By Maurice Fernandez
Astrology, in its marvelously masterful revelations, has won many of us into surrendered devotees of the art, often in unexpected ways. Was it a Sun-sign book, a transformative reading, or actually, the attempt to disprove astrology that set us on our path as students and practitioners? In my case, I found myself when astrology found me. My confusion, alienation, and lingering emptiness dissipated when astrology entered my life; life made sense, perhaps for the first time. I suspect many others experienced a similar sense of empowerment through this study.
Astrology provides an unparalleled perspective on life, and yet it can be challenging to translate this vast and multi-layered body of knowledge into accessible information and insight. Sharing the truths revealed via stellar influence can be powerful medicine and invites our sacred care. Expertise and humility are essential to proper practice, with the conscious intention to do no harm.
Astrologers may have received training to learn about planets or predictive techniques, but very few educational programs cover training in consulting skills and ethics in astrology. Consider a reality where astrologers can access some of the most intimate concerns in a person’s life, yet without real expertise in consulting skills, conscious communication, and/or cultural awareness. The risk for missteps is considerable.
Through my involvement with OPA I have come across dozens of reports from people who felt harmed during readings because the astrologer did not convey the information in a skillful way. This can happen to the best of us; we all have our blind spots, so self-examination is important. With the growing exposure of astrology in mainstream media and the industry growing exponentially, how soon will it be before a negative reading experience takes a legal turn? It may be high time to implement a consulting skills training as prerequisite to the certified practice of astrology.
It may not always be the astrologer’s lack of skills that leads to a crisis of sorts. Clients may bring their own insecurities, neuroses, and defense mechanisms to the consultation room, and practitioners are tasked to handle potential challenges as gracefully as possible. We want to provide help and service in the most effective way, and this requires navigating the sensitivities of our own human condition.
Here are some important consultation issues worth highlighting:
Speaking in astrology terms
One of the crutches often used by astrologers is to speak in astrology jargon. For an astrologer, saying “you have a Mars/Saturn square coming,” means so much; three words that encapsulate a whole range of experiences. Yet, to a client, even with some astrology knowledge, it can remain abstract and hard to integrate. It is essential to find the right vocabulary to unpack this concept in accessible language—for example: This may be a time when you need to revisit your motives and mode of action. Whatever goal you set for yourself, be patient and consistent, and results will show in the long run. Pushing too hard can risk ruptures, blockages, or event physical injuries.”
Numerous clients report that they got very little or nothing from a reading, or simply forgot what was actually said, because the information went over their head.
Takeaway: Make a distinction between an astrology consultation and an astrology class. In a consultation, talk to the client about their lives, not their chart aspects. Some astrological references can be helpful in small doses.
Talking and Listening
We must remember that a private consultation is not a lecture. The astrologer may easily lose their client’s attention when going on a monologue about the chart narrative without checking with the client if they are at all on track. It is suggested to take a break from talking after 10-15 minutes and ask the client if they relate to the points made, or if they have something to share. This also helps the astrologer assess if the client understood what was said, the way it was intended.
Conversely, clients may come to a reading and share their story in elaborate details, taking significant time from the consultation. While it can be useful to serve as a sounding board and let the client get things off their chest, our reports show that these clients will commonly express dissatisfaction because they did all the talking and the astrologer did not provide new insights from their chart. It is the astrologer’s role to keep boundaries and direct the pace of the reading, so the balance between speaking and listening is maintained.
Takeaway: The astrologer is the one in charge of conducting the consultation and should avoid getting swayed by a client losing track. Astrology sessions are often one-time meetings, so clients typically expect to receive astrology guidance for their fee.
DISCUSSING DIFFICULT CHART ALIGNMENTS
Whether we feel the need to unpack a challenging chart configuration or speak about a challenging transit, it takes awareness to process such information effectively. The guiding principle is that we are there to help our clients, not to show them how much we know. The first question is whether it is necessary and useful to our client to bring up the challenging issue; not everything in the chart needs to be discussed, just what is relevant and helpful. Do we need to “go there” in the first place?
If the astrologer estimates that unpacking the challenging configuration will serve the client, it is important to gauge the client’s receptivity and take it step by step. Asking questions can be a good starting point. Let’s use an example of a client with a natal Moon/Pluto conjunction, soon to be opposed by Saturn. The astrologer may ask about their current family status: “Are you married? Are you in touch with your parents? Do you feel some frustration in your domestic life?” If the client responds: “I’m in the most loving relationship,” or conversely, “I’m on the verge of a divorce,” it can provide context for the astrologer to address this upcoming transit.
Astrology can serve as a preventive tool. The reason we want to address difficult alignments is to equip our client with effective strategies to make the best of the situation, and perhaps minimize the chance of a crisis. I’m of the opinion that planets are not “out there to get us,” in the same way wintertime does not exist to make us miserably cold. Planetary movements, with their corresponding effects, are part of the cycles associated with the nature of the universe, and if, with right preparation we can understand their purpose, integrating the changes we experience can lead to ultimately constructive outcomes in how we navigate our life trajectories.
