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Using astrology as a counselling tool
Strategies that work

Much of what follows is updated from G Dean, Does astrology need to be true? Skeptical Inquirer 11(2), 166-184, Winter 1986-87. And from G Dean, IW Kelly, & A Mather, Astrology and Human Judgement, Correlation 1998, 17(2), 24-71, especially pages 62-65, and from material prepared for that paper but omitted from the published version to conserve space. Both sources incorporated the comments of many others as indicated in their respective acknowledgements. This update received help from counselling astrologers Robyn Lee and Chris Turner. Appendix 2 is abridged and updated from IW Kelly & RW Krutzen, Humanistic Astrology: A Critique, Skeptical Inquirer 8(1), 62-73, Fall 1983. Appendix 5 is abridged from Carol Tavris, Mind Games: Psychological Warfare Between Therapists and Scientists, Chronicle of Higher Education 28 February 2003.

Abstract -- This article is a long one and covers much ground. The astrology being considered is the serious astrology of journals and consulting rooms, not the nonsense of sun sign columns. The case against astrology as documented by articles on this website is that it has no intrinsic validity. Yet other articles on this website argue that astrology can be a useful aid to counselling. The present article explores in detail this apparent contradiction. It looks at relevant findings in psychology and sociology on what makes good therapists and clients (eg they should like each other), it brings together the known ways of being a better astro-counseller without requiring astrology to be true (eg be warm and understanding), and it explores the implications for research. The results will be useful to astrologers and clients alike. It starts with the welcome trend away from chart reading (astrologer talks, client listens) towards chart exploration (client does most of the talking), a trend that is sabotaged by the continuing but invalid belief among astrologers that astrology (when it works) is actually true. By continuing to hold this invalid belief, astrologers generate hostility from critics, obscure the genuine role that astrology can play in counselling, and obscure the factors that can maximise success. All psychotherapies fall into two broad groups, person-centred therapy or therapy by conversation, and symptom-centred therapy or therapy by action. Astrology as an aid to psychotherapy or counselling (the terms are used interchangeably) is person-centred. The basic techniques of counselling (listen, encourage feelings, reinforce good suggestions, discourage bad ones, avoid giving advice) are entirely compatible with astrology. But astrology itself is not counselling, nor is it without liabilities such as astrologers playing God or charging high fees, and clients expecting fortune telling. Nevertheless it is easy to see why the birth chart is a good aid to counselling: It provides a great check list, is hugely flexible, need not be true, is non-threatening, and helps clients accept their bad points by putting them on the table. Examples are given of how it works via hidden persuaders such as cold reading and the Barnum effect. Other therapeutic uses of astrology include experiential astrology, where for example clients role-play a planet or (in groups) different planets, eg walking in the street like Jupiter. Given that astrology adds nothing to the psychotherapy beyond non-astrological effects, there is a clear case for future research to focus on enhancing those effects, eg by attending to known correlates such as warmth, understanding, and wisdom. Some clues are given by the US psychotherapist Michael Mayer who uses an astrology called astro-poetics to emphasise that no claims of validity are made. Five appendices cover literature trends, humanistic astrology, placebo effects, The Samaritans, and pernicious therapies. 115 references.

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