Posted by: Donna Cunningham | March 16, 2010

Talking to Clients about Difficult Transits–Readers Have Their Say

©2010 by Donna Cunningham and Skywriter Readers 

 Last week I published an article about difficult transits and the responsibility we have as professional astrologers to discuss both the positive and the negative potential of an aspect.  A lively debate ensued in the comment section, and I’m reproducing parts of it here because discussions like these are valuable. 

 Cris wrote: I respectfully disagree with you on this – the specifics, not the general idea. In my experience, astrology books and even astrologers are full of doom-and-gloom predictions. You were lucky to find so many people with positive attitudes, but generally, hard transits, from slow planets are interpreted in negative, fatalistic ways. And I see absolutely no gain in doing so.     

 So, when observing a transit hitting a difficult natal combination, I’d say it is more productive to discuss that client’s usual patterns of response – and NOT the trigger (i.e. the transit), thus putting the focus on the client, and their taking charge of their life, and not an outside influence, putting them in a helpless, poor-me state of mind.     

  I agree with you about interpreting transits (or Solar Arcs, etc) in the context of a personal chart/personality and life-reality of that client, and in doing so, warning them about their no-so-productive ways of dealing or coping with difficult situations – loss, challenges, mistakes, etc.       

There may be a delicate difference between this and your viewpoint, but I believe it is very important.  Why? People do not respond well to “threats”, even when they come as “advice”, “warning”, or some other nice helpful hand. 

My reply:  Hi, Chris, I’m not sure we disagree on anything. I’m referring to astrologers who cannot speak to clients at all about the self-destructive ways they may be using the more difficult planetary energies but who instead paint a rosy glowing picture. They don’t dialogue with clients to find out how they are using or have used those difficult placements in the past.       

If clients have done self-destructive things but have used them to learn and grow, that is one thing, and I would praise them for it but indicate that there is another interval coming in which it would be possible to be tempted to go back to the old pattern. Until we know more about the person, we have no idea how they will handle a difficult transit, so we have to ask. We need to find out whether our clients are vulnerable in the areas of life being touched by a difficult transit like the coming t-square.

 Suppose there is a Mars-Uranus conjunction natally in early Libra in the 1st, and Saturn, Uranus, and Pluto are all about to set it off. You need to explore whether that client has a pattern of taking dangerous physical risks…or perhaps of attracting dangerous people—and a history of difficult consequences in those situations.

 Would you then not be derelict in your duty if you did not explain to the client what the consequences could be at a time like that? And exploring exactly why they take risks of that sort, increasing their understanding of their own responsibility for the consequences.

 The terminally positive astrologer might phrase it in terms of “exhilarating new freedom of expression” and miss the point entirely.      

 I do share your concern that there are also all too many terminally negative astrologers who try to terrify clients into better behavior. Neither extreme is good astrological practice, and both are destructive in their own way.   In practice, what I aim for is a balance of describing the best possible outcome of a transit while also exploring whether the person is currently using the aspect in a self-sabotaging way. I then explore with them the resources or healing approaches they could take to shift the outcome to a more positive one. THAT is astrological counseling; predicting an outcome as a surety–whether terminally positive or devastatingly negative–is fortune telling.    

Mandi Lockley recalls: I started by reading charts for friends and one friend had a background of being abused in relationships and I found this was very obviously depicted in her chart. She was in a new relationship and wanted to know if it would work out, so we discussed her past relationship patterns. However, she was to a large extent in denial, with rose-coloured glasses about the new person and only wanted to hear about having a happy ending, not about dealing with these difficult relationship issues.       

This was a big learning curve for me, the whole denial thing. However, I still feel it was my responsibility to at least try to discuss the issues with her, even though she was not ready to deal with them as it turned out. If I had just told her that it would all turn out wonderfully, which is what she wanted to hear, I would not have been doing my job.    

LB expresses one of her concerns: Some professional astrologers seem unaware of the wide range of unique manifestations of the planetary aspects within their clients’ charts or else end up spiritually blaming their client for every major negative situation the client encounters, which isn’t always helpful, nor is it always valid. Some people with powerful aspects (and planetary placements) project and some don’t.     

 Donna confesses: I WAS the type of astrologer you describe, back in the day when I’d been involved with astrology less than 10 years. I was carrying the message, preaching metaphysics, thoughts creating reality, knew it all, and had personally invented it.     

I think Neptune might have been in Sag in those days, and MY Jupiter hadn’t been slapped around quite as much in those days. (See Hyperactive Jupiter Syndrome—The Down Side of an Upbeat Planet.)  Causality is much more complex than we’d like it to be. We don’t just have our own karma; we have Group Karma that shapes the kinds of events and social conditions we are starting to see. Donna      

 CJ Wright gives her perspective: I live by the “how do you want this to turn out?” motto because it’s ultimately our behavior that influences the results of a transit, whether that transit is good or bad.    If we can see that a tough time is coming up for someone else or for ourselves–as an example, Uranus transits the 5th and a “stable” relationship might be broken as a result of an affair–we have to ask whether losing that “stable” relationship is okay. Is it better to strengthen the long-term relationship or end it and move on? In other words, what do we want to happen as a result of actions taken during that transit? So, yes, it’s our duty to ask tough questions in tough times AND tough questions in easier times, too. 

