By Alexandra Karacostas
Here we are, doing our best as growing and practicing 21st Century astrologers.
What are we needing to further learn and embody. . .
- to be excellent, effective, and successful counselors?
- to have our methods adapted to the needs of the times?
- to employ the powerful knowledge at our disposal in safe and ethical ways?
While most practicing astrologers focus on getting their astrological knowledge base honed, many, if not most have never received a training in ethics. We often use our common sense, but if we are not careful, our blind spots get the better of us.
In these radically changing times, social constructs quickly shift due to technology, information, and the ease of relocation, mixing and fusing divergent cultural customs and ethos. Consulting skills are part science, part skill set, and part knowing your clientele. Today we live in a global community, where various ethnic issues, cultural differences, and along with other factors are necessary to negotiate. The technological advances add to the mix. Being an astrological consultant is a people business at its core. Empathy and social skills play a major role in being a wise adviser.
Communication is at the basis of every interpersonal relationship. Each individual must be able to understand another in order to communicate. Choice of words, tone and pitch, and body language all convey what is important. Just one wrong word can alter the meaning of an entire conversation and relationship. This is a professional relationship; be prepared, timely, presentable, and courteous. Most of all, listen! Confidentiality and trust are essential.
How can we be most useful in this age when so many different cultural threads and fragments are woven into kaleidoscopic fabrics?
Regardless of our astrological orientation, we all greatly benefit by sharpening our listening skills, so that we can hear what our clients are saying in both the speaking and what lies underneath the words. We need to know what are their actual experience and circumstances, not what we imagine them to be. We can ask questions, be respectful, and create a safe and supportive environment where honest dialogue can occur.
What is our role and purpose as astrologers?
Certainly, it is to be helpful to those with whom we interact. Response to this question undoubtedly will differ, depending on country of residence, culture, faith, sexual orientation, religion, perspective on life, etc. How we communicate and share knowledge with our clients is central to our success.
This wide range of life experience suggests that we should have an underlying understanding of our clientele —their differing traditions, values, orientations, and cultures Today’s world is becoming more rapidly diverse. During the next thirty-nine years, by 2062, in the United States alone, there will no longer be one racial or ethnic group holding a majority (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). The diversity encountered in the modern world demands sensitivity, and access to and skillful use of a broad set of professional tools. Astrology is no exception, with its many permutations serving many ends.
Our ability to view situations and circumstances from different perspectives is essential, especially when working with those who may have quite different cultural contexts and experience than our own. We are obliged to continue an on-going reexamination of our biases. Mindfulness, awareness, compassion, and a non-judgmental attitude increase the opportunity for healing in any type of counseling. This includes predispositions regarding religion, philosophy, cosmology, sexuality, relationships, politics, ethics, afterlife, reincarnation, how “karma” is understood, and more.
Clients have reported to me that they didn’t remember nor understand their past astrology readings. This is a problem for our profession. Good consulting skills can turn this situation around for the better. Connecting with the client and minimizing Astro-jargon will leave your clients with an experience they remember because they understood what was said. They have enough to remember and process as it is, so no need to inject obscure astrology terms that only clutter their minds.
Beloved writer and speaker Maya Angelou gives us a helpful nudge to consider more than the knowledge we are sharing with clients:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
How to assess if our opinions are legitimate or if we have blind spots? As a start, we can speak in suggestive rather than absolute ways. Instead of: “This is wrong,” or “this will happen to you,” reframe with: “does this behavior serve you and yours?” and “such and such may take place during those transits.”
If you have a strong opinion or bias and feel you can’t be objective regarding some aspect of your client’s choices, such as their sexual orientation or political affiliations, it may be best to end the session and refund the fee.To do so is the more professional choice. You can refer the client to another astrologer or professional who is more aligned with the client rather than confront them about core issues, especially if you know you have a bias.
When addressing difficult aspects or transits, choose your words carefully so they are not harmful to the client. Difficult aspects present challenges which offer opportunities to learn new ways of living. Some transits may bring loss, sorrow, or pain, but it is important to offer paths toward resolution. To every real problem there are at least two elegant solutions.
QUALIFICATIONS TO BEGIN AN ASTROLOGY PRACTICE
Astrological software and websites make it easy and simple to print out computer generated interpretations of a horoscope. Moreover, a great deal of astrological knowledge is available for free online, serving as wonderful resources on the one hand, but on the other hand, giving the false impression that one can read chart with little knowledge. These days, just about anyone can profess to be an astrologer. These programs have their place but certainly cannot substitute for the human qualities or insights that experienced and competent astrologers offer.
Adequate training and rigor are necessary to take on the sacred task of assisting clients who are sharing their deeply intimate life circumstances.
Learning astrology in environments where qualified teachers can not only teach you fundamental knowledge but can also provide us objective feedback is important to cultivate astrology as an ethical practice. Let us not give the astrology naysayer a free lunch, with ample reasons to discredit us.
There are several reputable schools and teachers for a variety of approaches to astrology. Invest in time and resources in a proper education and do the profession justice – this happens for every profession. Yet, astrology still partially remains in the Wild West.
