to me of several different things, but also sometimes how you got to be careful with this stuff. And sometimes the– I don’t want to say… Trivialization of astrology is not the right word, but something in that ballpark can sometimes be tricky because you’re dealing sometimes with really important and heavy stuff in people’s lives and so there has to be a certain amount of care taken going into that.
SM: Yeah. Yes, care, care in the process. I often think about, we may say something that to us seems perfectly fine, but we don’t have control over how the client or the person that we’re reading for, or even the psychotherapy, how they’re going to take that positive or negative. And yeah, I think having care is a really good intention for this kind of work.
CB: Yeah, for sure. That can be tricky and I think all astrologers learn that over a period of time that sometimes you need to try your best to be careful with your language because you don’t know how it’s going to land with different people or how they might interpret it. But there’s some times, even despite one’s best efforts, there can be ways in which a person might understand what you say quite differently than what you intend. And that can sometimes be tricky to deal with as well when doing some of this work.
CB: So, you said therapeutic process and that brought up another thing that’s really important in this context, which is usually in most contexts an astrologer, especially with natal astrology, is just doing a one-off reading where you have a 75-minute consultation and that’s it. And there’s really only so much you can go through during the course of that, versus within the context of astrology and psychotherapy, you’re doing actually the more ideal situation for an astrologer, which is that you’re actually getting to know the person and their life and the context of their life in a much more intimate way than you would or a better way than you would under a normal circumstance for singular one-off reading. And I think that puts you in a much more unique position, to whatever extent you’re using astrology, to be able to use it more effectively and at a deeper level because you understand the context of the person’s life better.
SM: Yes, and I found that I really love this part of the work is that there’s always more. I find that when a person is in therapy, they’re also discovering more and more about their experience. Maybe they have an experience of financial insecurity, financial challenges, and why is this? And I think that it’s so easy to be like, “Oh, this problem is because of this one singular thing,” and the more that I do this work, the more that I’m understanding that there’s all of these different things that feed into it. You know, a person’s temperament, their early upbringing, their environment, their cultural context, and their astrology. And it’s not always one thing in the chart, and I think that that’s something that I find really interesting to work with folks is it’s like… I have some clients who are like, “Oh, yeah, my darn X, Y, and Z aspect,” Saturn’s a common one but, you know? Or like, “My Moon-Pluto conjunction,” or whatever it is. And it’s like, okay, yes, and there’s that. But also, what about this thing over here? When you talk about this scenario, I’m really hearing this part of your chart being expressed here and what do you think’s going on there? And so it’s this constant exploration, not just of their experience but of how the chart is speaking to their experience. And I think that it can really help us to look at the chart in a more whole way versus I find that it can be our natural tendency, and I do this too, is to compartmentalize the chart and to think of the chart in little bits and pieces versus the whole thing working together to create an experience.
CB: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Maybe just to circle around and close out that last thing about the power imbalance, maybe part of the thing is just setting expectations, and especially establishing that the astrologer/psychotherapist is not infallible right from the start because that’s maybe one of the things that clients need to understand about astrologers to go into it with. Obviously, a certain amount of belief that astrology is a legitimate phenomenon and yet not put the astrologer on too high the pedestal in terms of how astrology works or having reasonable expectations about how astrology works.
SM: Yes. Yes, I think that as a client, it’s so important to say when something doesn’t resonate or something doesn’t sit quite right. “Well, actually, it’s more like this.” I think we shouldn’t be so afraid to be wrong or to make someone feel like they’re wrong, but that that actually helps everyone to understand more of what’s happening here. And so yeah, I think definitely for clients to be able to push back when something doesn’t resonate and to remember that your astrologer, your counselor, your therapist, your teacher, whoever, they’re all humans and they’re not always going to get it right and that’s okay and that’s a part of the process.
CB: Yeah, and one of the things I always find really funny about sometimes when skeptics accuse astrologers of just doing cold reading is anybody that does consulting astrology for long enough realizes, like, no, when an astrologer tells the client something that doesn’t match up with their life, the client usually will tell you pretty quickly if that’s not resonating for them or something like that. So that’s part of the dialogue in doing consultation and sometimes finding the way that it does manifest rather than just assuming it’s going to show up in one singular way.
SM: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, astrology is so… There’s so many different ways that something could manifest and yeah, we need to be able to have that feedback to discern what it is.