Ellen Longo shares a recent exchange:  The other day a client said to me, I almost didn’t call you because I didn’t want the astrology to affect my thinking on this. I had to admit I knew exactly what she meant. With Uranus natally on her Ascendant, she wants to be free from the cycles of nature. And she understands how much our thoughts create our experience of life, whatever it brings.      

 And so much is up to the client: there are those who see us because they want help tuning in, and there are those who want us to tell them that their future is rosy. For those that want the “future is rosy” story, I try to be uplifting and tell them the best way to approach and use a difficult time that is coming. I agree with you, it’s not my place to burst the bubble of their world-view. There are also those who come in fear, in which case I try to lighten their load with the more positive interpretations. I get concerned that people’s fear of difficulty will tend to invite the difficulty. So it’s a difficult balancing act, subtle and demanding.      

 How about you, Readers?  Where do you stand on this issue?  Share your thoughts in the comment section.    

Related articles of interest to astrologers and their clients:       

Note:  Counseling Principles for Astrologers–Becoming an Effective Change Agent, my ebook for professionals and advanced students who want to become astrologers is available at Moon Maven Publications for $15.       




  1. As a Counselor i learned that when a client calls you is because something is going on in his life (First a was councelor and then became astrologer) so with the natal chart you can have an idea of what is “going on” in your clients life, i use to explore his thoughts as to know how is he in touch with himself thats the main point! Then i agree with CJ ” it’s ultimately our behavior that influences the results of a transit, whether that transit is good or bad”. I must said that i receives a lot of clients who have been with predictis astrologers and arrive devastated and thats is really a hard stone to move. You must know how much the client can hear and give confidence in his own resources.

    • Hi, Rosario, I see a lot of that sort of thing too–people are always writing to my Dell Horoscope advice column because they are upset or in a panic about some devastating prediction they’ve gotten from an astrologer. The ones that upset and anger me the most are the ones that do the chart of a baby or young child and then tell the parents some horrible thing about how the child won’t live to grow up or will be a sex maniac because they have several planets in Scorpio. That is just WRONG!!! (There’s an article on this blog called, “Awful Things Astrologers Say to Clients” that has some hair-raising examples. Donna

  2. I hope this relates to the discussion. My stepfather died monday morning. I really didn’t look at his chart until after he died, well I did, but didn’t study it.
    but today i took a look. unsure of birthtime…
    good old Mars trined his saturn in Sag and his jupiter in aries!
    The whole family feels that his death was a good one, a relief.. after being sick for months, years even, he started feeling pain and 12 HOURS later he was gone.
    So, let’s talk about BAD aspects, I think that was a pretty good one.

    • Well, a number of astrologers have said that death charts often have a prominent Jupiter, like on the Ascendant or Midheaven, and that this must mean that death is not the horrible thing we think it is, but a blessed relief for the person who passes on. Donna

  3. My chart is a heavy fixed fire chart (six fire planets), with a T-Square involving a 9th house Pisces Moon opposed a 3rd hours Leo Pluto-
    that opposition is squared a Saturn (rx) in Sag in the 6th.
    Plus my Chiron in AQ 8th opposes a Leo stellium (UR, MA, VE, ME) in my 2nd house.
    And the main question I constantly ask of myself is “How do I turn my 5 Oppsitions into more of a Trined energy?” What is it I can do in my life to evolve from what I have brought with me into this life?
    Does this make me an optimist or someone in denial?
    A pragmatist because I know what I am working with? Or or a pessimist about what ‘accepting my lot’ takes?

    • I firmly believe that the chart we are born with is no mistake, that it contains all we have to work on and work through and work with in the course of this lifetime. We play the hand we are dealt. Donna

  4. I like to explore better uses for challenging transits, because it can empower clients. Not the same as having “rose-colored glasses” by a long shot, it can be uplifting. So, when I see a client with these, chances are that if they are unconscious about the energy pattern, they rely on habit – and some of those are not so great. We can see energy patterns in the natal chart that give clues to how this may be happening, but I like to ask their past, as well as present – then we can look at a future without conscious change versus one where there is.

    Applied to myself, when Uranus was transiting my natal Saturn in Aquarius in my 9th some years ago, I was experiencing big-time authority issues. The reflection was that I was attempting to create my money independently (Uranus) doing readings, instead of for “the man” via a corporate job (Saturn) that I had done in the past, and because sometimes manifesting money was a challenge, I ended up not registering my vehicle on time, and thereby getting it towed in my own apartment complex, another Saturn reference! I did not like this reflection of energy at all, but wondered what I could do.