Some useful suggestions for your professional practice are as follows:
- Consider a system in place so it easy to book appointments. This inspires confidence in your professionalism.
- Make it easy for clients to pay. Ideally, you have prepayment options to minimize risk and money issues at time of session. Avoid confusion, state your prices, hours, and lengths of sessions clearly. This sets the tone for the session.
- Initial intake information – this can be how you can begin the process of offering a reading that is relevant to your client’s needs.
- Clean, orderly office and physical space. If you are on zoom or other social media, make sure you and your “space” appear professional. If you’re working on camera mode, turn off distracting influences on desktop.
- Maintain clear boundaries. For example, ending a session on time is a clear, healthy boundary. You can let the client know that you are coming to the end of time five or ten minutes before session is over. If you know you have a problem with boundaries you can seek help. Clients will respect you more if you have appropriate boundaries.
We all become better consultants with practice. This includes recognizing the differences between sympathy, empathy, and co-dependence. Sympathy is characterized by feelings of pity or sorrow for someone else’s misfortunes, while empathy represents the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Co-dependence sets up harmful situations where both parties can develop unrealistic expectations from the client/consultant relationship. Focus on staying centered.
ETHICAL ISSUES FOR THE ASTROLOGER
In a world of proliferating social media platforms and the increasing presence of New Moon forecasts, blogs, and vlogs, astrologers need to distinguish themselves by offering hand-crafted and impactful service.
Maintain an image of cleanliness and represent astrology honorably. Avoid showing up in frump-wear or with laundry in your background. In this same vein, avoid sexually explicit mannerisms. Astrology can be fun and even entertaining, but maintaining a professional standard is the only viable option. Remember, you are continuing a tradition that has been transmitted through the millennia.
– Make sure not to engage in foul language, animosity, or any expressions of negativity when debating subjects online. Internet bullying or shaming is a growing concern, and we must all be mindful of choosing our battles carefully and to always remain civil in our debates.
– More incidents of plagiarism have emerged in our community. It is reasonable that when many astrologers write about the same alignment, whether an eclipse or a lunation, that there will be overlaps and similarities between the different blogs. Today, however, we see more cases of shameless content copying where astrologers copy/paste content from others to call it their own, or claim to be the originator of an idea when they borrowed it from someone else. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Protect your content with copyright disclaimers. And give credit to your colleagues when it is due.
If a romantic and sexual attraction arises while working with a client, and there is a desire to act on it, the professional relationship should be immediately terminated before a personal relationship commences. This is a slippery and dangerous slope.
As an ethical astrologer should never be afraid of saying “I don’t know.” Vulnerability and honesty are precious qualities. We must know our professional limitations and be ready with a referral list. Referrals to experts is essential, such as astrologers with specific expertise, psychotherapists, bodyworkers, hypnotherapists, accountants, lawyers, 12-step groups, etc.
If you choose to look at the horoscopes of people who are not present in the consultation, limit that to people who have immediate involvement with your client: romantic or business partners, for example, and avoid going into chart dynamics that are not relevant to the specific question the client may have. The optimal ethical approach would be to have that third (absent) person’s permission first. Maintaining discretion and confidentially are non-negotiable practice.
Astrology has a valuable role in society, especially in the changing of ages when so much intensity and stress are experienced. The world needs more qualified astrologers, on a personal and global level.
Staying connected to our hearts and thus to each other, recognizing our fallibilities and always displaying openness to life, will make us the best astrologers we can be no matter what century we live in. Life is an inside job.
OPA offers excellent educational curriculums for personal professional development. OPA’s signature program is the “Peer Group” process. In “normal” times, it is a three-day event that takes place with a group up of to five practicing astrologers. It is a comprehensive, rich, and fun experience which takes your practice to the next level, whether you are just beginning your practice or a seasoned astrologer. You will learn how to better handle difficult clients, improve your own skills and chart analysis, as well as receive support in creating a solid and sensible marketing strategy for your practice.
The “Consulting Skills” program offers in depth training in consultations skills necessary to integrate astrological expertise with counseling. This dynamic program helps transform your readings into truly professional consultations.
Both of these programs will be offered online throughout June to September 2021. These are highly recommended course which you are encouraged to participate in.
While technology affords access to incredible computational capacity and infinite data, its richness can distract and detract from human sensitivity and sensibilities. Technology requires continuing education and disciplined management of time, energy, and attention. Our individual and common evolution is occurring at exponential rates, —a function of our powers of imagination.
In striving to be the most attuned and effective professionals we can be in a fast-paced, quickly-morphing world, today’s consulting astrologer is called to negotiate multi-cultural expectations, conduct themselves ethically and responsibly, ongoingly develop astute astrological skill sets, and operate skillfully in a virtual environment, while always fostering our empathic connection to others at the heart of what we do.
Alexandra is a professional consulting astrologer. An avid student of astrology since 1975, she has practiced professionally since 1984. Her work integrates practical wisdom, insight and decades of experience as a consulting astrologer and teacher.
She serves on Organization for Professional Astrology board of directors, and lectures nationally and abroad. She has published dozens of articles and was a regular contributor to The Mountain Astrologer magazine for nine years. Alexandra also leads small, specialized tours in her beloved Greece.