CB: For sure, for sure. Okay. So other ethical considerations, you mentioned sessions could turn into astrology readings purely where the psychotherapist is telling the client what they’re like, versus actually listening to the client as a potential downside.
SM: Yeah. We’ve sort of danced around that topic and I think that that’s something that can happen for a counselor or therapist who’s really excited to bring astrology in and then the client is like, “Oh, yeah, tell me more,” and then they both get sucked into that. So I think it’s important to name that that’s something that we always want to guard against, and that we can do that by defaulting to the client and being like, “Oh, yeah. Well, what do you think about this? How do you correlate this?” Yeah, yeah.
CB: Yeah. Sometimes one model that I had at one point, we just were doing astrology readings, was to give one positive interpretation of how that archetype could manifest, let’s say it’s an aspect or a placement. So, one positive possible manifestation, one challenging possible manifestation, and then maybe one neutral manifestation. And then ask, “How has that worked out for you?” because then it sort of demonstrates the range while still putting some boundaries on it of the range in which you think it should be manifesting, but then allowing for an opening up that dialogue so that you can then see what the actual context is and whether that’s resonating or whether it’s not, or whether it’s resonating in a slightly different way than you anticipate.
SM: Yeah, and what I like about that is that gives the client the opportunity to claim which of those they feel comfortable with. So you’re kind of like, “Yeah, this is the full spectrum of the way that other people experience this,” instead of saying, “You are this way.” It’s like, yeah, this is the platter of things that you can identify with if you wish. It’s much less confrontational.
CB: Sure. Yeah, for sure. Okay, and then the final one that you mentioned was the potential, in the worst-case scenario, to pathologize the client based on their astrology instead of using the chart as a method to validate and understand the client.
SM: Yeah, I think this is… And again, I’m saying this is something that I find myself doing, too, is as astrologers we’re very aware of the certain astrological signatures that we like, versus the ones that we don’t like. Maybe we’ve even had experiences with people in our lives that had a certain signature and now anytime we meet anyone with that signature, we’re like, “Oh, yeah, they’re this kind of way.” And I think, yeah, that’s another thing to be aware of, is when we may be projecting a certain quality onto a client in a negative kind of way and sort of putting them into a box or pathologizing them, I think that we can do this as astrologers and I think that it can be dangerous when it’s in the psychotherapeutic space because the client is looking to the therapist as an authority figure already. Like, that’s already kind of… That’s already a part of the dynamic, it’s the way that it’s set up. So yeah, I think it’s important to acknowledge that that’s a potential and something to guard against.
CB: Yeah, I think that’s good advice, both within the context of astrology and psychotherapy, but also in the context of just using astrology in general and how you use it to interact with people in your lives is let your interactions with the person dictate your views on that person and what your relationship is with them. Don’t let the astrology be the primary or first thing that you’re using to dictate your views on the person or what your relationship and interactions with them should be like. And usually, if you follow that sort of tip, you can usually fall on the right side of it when it comes to certain things.
SM: Yes, exactly.
CB: Okay. All right. I guess that it just goes back to partially the provisional nature of things that even if you’ve observed certain things or if you’ve had certain experiences of how certain placements have worked out in the past, every time you meet a new person, even if you’re aware of those previous things, you have to approach your relationship with them with a certain amount of a blank slate. Because otherwise, it’s like you don’t want to fall into the trap of using astrology in a way that you’re overly categorizing certain people to the point of presumptuousness or even prejudice or what have you.
SM: Yeah, and I would say I think coming to it as a blank slate is a little bit challenging. I would think of it as having a lack of assumptions and having a state of curiosity like, “Oh, what is this? What is this person? How are they expressing this particular kind of signature?” Of course, this is always easier said than done, right? Especially if we have intense experiences with certain kinds of signatures, whether that’s a transit that we’ve experienced or synastry with another person or something like that. But yeah, maintaining this sort of openness to the possibilities of what’s happening right now.
