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COUNSELING ASTROLOGY #7

Article Originally published in the 1990 Fall edition of Aspects Magazine

 

From Casual Counseling To Professionalism

 

This column explores the dangers of casually talking to someone about his or her chart, explores the question of how we learn to practice astrology, and addresses some issues about professionalism.  It happened to me again!  During the last ISAR conference, I was casually talking with a well-known astrologer.  We were talking about the need for children to have set rules and structures in order to develop a good sense of self.  She remarked that children with a strong natal Jupiter experience great difficulty because they are not given the necessary boundaries to structure a good ego.  My natal Jupiter's only aspect is its conjunction to my Ascendant.  I have always considered it to be strong, enjoyable, yet not always easy to handle.  I was particularly interested in what this astrologer had to say.

 

She continued by stating that her experience has shown that such children "retire" by the age of twelve.  Her words felt like a knife in my guts!  I did not know why.  I did not know what it meant.  But her statement surely touched some deep pain in me. I felt that the amount of time I have spent up to now dealing with issues around twelve years old would have put the issues to rest! So, the depth of this pain came as quite a surprise.

Then I proceeded to behave as I have seen so many behave in like circumstances.  Having figured out that twelve is the age of my first Jupiter return, I offered a straight face to this astrologer, yet showed a lot of interest, and asked  what she meant by "retiring."  She explained that, by that age, the child has tried so hard to please his parents without ever being successful at it, that the child simply gives up.  In fact, the child does not just give up on fulfilling his parents desires, but gives up on himself.  The knife started to twist as it went deeper into my guts!  I told her how this chart description fits my natal chart.  However, I did not voice the deep pain I was experiencing.

Since I have chosen to clear my emotional baggage and have the training to do so, I believe I have more tools to handle such a "knife-in-the-guts" situation than the astrologer's average client.  But it is now a week later, and while I have come to a lot more understanding about the events when I was twelve, I still feel unfinished.  I feel grateful for the sharing of the well-known astrologer, but dealing with its impact has been an emotional challenge.

The fact that we astrologers can open some deep, or not so deep, wounds in another person is an old concern of mine.  I have often wondered about the dangers and the ethics of describing what a specific chart component means to me, or about mentioning issues I have encountered in clients with a specific natal aspect or planetary placement.  I have no way of knowing the impact I may have on even one individual who is hearing  what I say or reading what I have written.  Most delineations are useful and help an audience get a better understanding of themselves and their clients.  However, what about the person who finds himself suddenly faced with a repressed issue brutally exposed -- the person who suddenly recognizes his personal background and does not know how to cope with his new realizations?

 

So there is a potential danger to vulnerable individuals when we describe to an audience, however small the issues we see in an astrological chart.  Yet, I just did it again be recounting my own experience in the above paragraphs!  As a lecturer and writer on counseling astrology, I know that making explanatory statements about what we see in charts is unavoidable.  This is the way we communicate.  Maybe I feel overly responsible for other people. Maybe I am overprotective.  Maybe I am  smart!  But let's look at a different situation.

We have all attended meetings where someone presents their chart to us and asks us to comment on it.  And, of course, many of us have obliged!  In this case we are consciously directing our comments to a person who is eager to hear whatever we have to say. Yet we know that it is rarely the person who is happy with the state of his life who asks for this "casual" counseling.  Most of the time, the person seeks help about an important, sensitive issue they are trying to deal with. 

In such a social situation, the astrologer barely has the time to glance at the chart. She does not know much, if anything, about the person's background.  If she has a lot of experience, she may pick up information from the chart.  She may pick up a few planetary positions here and there, a few natal aspects, a few transiting aspects, maybe some solar arc progressions.  In no way can she, during a meeting, a social event, or any similar situation, achieve the full understanding of the person's psyche that she would with a calm, focused study of the chart in her professional setting.  In addition, the chart is only an indication of potential strengths and issues. The astrologer does not know the depth of the individual's emotional wounding.  I consider that in such a casual, social setting, the chances of creating or participating in further emotional wounding are greatly enhanced.

 

I see additional problems with such social situations.  First, the astrologer who is commenting on the chart is simply giving his knowledge away.  Why should this be an accepted practice when so few of us make a living at our trade?  If you need an attorney, you have to pay, although  you may get half-an-hour free consultation at first.  The same holds true for a financial consultant, a doctor, or any other professional.  Maybe astrologers need to think of standing on a par with other professionals in this respect.

Some astrologers argue that there is a spiritual dimension to astrology which could get lost if we took care to charge for every service.  I believe that the first rule of any spirituality is self-respect. I believe that any spirituality which requires a person to be in a financial bind because of too much giving away is not a spirituality worth living.  When we do professional work, we owe it to ourselves to be paid for professional work.  Only then can we truly integrate spirituality into our work.

