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Article Originally published in the 1989 Winter edition of Aspects Magazine


Leading the Client to Self-understanding


In previous columns we have explored the first contact with a prospective client, discussed the preparations to be made before the client's arrival, and commented on the beginning of the consultation.  The present column is based on the assumption that you have created a safe place for clear communication, and you have explained your concept of Astrology.  You are now taking the first few steps towards guiding the client through self-understanding.

It is time to downplay the logical side of your mind.  It is time to get your right brain in gear and allow it to communicate with your left brain.  It is time to let the symbols talk to you. It is time to let compassion rule your heart.  It is time for listening.

Chances are the client has already explained on the phone what issues he was dealing with.  However, between the phone conversation and the consultation, both the client and you have been processing information.  The client has had time to process the issues and may be at a different place about them now, or events may have caused him to shift his major concerns for the consultation.  You have looked at the client's chart and know more about his personality, you know what is happening in the chart in terms of transits and progressions.  So, you want to hear from the client the issues as they stand now, but most of all, while listening to the client, you want to allow yourself to hear the planetary symbols - the archetypes - as he voices them.


For example, a client who talks about being confused, about feeling isolated, who mentions several times the word "clouds", who fears being abandoned, is dealing with the Neptunian archetype regardless of the issue she is conscious of.

At the same time, you also need to know what the client expects from you.  Is it a "quick fix" to solve the current problem?  Is it reassurance that "all this is because of all these heavy transits in my chart and everything will be fine once these aspects are over"?  Is it a client who wants to be guided to better self-understanding in order to take more responsibility for his life?

Even though the chart indicates to you the client's desire for involvement in the transformative process as well as her true needs, this information is useless without the client's conscious awareness of why she has come to you.  A person whose chart indicates strong Pluto or Scorpio transits is not necessarily willing to dive to the depth of herself.  A strong Sagittarian or Neptunian component in the chart could indicate that the person may not be as much in touch with reality as she may sound.  On the other hand, a strong Capricorn component may denote someone truly willing to take the necessary steps to go forward.

So, even after your careful preparation an implicit or explicit inquiry is appropriate now to ensure that the service you want to provide coincides with the client's expectations. Make sure in some way that you are still in agreement on how you will proceed. Sometimes, you can ask direct questions.  Most of the time, it is preferable to test the waters to see how the client is willing to handle certain information.

For example, suppose a man was referred to you because of your reputation in vocational Astrology.  He is looking for a career change.  His chart shows a strongly aspected Saturn and a quick temper.  You feel that he may be rebellious against any form of authority figure.  Asking a few questions about previous employment and listening carefully to the way the client talks about it will give you the answer.  If you sense anger and resentment, if the client blames the boss for his dislike of the job, he confirms that he is openly acting out his chart rather than repressing his feelings.  If such is the case, even if the field he is in is not the most satisfying at this time, all the new factors about a change in careers may only add to his frustration.  In any case, chances are that this person would only repeat the same behavior regardless of where he works.


The deciding factor is whether or not the client is willing to look at this aspect of his life.  After all, he came for advice about a career change and not for psychological counseling.  In addition, you are in an authority figure position which, in that particular situation does not help, regardless of the fact that the client is consciously seeking direction.  The Saturn archetype talks about authority figures as experienced from the father, or the lack of such authority.  Because the client comes for vocational issues, one way to discreetly test his willingness to look at the influence his father had on him is to ask what he liked to do as a child, what his dreams were, and whether his father was instrumental in these ideas.  The next question could be "How did you feel about your father (stepfather) as a child?" and to gently point out the issue.  While listening to the answer, hear not only the words, but also all the other feelings the client expresses verbally and through body language.  Know that beneath anger is pain; the stronger the denial of the pain, the stronger the anger, and vice versa.  If the chart warrants it, point out how you can sense the pain through the client's words and lead him to make the link between the anger at his managers and his childhood issues.   The chart will also tell you natally, by transits and progression, if the client is currently willing to look at his relationship to his father.  However, the client may have the need to deny what he feels and tell you that you are overstepping your boundaries, and this is not what he is paying you for.  In such a case, it is up to you to decide whether or not you want to continue with the consultation.

This is also the time for you to check again whether or not you are willing and capable of helping the client.  The detailed knowledge of the issue as presented by the client, your knowledge of the chart,  the way the client wants to go about the consultation, and mostly, your own inner feelings about the whole thing, have to be examined:  you can still back off.  If you feel that you are not the right person for this type of issue or for the personality of the client,  you better say so now.  Do not wait until the client gets deeper into opening himself to you and putting his trust in you.