CB: Yeah. Yeah, that’s so important. I guess it’s something every astrologer will go back and forth on and struggle with but eventually needs to find some sort of balance to. Because one of the things I’ve noticed over the years is even if you have that experience where it’s like you’ve had a string of a few different people in your life in different contexts that have had certain placements and that it’s been challenging or difficult or even worse in some ways, sometimes what will happen is at some point astrology will throw you a curveball and a new person will come into your life with those same exact placements. And you’re going to be a little cautious or a little nervous at first, but sometimes it ends up working out in the best possible manifestation of that archetype, basically. And that’s the reason why you have to leave some room for that in whatever your interactions are as an astrologer.
SM: Yes, and I think it’s so important to say to ourselves, “Okay, the chart doesn’t tell me everything. The chart doesn’t tell us…” I don’t think it tells us a person’s emotional maturity. I think there’s things that we can see but there’s also things that we can’t see. Yeah, totally. Exactly.
CB: Yeah, for sure. There’s also different like… There’s environmental factors about how the person grew up or what their family was like or different experiences that they had along the way that sometimes could exacerbate certain placements or in other instances can sometimes really humble people. And that offsets things in really major ways, which is why you have to approach it with as much balance as you can with each new person.
CB: Yeah. All right. So, other considerations. So, types of therapy that are inherently well matched with astrology versus those that are not.
SM: Yeah, this felt important to mention because… You know, the type of therapy that I practice is depth psychotherapy, and that’s an umbrella term for any type of therapy that is oriented towards restructuring the mind, restructuring the personality. It’s really focused on working with the unconscious and depth psychotherapy tends to feel subtle and to work slowly over time. Depth psychotherapy— [crosstalk] Oh, go ahead.
CB: Is that the Jungian branch or approach or influenced by it, or is that not a correct association to make?
SM: Under the umbrella of depth psychotherapy is Jungian psychotherapy, archetypal therapy, sandplay… Let’s see, what else am I missing here? Yeah, those are the main ones. But yeah, Jungian is definitely under there. And I use the term ‘depth’ because most people think of Jungian therapy, but there’s a lot of different therapies that are similar to Jungian that use similar concepts but have different techniques or different models of mind. And they’re all oriented around working with the unconscious and working with restructuring the way that a person is, the way that they show up in their life, in contrast to cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, which is the more mainstream therapy that we have. If you find a therapist on your insurance plan, it’s usually going to be a CBT sort of therapist. So CBT in contrast to depth therapy, CBT is more focused on working with your behavior, working with your conscious mind and sort of your will to change things. It’s usually oriented towards targeting a particular symptom in your life and figuring out a way to change that through your behavior, whereas depth is more about who are you, how did you get here? And a lot of that involves processing internal dynamics and how you feel, and again tends to be more subtle and work slowly over time versus CBT is more like an espresso shot of therapy, so to speak.
CB: Okay, and you feel like that depth psychotherapy is more well-suited or matched to astrology.
SM: That’s my experience, yes. I say that because depth psychotherapy really works with the symbolic. A part of depth itself is viewing everything in the life as symbolic and incorporating things like dream or symbolic amplification of the symptom that’s happening. Depth therapy tends to be more reflective, introspective. Some folks may see it tends to be more spiritual, I think that really depends on a person’s worldview. But yeah, it tends to be more introspective, so to speak, whereas CBT is more like, “Okay, well, what’s happening? What’s the behavior? How do we change it?” It’s more focused on the superficial actions. I think that there’s more potential for pathologizing someone in their chart when we’re looking at things from a CBT sort of orientation. And frankly, there’s not the time to go more deeply into the chart when someone’s working in a CBT sort of fashion. I’m not saying that if someone’s a CBT therapist, that they shouldn’t try to incorporate astrology and that wouldn’t be helpful. But I just thought it would be… I think it’s important to consider the way in which we’re working when we’re bringing astrology into that way of working.
CB: Sure, that makes sense. Okay. And there may be, I don’t know, even other therapeutic applications. Like famously, Tarnas in some of his work with Grof in the ’80s and they were doing some of that research about the timing involved in astrology and psychedelics and things like that. So that’s a whole other quasi-therapeutic sort of application as well.
SM: Yeah, that’s a whole other game. I’m definitely not an expert on that, but that’s definitely… I would even think psychedelic assisted therapy, I would think that would be more friendly towards astrology as well. That’s my sense for it.
CB: Okay. Sure. Sure. Yeah, that’s a whole separate thing. In terms of other, you know, potential issues, you wrote that because astrology is still considered a fringe, occult, or even Sun sign-based practice, it’s not easily incorporated in a community mental health setting.