The astrologer should not lie to their client to make them feel good. We’d prefer be the bearer of good news, but honesty is true service, with the condition that such honesty is attuned to the client’s receptivity. Instead of “dropping bombs” on our client and telling them that “their life will be terrible between 2010 and 2015,” finding more helpful and more accurate interpretations will do better service; for example “This may be a time to reevaluate some of your attachments, this may be a time to be firmer with your boundaries, this may be a time to accept your vulnerabilities and assess if you have a good support system.”
Discussing the challenging issue in more gradual doses can help the client process better. If more needs to be processed, perhaps booking a follow up session is in order.
Takeaway: Astrologers often find themselves having to address very delicate questions and issues in a consultation. Having honest discussions can be very empowering to the client when unpacked skillfully. Some clients will claim that they want to know everything, and that the astrologer should not withhold anything from them. Still, it is the astrologer’s duty to assess how far they truly can or should go.
In my experience as a practitioner and involvement with the community, I have not come across any technique or approach to astrology that has been 100 percent reliable. No predictive technique has proven never to fail, whether using Vedic, Traditional, or Humanistic methods of interpretation. Astrology reveals a lot, but never everything, and that ought to keep us humble.
Accordingly, no astrologer can make absolute statements or predictions without the benefit of doubt. There are certainly times when we see higher probabilities for certain outcomes, bearing in mind that life keeps surprising us.
Statements such as “you will never marry,” or “you will have an illness in 2019,” or conversely “you are guaranteed success in this business,” can be very damaging, not only because they are distressing, or else, generate high expectations, but because the astrologer cannot really claim such authority.
Reframing these statements in a more suggestive language is important: “We see some inhibitions in your ability to trust in relationships” or “Since you are under so much work stress, it is a good idea to have a health check-up and blood work done” or “There are high probabilities for promising outcomes in your business.”
Takeaway: There is pride in making absolute statements, whether we want to promise fortune to make our client happy or demonstrate our savant skills. Acknowledging our fallibility will make us more reliable practitioners.
GENERIC “FAIRY” STATEMENTS
As mentioned earlier, we prefer to be the bearer of good news, and often astrologers, especially those espousing a more humanistic/modern approach, may forcibly put a positive spin on everything to the point where it doesn’t do true service to the client.
Referring back to the Difficult Transit section, telling a client they will have “an amazing transformation” once Saturn comes to oppose their Moon/Pluto conjunction or even more generically, that “it’s all going to be great,” or “to just let go,” can provide a false sense of comfort. Some of these generic statements often apply to everyone in every situation, and while they can serve as conventional wisdom, may not adequately address the actual concerns for the client. Providing more specific guidance, pertinent to the issue, will be more useful to the client.
Takeaway: Sugarcoating is not a substitute for empowerment.
In this internet age, many astrologers are able to expand their practice beyond the scope of their own cultural environment. This is particularly true for an international practice, yet with such expansion, important considerations are in order. Reading a chart for someone who lives in the Middle East will be different from a consultation for someone living in Scandinavia. Beyond chart configurations, cultural conditioning will flavor different values and emphases.
For example, having children and relying on family support is fundamental to Middle Eastern cultures, whereas for someone living in Los Angeles, freedom and artistic pursuits will often be prioritized. These cultural considerations precede the astrology chart. There is no cookbook to teach us how to navigate the myriad of cultures, so it can be helpful to ask questions and find out directly from our clients what is important for them.
Accordingly, we need to check our own biases. If the astrologer is a firm believer in individual freedom and does a reading for a married woman who does not intend to divorce her husband and break the family up despite his love affair, there is a need for greater understanding of the client’s context. If the astrologer feels conflicted about their client’s lifestyle, it is best to refer them to someone else.
Takeaway: The astrology chart does not show the gender or culture of the person, or even whether the chart is for a human being or a goat. Therefore, asking questions and finding out some background information about the client is essential to establish a context to the chart.
As our profession keeps evolving and better educational programs are established, it is my assumption consulting skills will need to be integral to every astrology school curriculum. Today, OPA’s Peer Group and Consulting Skills programs are essential resources for the practicing astrologer. No matter how seasoned one may be, self-examination will make us better astrologers.
For more information about these programs, visit:
Maurice Fernandez, author of the books Neptune, the 12th House and Pisces (New Edition), and Astrology and the Evolution of Consciousness—Volume One, is a leading Evolutionary Astrology counselor and teacher, currently based in Arizona. Maurice served as the president The Organization of Professional Astrology (OPA) for three terms – 2014-2020. He directs a professional diploma program, supporting and shaping a future generation of astrologers.