Second, counseling someone in a public place is neither professional nor ethical.  There is no privacy at all so that anyone around can hear about that person's issues.  This is especially true when other people are looking at the chart and listening, hoping to learn something new.

I consider that this common practice can have a lot to do with the ego of the astrologer who is looking at the chart.  It feels very gratifying to have people seeking and valuing your knowledge or opinion.  However, I have learned to avoid these casual consultations as much as possible. Whenever I do find myself giving in to a person's request, I do my best to ask questions, to point to specifics of the chart as areas which seem to me to necessitate attention rather than give answers to questions or make definitive statements.

 

Experienced as I am and having worked on myself for as long as I have, I was extremely impacted by an astrologer's remark.  We know  that novice astrologers "practice" on people all the time.  How much more liable are those people to be negatively impacted by the beginning astrologer's remarks?  Yet we need to "practice" to get experience.  We have all done it.  We have all looked for people willing or eager to have their chart "read" because we needed to practice.  As training in our profession stands now,  how are we to practice if not on our friends, relatives?

 

A medical student does not go around "dropping" diagnoses on  her family members and friends as we astrologers "drop" our chart interpretations.  A medical student practices in a specific learning environment where she is supervised and guided in order to improve her skills.  A teacher does not face thirty or forty children for the first time after graduating with a teaching degree.  He has already gone through supervised training and counseling by his more experienced peers.  The examples of professions that have some form of supervised training are endless.  Yet, we astrologers, who consider ourselves members of the second oldest profession in the world, we do not have any such supervised training.  We mainly train ourselves through trial and error on the corner of the kitchen table or on the living room sofas of our friends.  In addition, we usually do this counseling for free which, I believe, is part of our lack of "financial consciousness."  Once one starts doing something for free, it is very difficult to start getting paid for the same service. It is also difficult to set a fair price, and therefore, it is almost impossible to educate the public about to the  monetary value of our work.

Another drawback of kitchen-table counseling is that the aspiring astrologer does not get much constructive feedback.  The friend "client" is usually  ready to shower compliments when the consultation was "right on."  When the consultation is not so accurate, however, not many friends have the desire or courage to tell a budding astrologer that she goofed and to share this feedback  in a loving, supportive way.  Our society, in general, does not encourage us to be frank.  As a result, beginners can go on thinking they are great astrologers while they have little idea of what they are really doing.  And we want to call ourselves, and have society call us, professional!

What is valid feedback for either the beginning or the experienced astrologer?  What type of honest feedback can we count on so that we can look clearly at ourselves as counseling astrologers and grow to be ever more sensitive and proficient?

Once in a while, we may have a client who tells us that she is unhappy or who directly confront us.  I consider these clients the greatest gifts possible.  I have received negative feedback on several occasions.  One occurred when I was still an aspiring astrologer with a client who has Libra rising.  When she came for the consultation, Saturn and Pluto were making several aspects to her natal planets.  I had just been through similar transits myself and, with my Scorpio rising, had dived into the transformative process and come out freer than ever.  Projecting my experience on her, I "predicted" that she was going to undergo a great transformation in the next few months and that the experience was going to be wonderful.  A few months later, I met her at a social gathering.  She immediately came to me and voiced her feelings.  She acknowledged the depth of her transformation. She thanked me for the help I had provided her, but she let me know what she thought of my implying she would enjoy such a transformation!  I learned!

 

A few weeks ago, a former client said that she had stopped working with me because I was not respecting her view of her situation. When I asked her to tell me more about it if she could, she said I was too directive about how she should make the necessary changes in her life.  This was a wonderful gift.  Not only was this person willing to tell me why she had suddenly stopped coming, but she was also willing to talk about it in detail.  I was very appreciative.

When we astrologers give each other consultations, I believe it is most important for the counselee to offer the counselor frank feedback. I believe we should do this whether we are beginning or experienced astrologers, and I think the feedback should include both what we liked - what was helpful - and what we found difficult or unhelpful.  Feedback can be on the content of the consultation, as well as  its format, the setting in which it was experienced, and the attitude and demeanor of the counselor.

We cannot prevent beginners from engaging in  kitchen-table counseling. However, if we start now to offer warm, caring structures for peer exchanges, most beginners will realize that such a way of learning is easier and more rewarding than having to deal with the sudden silence of a friend or the repressed feeling of  insecurity linked to concern over "doing it right."

A peer supervision group exists in the San Francisco Area through the Association for Astrological Psychology for "professionals interested in the use of astrology as a personality theory and diagnostic tool".  This peer group seems to be an extension of the type of training available throughout the psychological community.

 

I believe that the astrological community could provide such safe professional settings where both aspiring and experienced astrologers can get quality peer supervision, warm support, continuous training, and guided self-evaluation.

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's vice-president, and a member of AFAN and AAP.

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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