SM: Yeah. For folks who are working in a setting where you have your 50 minutes or however with someone and you have lots of people coming in rapidly and folks who are experiencing more extreme conditions and you’re working with taking insurance and there’s a lot of documentation, I think that it can sort of feel like this sort of shameful secret that you’re using astrology when you’re in more of a community mental health setting versus a private practice setting. And I think that’s valid. I think, again, that would be maybe a case where a person wants to… Where a clinician wants to use astrology just for their own understanding, versus bringing it into the room where maybe it feels unsafe to do so because it feels like they maybe would get in trouble or something like that.
CB: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, that’s what I immediately thought of is fear of ostracization from one’s community if you’re using it more openly. Or even something I run into and I think about somewhat frequently is most polls say that something like 25% to 30%, at the highest end of the spectrum, supposedly quote-unquote “believe in astrology” whatever that means. That means there’s a whole 70% or 75% of society that doesn’t quote-unquote “believe in astrology”. I think it’s a legitimate phenomenon for a range of different reasons that may range from scientific reasons to religious reasons or other things, who knows what else? So that’s also a tricky thing when it comes to using astrology in that setting is even for me when just meeting strangers, it’s like you never know when you say you’re an astrologer how that’s going to land with an individual person, and you have a 75% chance that it’s perhaps not going to be received well.
SM: Yes, yeah. We don’t know what someone’s perception of astrology is going to be. I don’t tend to tell people that that’s what I do unless I have a sense that it’s safe to tell them that, how it will be accepted. And so I think that there is this way in which if we’re going to be using these practices, that we sort of need to be protective of it and to do so in a way that feels like we’re not just being ethical, but we’re also protecting our professional status or our professional… Yeah, our profession, so to speak as well.
CB: Sure. Also on your website and your astrology presence, it’s like people if they’re coming to you through that, they sort of know what you’re about and what they’re getting so it’s not necessarily that you’re hiding anything, either. Yeah, but it seems like it’s an important skill to be able to put in different boxes the astrology part of one’s thinking and the therapist part of one’s thinking or to sort of segregate them sometimes.
SM: Yeah. And I think that for some people, they’re going to be in a… You know, I’m very privileged in that I can do that and that I’m working in private practice so I can be that upfront with it. And the people who are important in my life are not antagonistic towards astrology but I know some folks who, based on the place that they work or family and friends, there’s a need to keep that part more hidden. And I think that yeah, we always have to figure out what is right for us. Yeah, I feel lucky that I’ve been able to be so upfront about it, what people can expect from me.
CB: For sure. All right. Well, I think that brings us towards the end of this. We were going to maybe review some overall pros and cons. We’ve been talking a lot about some of the potential challenges, so maybe just to summarize again a little bit of what the advantages are, what the pros are, what the potential is for incorporating astrology into psychotherapy?
SM: I think we talked about some of the pros are definitely that it’s a helpful tool to be able to understand the client, to understand what’s going on, to conceptualize the broader themes in their life, and that it can also be used as a helpful tool in session to connect more with the client to amplify their experience. I think for someone who is in therapy, it can be– I don’t know that we necessarily touched on this whole lot but I think for someone in therapy, it can be really validating to see that their experiences is mirrored in something outside of themselves, and that there’s nothing wrong with them. That they can, in a sense, therapeutically blame whatever’s happening on the outside, and that sometimes that blaming can make it like, “Oh, I’m not bad. There’s this challenging thing that’s happening, and how do I deal with that?”
CB: Right. And not even necessarily just blaming, you know, there’s the cliché of blaming the planets or Mercury retrograde for one’s woes or something like that, but in the sense of astrology can be very self-affirming by giving that outside perspective that can sometimes confirm things that the person has always felt or experienced about their life but has had a hard time understanding or articulating in some ways.
SM: Yes. Yes, we said that astrology can be sort of a shortcut to some of these things, whether it’s understanding the client and who they are and what they’re about and their challenges. And then yeah, shortcut to that validation piece and that sense of self-understanding.
