Crisis Counseling during the Astrological Reading
Donna Cunningham MSW
Unless you have a background in counseling as well as astrology, you are particularly vulnerable when you have a client who is in a crisis. When things go really wrong, people want to blame someone—witness the high cost of malpractice insurance for doctors. Thus, you would be wise to issue plenty of disclaimers right on the tape, and also to suggest that the client go to a qualified professional in a relevant field before they take action.
It is a good idea to do some screening on the phone. I ask everyone who calls for an appointment their reasons for wanting a reading. If the emergency is in an area you know little about, it is best to pass them along to someone who does. If you would be over your head in handling a severely disturbed client, for instance, send them elsewhere—most likely to a mental health facility. This policy is for the client’s protection, as well as for your own. However, it is important to make referrals like these kindly. Explain that this is not your area of expertise and that you’d want them to get the best help possible. Otherwise, they may see it as a rejection of their plea for help and conclude that you, a messenger of the Gods, see their plight as hopeless.
When a person who is in a crisis comes for a consultation, you may need to give emotional first aid. Rescue Remedy by Bach is a good tool for any practitioner to have on hand. A few drops of the concentrate in a glass of water or a cup of tea helps the client calm down. (The Bach remedies are made from flowers. You can take Rescue Remedy yourself if you’re overwhelmed.) It is also calming to wrap the fingers of one hand around the first finger of the other hand, the finger corresponding to fear in Jhin Shin Jyutsu, an oriental form of healing related to acupressure. Hold it for a few minutes until the pulse beat is strong, then shift to the same finger of the opposite hand for a few minutes. Repeat the process with the thumb, which is related to worry in this system. Toddlers instinctively know how soothing this can be, which is why they suck their thumbs.
Clients may talk rapidly, almost incoherently, crying or raging. Ask them to stop and breathe deeply for a few moments before continuing. However, catharsis is often good for the person, so be sure you aren’t shutting them off just because you are uncomfortable. The chance to release feelings and talk things over with a compassionate but uninvolved person is useful. Validation helps—to be told that, yes, what they are going through is hard and sad, that they’re not crazy to be feeling the way they do.
Next, evaluate how serious the problem is, and what is at risk. The event which precipitates the crisis may not seem earth-shattering to you, the astrologer, but the client perceives it as such. Gather information by asking the following kinds of questions.
Is the person or anyone else involved in it in actual danger?
What possible consequences are there? What’s the best that could happen? The worst that could happen?
What are the possible options? (When the client feels there are no options, no way out, the situation is very serious.)
What sources of support are there? Who can the client turn to for help? What resources are available?
Who else is involved and how might they be expected to react? How could they help? How could they hurt?
What is the client thinking about or planning to do?
What has the client tried already? What worked and what didn’t work?
How has the client reacted in similar situations in the past? If, for instance, the person tended to act impulsively, without thinking out the consequences, there is a strong chance of doing so again.
Thinking through questions like these, with someone outside the situation listening patiently, clients can begin to sort out what happened and how to deal with it. The confusion, the nameless dread becomes less threatening, because they begin to see the reality rather than some shapeless doom. (In short, the questions move them from Neptune to Saturn.) Sometimes considering possible consequences, options, and sources of support enables the client to make a decision. Your belief that they will make it, when not glibly given, is encouraging.
In listening to their answers, check the chart for expected reaction patterns and for the outcome of various possibilities. The Moon shows instinctive responses, as well as how people typically deal with emotions. It is important here to limit and focus the discussion. You do not want to cover the whole chart, as the client couldn’t take it in. Confine yourself to the relevant parts of the chart and the current transits. By focusing, you help them to focus. You will, of course, prepare the whole chart as in any reading, because you will have to think and react quickly to what they say. You could also put up at least a solar chart of others who are involved to see where they fit into the picture. It is particularly important to avoid fatalism and negativity and to scan the chart for strengths and abilities they can draw on. Even those who generally have a good sense of self may forget certain of their strengths in the face of an upheaval.
Finally, you can make suggestions as to where the person can go for help. Developing a thorough knowledge of local agencies and healers is an important asset to any successful astrological practice. During a crisis, people are more open to seeking outside assistance than at other times, since the usual coping mechanisms are proving insufficient to handle the new level of stress. Familiarity with local resources reassures both the client and yourself—particularly for those who think there is no way out. Given concrete suggestions, clients can calm down and begin to think about where to go from here.
Donna Cunningham is the author of An Astrological Guide to Self-Awareness, Healing Pluto Problems and seven other books on astrology and related topics. A social worker for 26 years and an astrologer for 22 years, she offers a series of lectures for conferences and seminars for professional and aspiring to be professional astrologers. She also has a series of studio-recorded tapes. For more information, write to her at 727 President Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215.