When a client brings an issue which touches too close to your personal issues directly or indirectly, you can experience signs of unusual inner tension, such as tight throat, tears in your eyes, your solar plexus closing off, your shoulders getting tense. If this happens, your personal issues are in the way of the healing flow of counseling and you should consider that YOU ARE NOT CAPABLE OF HANDLING THE SITUATION.  You may, and certainly will, do more harm than good if you continue.  Simply explain this to the client who will appreciate your straightforwardness, and refer him to someone else.  If you cannot think of another person immediately, make sure you find that other person and let the client know.  Of course, the client does not owe you anything even if you have spent hours working on the chart!


Recently, a woman sent a letter to her former boyfriend accusing him of all sorts of abuse and stating that, with this letter, she was closing the relationship forever.  She received a nasty phone call from the boyfriend's wife and, afterwards, felt that talking to someone about it would resolve the whole issue.  Anger was definitely an issue, but not so much at the boyfriend, as at her father.  When I used the word "authority figure" (referring to Saturn), she dropped her defenses, and stated that she has a lot of difficulty with any type of authority figure.  Then she spoke of her father who "was verbally abusive but never abused her physically".  Without prompting, she added that her father would strap her on a chair and use a belt, "but this was nothing at all." 

For a minute, imagine that this woman is your client.  Are you willing to help her?  Are you capable of really helping her.  She needs to talk and is aware of it.  Are you not only willing, but also truly able, to listen?  The descriptions of a child strapped to a chair while the father is hitting her with a belt may be quite hard to hear.  This is especially true if there was any form of mistreatment in your own past, even minimally, which you have not addressed and cleared.  Your pain will be triggered, and you may want to sweep your issue, and therefore the client's issue, under the rug.  This attitude on your part would be the most devastating thing you could do for the client who comes to you in trust.  It would also be psychologically unhealthy for you as well as for your future clients because, consciously or not, you would be on guard against similar revelations, therefore preventing the client from freely expressing him/herself.


Soon after the beginning of the session, and several times thereafter, you need to make sure the client understands what you are saying.  Of course, you should not use Astrological jargon except when working with a fellow Astrologer who wants to hear how you derive your information.  There are times, however, when we use the most ordinary words and do not get our point across at all.  This happened to me recently as you can see in the following example.


One of my clients is in the medical profession, an Astronomy buff, and thinks that Astrology is nonsense (he tells me that I would do as good a job without it).  He is as remote from metaphysics as you can imagine.  At times, this creates some challenging situations for me regarding getting my point across.  Recently I was attempting to explain to him some feminine principles.  After I labored for a while he said: "This is an interesting experience: I know very well each word you are using, but I have no idea what you are saying! I know you are not speaking a foreign language because I recognize each word, yet this does not make any sense at all!"  I paused for a while and chose to back off, thinking that with his stellium in Cancer, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus will do the job for me in the next few weeks.  At the same time, it gave me more food for thought about using words to describe the feminine which, by nature, is beyond words.


To verify whether or not the client understands what you say, do not ask: "Do you understand what I am saying?" In most cases, the client does not want to look dumb and says that she does. Use a technique which is a basic tool to enhance good communication: ask the client to feed back to you what you have said.  Even though you may not get much out of a person with a strong Scorpio chart, in most cases, when trust has been established, the person will be willing to tell you what they are hearing you say.

In the next column we will continue to explore ways of leading clients to better self-awareness.  This will include more communication strategies and keeping a compassionate heart.

FRANCOISE-THERESE FRIGOLA uses the astrological chart as a guide to teach her clients to understand inner conflicts and inner strengths.  Her Master's degree integrates transpersonal psychology, astrology, and spirituality.  She writes and lectures on self-awareness and self-growth.  She is currently Aquarius Workshops program chairperson, ISAR vice-president, and a member of AFAN.

Other articles on Counseling Astrology by Françoise Frigola

  1. Listen, Listen, Listen
  2. First Contact with a New Client
  3. A New Client is Coming
  4. Leading the Client to Self-understanding
  5. When The Chart Says One Thing and The Client Another
  6. The Consequences Of Change
  7. From Casual Counseling To Professionalism
  8. Considering Ourselves Professionals



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