CB: Yeah, I always think about that and I’m like… I always think about that when a therapist is starting out that long process of many sessions of trying to understand this stranger in these short, let’s say one-hour sessions where you do the best you can but you’re only uncovering a small bit each time. And if somebody came up to you and was like, hey, would you to have an overview of this person’s life right from the start, and it’s sort of a cheat sheet or a cliff notes version of the person’s life that might help orient you with some of the main strengths and some of the main challenges that they might want to talk about, both universally in their life but also locally in terms of the current timeframe, would you like that? And I really have a hard time imagining most people turning that down, to me at least.
SM: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I think there’s a lot of value that it can provide. The flip side of that to speak to the con is that I think the only reason why someone would not say, “Oh my gosh, that sounds amazing!” is that there’s this stigma that astrology is inherently fringe or occulty or even misunderstood. That’s sort of one of the challenges, is navigating the inherent judgment towards astrology.
CB: Yeah, which is unfortunate because they treat it like… They’re like, “Well, to get that cheat sheet, you have to sacrifice a goat to get it or something like that.” But that’s not really what astrology is. It’s honestly not that occult and not that woo-woo or whatever other weird negative connotations that people sometimes have when they’re coming from an outside perspective and they simply don’t know because I guess that’s always hard for me to– I always have to be reminded periodically, sometimes when I meet a stranger or when I meet a skeptic of astrology and you’re trying to interface with them, it takes you a little while to remember and realize you’re talking to somebody that thinks usually that Sun sign astrology is astrology, and that’s the totality of what they understand about it. So you have to understand that if that’s all you thought it was, you also might have some of the same objections to it or think some very similar things. But because you know that it’s much more deep and complex than that, that’s part of why you have a much different perspective on it and that it’s important to keep that in mind or find a way to convey that to people but, unfortunately, it’s not always possible. So there will for the foreseeable future be some stigma associated with it.
SM: Yes, exactly. Yeah, that’s something that I think that as astrologers and therapists that we’re always going to have to contend with, like you say, for the foreseeable future.
SM: Yeah, are there other cons, or should we… Are there other pros, or should we talk about the cons? Do we talk about any other pros?
CB: The pros. I mean, the timing thing, the synastry thing is great. You’re understanding your relationship with the other person better and areas of challenge or areas of ease. The transit thing is really one of the most amazing things for me just understanding and having a different perspective because it can sometimes also give you a perspective on timing. And I understand that you’re probably not supposed to be doing timing very much in a therapeutic context but it’s always interesting knowing, for example, that somebody’s Saturn return is going to be about three years long. And that a person might be nearing the end of that or that they’re just at the threshold of that and this is the early stages of it or something like that, can be somewhat useful information. Maybe you don’t always need to share that with a client or maybe it wouldn’t always be helpful, or maybe in other contexts it might be helpful if you know that somebody is right at their exact Saturn return at the most intense part of it. Sometimes having that knowledge of timing can be helpful, especially if a person is in the thick of something and they feel like it’s going to last forever. That can sometimes be really challenging but having that perspective as an astrologer might be useful to some extent.
SM: Mm-hmm. Yeah, if we’re really taking astrology seriously and that this is a reflection of a person’s psyche and their development in this life, it’s a way for us to attune and connect into that, even when we’re not talking about it with them. There’s this deeper understanding of their timing and I think that it can inspire hope and trust in our process, both as clients and as clinicians.
CB: Yeah, for sure. That’s a really good point, hope and trust because to the extent that it does help you to understand the person better and that it helps you to demonstrate your understanding of the person better to a much more deep level, perhaps that in and of itself is also tremendously valuable in that it can help with your relationship with them, and that they have a better sense that you actually understand who they are and where they’re coming from.
SM: Mm-hmm, definitely. Yeah. Yeah, so that’s a huge pro as well, is that ideally, it fosters the therapeutic relationship itself, which we know is one of the core, through studies, one of the core components of therapy being effective is the therapeutic alliance, the therapy relationships. So that’s definitely, yeah, a big deal.
CB: Yeah, and it makes me think of the subtitle of Chani’s book, which is “Astrology For,” I think it’s, “For Radical Self-Understanding”– or, you know, and she was influenced by Demetra’s book Astrology and the Authentic Self and the notion of finding and embracing one’s authentic self, and to whatever extent that you’re able to help facilitate that as a therapist or as an astrologer, you know? That may be inherently helpful to people and to whatever extent astrology can help you to do that, then that seems like it would be a useful tool as part of that process.
SM: Definitely, yes.
