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Tarot + Psychology: Reading for Self-discovery

by Kristen Valentine, MSW, LCSW

Tarot has exploded in recent years as a tool for self-exploration. Maybe you’ve gone to a Reader or bought yourself a deck to explore these amazing cards. But the cards are complex and can be difficult to understand. Can they predict the future? Can you really get life guidance from some pieces of cardboard? A quest for a greater understanding of the world around and inside them often leads people to Tarot.

Some people believe that the future is already written and others believe that it is a blank page just waiting to be filled. Tarot can help you look at the trends of your life, past, present and future, to see what options might be available or best for you. Of course, it is not a good idea to plan your life based solely on Tarot, but if you learn to understand the cards well (or consult with someone who does), you can use them as a sort of GPS as you navigate the ups and downs of life.

It sounds strange, but a lot of times people have no idea how they feel about things. Tarot seems to work with your own subconscious to offer clues about what is really going on inside of you. A new way to approach Tarot involves consulting with a professional who knows both the worlds of Tarot and psychology. Think about how helpful it might be to take a reading one step further by talking with someone about the emotional impact of a reading including empowering you to take charge of what to do with the information you discover.

This is where psychology intersects with Tarot. For people who do not have a mental health diagnosis but simply want some guidance from a professional with experience in both the psychological and spiritual worlds, Tarot + psychology can be the perfect support. This is not a substitute for psychological evaluation or treatment but can be an interesting and even entertaining way to explore your emotions and available options regarding a situation.

Tarot is often wrongly associated only with the occult. Tarot does not belong to the world of psychic phenomena alone. Just looking at the pictures on the cards themselves seems to provide a glimpse into the subconscious. Psychologists such as Carl Jung have been linked to Tarot because it lends itself well to the exploration of the complexities of the mind and spirit. Each card is filled with symbolism that can be useful on your quest to understand your own unique world.

For instance, the Three of Swords depicts a heart pierced by three swords. It seems like an unpleasant card for sure. The Swords symbolize thinking and the heart is a symbol for emotions. The card therefore is about how thinking can negatively influence emotions and even lead to heartbreak or illness. Its appearance does not necessarily mean something bad is going to happen but there is a connection here to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which is based on examining how thinking can negatively affect your emotions. When the Three of Swords shows up, it is a warning that some area of coping or communicating in your life needs attention or fixing. This is overly simplified but serves as a basic illustration for how the cards might work in the context of Tarot + Psychology.


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