Tarot as a support for psychology, tarot therapy, tarot as a transformative tool, tarot for personal growth… Those are all terms we’ve heard and seen before. It is not a secret anymore tarot can be used for other things besides divination. However, in the literature the psychology angle has been unexpectedly scarce. Arthur Rosengarten’s Tarot and Psychology is probably as famous as it is ‘old’. Tarot at a Crossroads steps into this void and offers a clear and concise read for all of you wanting to use tarot as a therapeutic tool.
As said before, Tarot and Psychology by Arthur Rosengarten is probably the most famous book on using the cards in a therapeutic environment. Dr. Rosengarten wrote a book for his peers, explaining how Jung’s synchronicity theory applies, showing examples of sessions where tarot was used and most of all: it’s a book devoted to -basically – convincing other therapists tarot is useful in a clinical setting. While it is absolutely an interesting read for tarot readers who venture on the side of counseling, ‘we’ are not its target group per se. (If I ever find the time to write a larger piece on the book I will.)
Workbook for readers and therapists
Schiffer’s Tarot at a Crossroads. The unexpected meeting of Tarot & Psychology by Kooch Daniels (MA) and Victor Daniels (PhD) does things differently. The hardcover offers about 270 pages full of easy to read material, adorned by full-color pictures of tarot cards. A huge plus in this book is those example cards show a variety of systems, several type of tarots. They used mass market and Indie designers. Chapters have decks by f.e. Robert Place, Jasmine-Beckett-griffith, Yoav-Ben-Dov, Beth Seilonen or work from publishing house A.G.M Urania. I think it is exemplifies the fact this book is ‘open to many’. It not only leaves the choice of deck and system open, but the authors chose to write for all levels and both sides- meaning therapists or (starting) card readers.
If I were to place Tarot at a Crossroads I would use the definition of workbook rather than study book. Author-duo Daniels & Daniels say in their foreword their title is written in a way that allows both psychotherapists and tarot readers to use its information and exercises with great ease. That is exactly what they’ve done. The language is quite accessible (always important since a large part of the tarot world is not a native English speaker, but alas has to do with mostly English books) . Also, despite the fact it could be a beginner’s book, it is still interesting for readers who have been reading tarot or any type of divination deck for a long time.
Basis & background
Why call it workbook? There are several chapters on either getting to know tarot or implementing it into therapy sessions. And they are always very practical and rarely ‘distracted’ by too much historical or academic information. Does it lack that type of background? No, certainly not. But it is obviously written with a ‘let’s get this party started’ mindset, rather than a ’we need to explain everything what tarot or psychotherapy is’. At the start of the book they give the reader enough of a basis to know what they are doing. Besides, there is a four page-bibliography on psychology and tarot sources for who wants to go nuts afterwards.
After the initial basis, Tarot at a Crossroads continues the work with letting you create a (new) relationship with the cards. What does each card mean to you? What type of emotion do you register or feel when you look at Strength, or the 9 of Wands or maybe the 6 of Cups. What do they represent. Tools are then handed on how to process or (literally) journal that for your benefit.
Image & homework
The Thematic Apperception test (TAT) is mentioned with good reason. Basically the whole idea of images conveying emotion, triggering something or telling you a story is the basis of how the authors of Tarot at a Crossroads want you to use tarot in a session. Not that any (relatively experienced or advanced) tarot reader needs to let go of his/her tarocabulary, but that is just not the way Daniels & Daniels want you to use tarot as a therapeutic tool. They focus mostly on representational use, your role as a neutral observer and an active role for the querent. Due to that active querent/patient role it seems these techniques are also better or best suited for readers and psychotherapists who work f2f or via Skype.
That is not to say the book will be useless if you happen to guide people via e-mail, as is more and more the case with therapists as it is with tarot readers. Yet again here comes the workbook part. You could use certain exercises as homework, tweak them to your use of the cards or, why not use it to work on yourself? Most exercises serve great as a personal growth tool for one person. And that person could very well be the therapist or reader. Actually, Tarot at a Crossroads recommends diving into the work yourself so you’ll be able to understand your patients a lot better – as well as how the techniques work.
While a large chunk of the book focuses on representational use, where your client picks a card from a face-up deck just to show which card represents his/her anger, husband, colleague et cetera, there is a smaller part that uses the divination or synchronicity of tarot. In other words: with a face down deck, where a spread is filled with cards randomly pulled and then interpreted. (Like most of us are already used to). These are more catered to ‘rummaging’ within the subconscious or asking for answers from the gut and creating discussions (when used with groups or couples).
For all those times the book has provided pages on universal symbolism, the 78 cards with a divinatory explanation and its psychological link, plus work on numerology. But… it is very minimal compared to the rest of the book. If you’d rather work with the deck ‘face down’ and focus on divinatory meanings for empowerment Tarot at a Crossroads loses some of its power. The authors obviously chose the representational route to showcase.
All exercises can be used as standalone, but there is somewhat of a ‘building block’ situation going on. That starts with the first one, the 5-card personal collage, referencing your current state -emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually and primary situation. Or the concept of ‘emotional stacking’ (peeling your emotional onion with the use of multiple cards). These are simple ones that get built out, build upon or referenced in later stages. Once you know how these two techniques work, you will easily follow the rest. Each exercise is still thoroughly explained though, as well as possible ‘traps’ for the tarot therapist.
With traps I mean insecurity in interpreting the cards, having trouble letting go of standard meanings, transference, the client-reader connection and the possibility of how certain topics, cards, but even behavior of a client can trigger us. A trigger can influence a session or even how we look at our deck. Tarot at a Crossroads handles all these and gives us tips on how to prevent certain mistakes and what a good session entails.
All in all Tarot at a Crossroads is a book many of us (tarot readers) have been waiting for. It is a great workbook, an excellent introduction – and bridge? – of tarot to psychotherapists and a different way of looking at the cards for tarot readers. Readers who use tarot as a tool for personal growth or shadow work and letting that subconscious speak, it is a much needed addition to the bookcase. It’s chockfull of powerful exercises and easy to understand regardless of background.
I am pretty sure working with Tarot at a Crossroads for a certain amount of time will create an awareness that could be of great use to all tarot readers, whether they focus on divinatory meanings or prefer the representational use Crossroads focuses on. And awareness makes us better readers and better ‘tarot therapists’, even if we aren’t allowed to use the word but still do the work.
So, if you’re looking for me; I am busy stacking…
|Author or artist||Publisher||Publication|
|K. Daniels & V. Daniels||Schiffer Books||November 2016|