CB: For sure. All right. Do you have any recommendations for therapists who want to incorporate astrology into their work or recommendations for people in therapy who want to bring astrology and those sorts of insights into their process with the therapist?
SM: Yes. As far as therapists who want to incorporate astrology into their work, few different things that I would recommend. Number one is to learn to read charts as well as you can. And I say that, you know, learn how to read a natal chart, learn how to understand transits as best you can, take courses, etc. I’ve mentioned the person who I’ve studied with, Jessica DiRuzza. She’s a psychotherapist astrologer and she has classes throughout the year, so that’s a really fantastic resource, I think for therapists. I would recommend using astrology for your own case conceptualization before ever bringing it into the room to make sure that you have a really solid understanding of how the astrology works for yourself before bringing it in with a client. I would question your motivation. Is this something that you want to bring in to amplify and understand? Or are you having a hard time and you simply need more training and holding space for folks? And I think that’s important to sort of mitigate against some of the power imbalance stuff that we talked about. So, yeah, really questioning, why do you want to bring this in? How is this going to be helpful to you?
CB: That brings up a whole thing of the ambiguity that many students of astrology run into about, “At what point am I ready to start reading charts for people?” and that there’s no real exact line that you’ll hit when you know that you’re fully ready to start doing consultations. And everybody puts that at different parts depending on the nature of their studies but that I often see that there’s some point like a few years into a person’s studies maybe, like three to four years where a person often it seems like around that range, people feel like they start getting at the point where they’re ready to start reading charts. I always hesitate to put a too strict limit on that because it’s different for different people but it just brings up that sort of topic.
SM: Yeah. And I think this is why it’s so important for us to be able to have consultation with colleagues or even supervision in the psychotherapy world where it’s like, okay, what? We need each other to be able to understand where we actually are, and is this… are we ready but we’re resisting it, or are we not ready and we’re sort of jumping in too hot too fast.
CB: Yeah, that’s one of the truisms that I always notice. It’s like the more conscientious students tend to, and diligent students of astrology tend to put off doing consultations far longer than they should because they’re very concerned about getting it right and doing a good job, that they oftentimes will delay their developmental process by putting it off way longer than they should. Where they both would have been ready sooner or were ready sooner, but also that they delayed their own developmental process because there’s a certain thing that you only start learning once you start doing the consultations and getting the experience that it’s a process where you don’t just stop learning at that point because you’re ready to read clients, but actually each new client you see is a new chart and you learn something new each time in addition to providing the client with insights. So it’s like that’s a tendency and then there’s the opposite tendency where sometimes the less diligent students or less conscientious ones will rush into doing consultations way before they’re actually ready. And that’s kind of an unfortunate tendency sometimes as well, so you want to try to find some balance or middle ground between those two.
SM: Mm-hmm. Yeah, and I think the more that we can be self-reflective as professionals, we can question, where do we fall on that spectrum of things?
CB: Right. Yeah, if you just cast… If you just learned what your rising sign was a month ago and you’re reflecting on that, you might be falling on one side of that spectrum versus the other.
SM: Yeah. And I think this is why it’s so helpful to have these kinds of conversations with other astrologers, with other therapists, and to figure out where do we stand with things, and how do other people see us versus how we see ourselves. That can be very clarifying in this process.
CB: For sure, for sure. All right, awesome. So that’s for therapists that want to bring astrology in. In terms of people that are going into therapy that would like to bring astrological insights into their process with their therapist, that one seems a little bit trickier. What’s your recommendations there?
SM: Yeah. Number one is I would always ask yourself, “Do you feel safe and comfortable with your therapist?” I know that seems like maybe a weird question but I’ve talked to a lot of people that sort of feel inherently uncomfortable bringing certain things to their therapist, and so I think that’s a big question. Do you feel comfortable with them in general? Do you feel comfortable bringing astrology into the room? Or is there this instinct where it feels a little scary or like they may judge you? And I think it’s important to trust that and to feel it out. I think that I would recommend just having a conversation and saying, “Hey, there’s this thing that’s really important to me that I would like to bring into our process.” And talk about maybe how it is that astrology informs your life and that it’s something that’s important to you. And I think that any good therapist will be like, “Hell yeah, let’s do it. How do we, you know, tell me more.”
CB: I mean, do you think so? Like any therapist?
SM: Okay, yeah.
CB: I feel a little more cautious there where I feel like most educated people in the Western world don’t necessarily think that astrolo— At least 70%, let’s say, whatever, even if it’s 50%, if you’re really flipping a coin about whether the therapist thinks that’s a legitimate phenomenon or whether they think it’s not or that it’s completely false and it has no basis, it almost seems like if a person really wants to have astrology incorporated into the therapeutic process, that they’re going to have to have somebody that has some background in that be their therapist because otherwise, I would think that somebody that has absolutely no background in astrology is just going to have no ability to interface if you started speaking another language to that person, you know, how much are they really going to be able to understand you?
SM: I think, yes, that’s the ideal is that the therapist has that language. At the same time, whether or not the therapist thinks that astrology is valid or invalid is sort of irrelevant. Because if it’s important to the client, then the client should be able to bring it in. I mean, that’s my opinion again, of course, that doesn’t mean the therapist is going to be able to be unbiased with it. But I guess maybe I have a high standard for our ability as professionals to hold whatever the client brings in. For example, a client may come in and say that they’re having an affair or that they’re stealing money from their business or something like that. And the therapists may think, “Oh, well, I think this is wrong or right or whatever.” But that is not for the therapist to say or to bring in, the therapist is there to be like, “Okay, what’s going on here? Tell me more about your experience.” We talked about astrology is so charged, but it should be treated in the same kind of way, as if someone brings in something else that the therapist has a moral opinion about.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I think that makes sense and I definitely don’t advocate, because there might be some people that are amazing therapists that don’t use astrology at all. And I think that’s fine, and you should stick with them because that’s what’s most important is probably centering the therapy in that context in the therapeutic potential and that you don’t necessarily need astrology in order to, obviously, to be good at therapy or get good insights so that it’s not… Certainly, I don’t think it’s something that we’re advocating. People go out of their way to see somebody where they can integrate astrology into those discussions because that won’t always necessarily work. But yeah, it just seems like there’s, depending on the level of discussion that you want to have about astrology or the way you want to approach it, there might be different people that could be better or less suited for that.
SM: Definitely. And I think that it’s valid for someone to come into their therapy session and say, “Hey, I have these hopes and fears about talking to you about this.” I would even venture to say someone that’s listening to your podcast, Chris, is probably someone who’s really into astrology. I think that’s safe to say and I think that these kinds of practices, if they’re important to us, that it should be something that we can bring into that very intimate process of therapy. But again, yeah, it’s a tricky thing.
CB: Yeah, that is tricky. But I guess it’s good to know that there’s different options and that there’s going to be a whole range of different types of psychotherapists that are going to have different levels of comfort, or I guess maybe since we’re talking to astrology enthusiasts for the most part with this episode, ultimately maybe that’s one of the nice things to know that that’s an option out there. That there are people that are skilled in psychotherapy who also incorporate astrology to some extent in their practice. And that’s good to know that that’s even an option because that might not have been an option in previous decades.
SM: Definitely. Yeah.
CB: Cool. All right. So, do we have any other concluding remarks to make about it other than that? It seems like we’ve covered so much, this has been an amazing discussion. Thanks so much for joining me today for this.
SM: Yeah. Yeah, we covered a lot of ground. This has been really great. And yeah, I’ve enjoyed the conversation, for sure.
CB: Yeah, I’ve appreciated that we’ve been able to talk about both the pros and the cons. And I hope we didn’t veer too much in one direction or another, but that’s something I’d like to do on the podcast and I know you remarked that you’d like about some previous topics that I’ve covered is just being able to try to look at something from all of the different sides. That includes both the positive things about why this is actually really an interesting thing and could be good, and also includes some of the cautionary things about potential downsides or pitfalls. And it’s nice to be able to talk about that really candidly and really openly instead of just giving a one-sided take on it.
SM: Mm-hmm. Definitely. Yeah, and I think that’s a part of bringing astrology more into this field is being able to talk about it from all sides. And that hopefully, it can be more available to folks that are interested in it as well.
CB: For sure. Yeah, that makes sense. All right, awesome. Tell me more about your work and where people can find out more information about you, what you have going on, or what you have coming up.
SM: Yeah, folks can find me at theastropsyche.com. That’s my website. I’m very active on YouTube and I have a podcast. But yeah, everything you can find on my website. This is the work that I do, this is my life, this is the thing that I love is doing psychotherapy with astrology, and so I am accepting new psychotherapy clients. And then also as far as events that are coming up, I have a workshop that I’m doing this Thursday, September 21st, which will incorporate astrology and it’s particularly for folks who are in the helping healing field. It’s essentially an extension of my thesis research for my master’s program looking at how we can move into doing this work in a way where we’re accompanying people sort of like we’ve talked about today, accompanying them on the process versus thinking about it as fixing and getting into states of like burnout and overwork and things like this. And so we’ll be incorporating astrology into that process as well. And all of that you can find on my website, theastropsyche.com.
CB: Awesome, that sounds amazing. So that’s on, you said September 21st?
SM: Yes. Thursday, September 21st. It’s a two-hour online workshop at 6:00 P.M Pacific time, but it’ll also be recorded as well.
CB: Good. Okay. Yeah, that was going to be my next question for people that listen to this in the future. So it will be recorded and people can probably get it on your website afterwards at theastropsyche.com?
SM: Yes. Yes.
CB: Cool. I’ll put a link to your website in the description on the podcast website for this episode, as well as below this video on YouTube in the description. Thanks so much for joining me today. This was amazing. We had a really interesting… I forgot to read the data, but today is– it’s Wednesday, September 6th, 2023 and we started a little bit after 1:00 P.M. And today, we had the Sun-Mercury cazimi right in the middle of the Mercury retrograde and I can’t think of a better topic that fits some of that symbolism better than then doing this deep dive into astrology and psychotherapy with you during that whole internalization process in the middle of the Mercury retrograde. So thanks a lot for joining me for this today.
SM: Thank you so much, Chris. It’s a lot of fun.
CB: Cool. All right. Thanks, everyone for watching or listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast and we’ll see you again next time.
Hey, special thanks to all the patrons that helped to support the production of this episode of the podcast through our page on patreon.com. In particular, a shout out to the patrons on our Producers tier, including Kristi Moe, Ariana Amour, Mandi Rae, Angelic Nambo, Issa Sabah, Jake Otero, Jeanne Marie Kaplan, and Melissa DeLano. If you appreciate the work I’m doing here on the podcast and you’d like to find a way to support it, then please consider becoming a patron through our page on patreon.com. In exchange, you can get access to bonus content that’s only available to patrons of the podcast, such as early access to new episodes, the ability to attend the live recording of the monthly forecast episodes, our monthly Auspicious Elections Podcast or another exclusive podcast series called The Casual Astrology Podcast, or you can even get your name listed in the credits at the end of each episode. For more information visit patreon.com/astrologypodcast.
If you’re looking to get an astrological consultation, we have a new list of astrologers that have been on the podcast before and who we recommend for readings at theastrologypodcast.com/consultations. There, you’ll find astrologers who offer different types of consultations including birth chart readings, synastry, rectification, electional astrology, horary questions, and more.
The astrology software that we use and recommend here on the podcast is called Solar Fire for Windows, which is available for the PC at Alabe.com. Use the promo code AP15 to get a 15% discount. For Mac users, we recommend a software program called Astro Gold for Mac OS, which is from the creators of Solar Fire for PC and it includes both modern and traditional techniques. You can find out more information at astrogold.io, and you can use the promo code ASTROPODCAST15 to get a 15% discount.
If you’d like to learn more about my approach to astrology, then I’d recommend checking out my book titled Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune, where I go over the history, philosophy, and techniques of ancient astrology, taking people from beginner up through intermediate and advanced techniques for reading birth charts. You can get a print copy of the book through Amazon or other online retailers, or there’s an ebook version available through Google Books.
If you’re really looking to expand your studies of astrology then I would recommend my Hellenistic Astrology Course, which is an online course on ancient astrology where I take people through basic concepts up through intermediate and advanced techniques for reading birth charts. There’s over 100 hours of video lectures as well as guided readings of ancient texts, and by the time you finish the course, you will have a strong foundation on how to read birth charts as well as make predictions. You can find out more information at courses.theastrologyschool.com.
And finally, thanks to our sponsors, including The Mountain Astrologer Magazine, which is a quarterly astrology magazine which you can read in print or online at mountainastrologer.com.