    Deciding that Saturn in the 9th could represent a Master Teacher through experience, and Uranus and Aquarius could represent Astrology – I had a great idea – TEACH Astrology! As soon as I made my mind up and started looking into that reality, money came into my pocket, I registered my car, and I found a high school that ran an adult school, and taught astrology. After teaching, a new Aquarius friend told me that there was an opening at a metaphysical store and they could see me working there, so he took me there immediately he felt so strong about it. My interview (done by another Aquarian) was not warm and fuzzy – however, I learned later that he had to really “test me out” due to some bad experiences he had with other astrologers. I apparently had the right answers, and I made a very decent living there – and I supplemented with my crochet business between readings.

    A similar procedure can be done with clients. Examine how a transit is living out and investigate why – then root out the cause (flower essences can help here) and decide to give a new and healthier expression to what is going on. While you cannot interrupt soul contracts (and who would want to?), I have noticed this is an amazing learning experience, sometimes for both the client and me!

    • Thanks, Lisa, good example. Just as you did with the teaching, I find that when I make the switch to the Right Direction, all obstacles dissolve. Donna

  5. hi Donna,
    Completely off-subject, but could you do an article about your views on the rise of Hellenistic astrology, whole sign houses and the rightful rulers of AQU, SCO and PIS? Would love to read your ideas on that.


    • Hi, Dominic, no, I haven’t studied it enough to be knowledgeable, so I wouldn’t want to write about it. Donna

      • Can I ask you quickly, in your experience as a counselor, what rulerships work best? Sorry to keep annoying you on matters unrelated to the post.


      • HI, Dominic, What rulerships work best for what application of astrology? If you’re referring to rulers of signs, I use Pluto for Scorpio, Neptune for Pisces, and Uranus for Aquarius. I incline slightly to Chiron for Virgo, as Mercury just doesn’t fit, and I also secretly believe that Venus does not rule Taurus, but perhaps the Earth itself does.

        I base the Venus/Mercury conclusions on the following observations. When Mercury is conjunct the Sun, Moon, or Ascendant, it gives a Geminian tinge to the Sun, etc. and NOT a Virgoan tinge. The person is kind of like a Gemini on speed in terms of being ultra-Mercurial. When Venus is conjunct the Sun, Moon, or Ascendant, the person is Libra-like, not Taurean in the least. Donna

  6. As a client, I would want to know everything, straight up.

    As an analogy, if I were dying of cancer and the Dr. thought I only had 6 months to live. I would want to know their professional assessment, including all my options. Then I would assess what they said, what I want, what I need, whether I want to go down another path, what’s best for the people I love, and go from there. I’d be extremely pissed if I didn’t get the straight up truth and squandered my last few months watching TV thinking “it’s not so bad.”

    But there is a lot to be said for “bedside manner.” How it’s delivered, the good and bad, can make or break a person’s spirit.

    • Good point, that, Terri, about how the news is delivered. With astrology, the ethical way to do it is to present a balanced interpretation–the potentially difficult expressions explained but balanced by other, positive ways the same planetary energies could manifest, if the person worked to upgrade the expression. Donna

  7. Hello Sky Friends,

    Saturn in the Third House/Neptune

    What is it like to have Saturn (exalted in Libra) conjunct Neptune in the third house (mixed aspects)?

    – Saturn/Neptune – anxiety, neurosis, as a child, afraid to speak up in class (3rd house), felt left out and misunderstood in school and afraid of teachers
    – criticized by father (hurting words)
    – overshadowed by a more aggressive sibling, unconscious sibling rivalry
    – sisters and brothers who endured hardships (several came close to death) through accident or illness
    – serious student seeking the answers
    – difficult to learn but persistent
    – ambitious writer but unpublished
    – loyal to siblings despite animosity
    – siblings eventually earn respect through their hard work and attaining success in the world
    – reliable old cars that keep on forever and that you get attached to
    – one really good teacher in elementary school that had a great impact and will never be forgotten
    – legal studies (legal secretarial)
    – serious and sometimes depressed
    – a terrible time getting around the neighbourhood – couldn’t give directions if my life depended on it, yet no trouble in distance travel
    – anxious driver and not sure of the rules of the road
    – sometimes regret what has been said or written, constantly rewriting
    – psychic readings and writings about unexplained mysteries
    – difficulty learning basic information, yet excel in philosophy
    – cannot remember telephone numbers
    – old notes and letters have been kept over forty years old
    – one lonely, old, selfish and unfortunate sibling who pushes everyone away or feels that she should be taken care of by other siblings
    – strange messages and even stranger ideas and impressions (Neptune)
    – the old neighbourhood was a prison, couldn’t wait to get away
    – hides diaries and time capsules with notes inside
    – psychic connection to siblings
    – positive thinking a difficult lesson but Mercury in Sagittarius helps
    – too much thinking about the past

    • Hi, Maureen, the difficulties you describe with Saturn and Neptune conjunct and in the 3rd are quite familiar ones. There are some articles on Skywriter on those topics (use the search engine at the top right hand corner of the front page. If you scroll down and read the comments, you’ll swear the people were your long lost cousins. The difficulties were pretty intense three or four years ago, when your group got your second Saturn return. Donna Cunningham

      • Thanks Donna,

        Oh and let me add to the Saturn in the 3rd House – Must have an orderly, organized environment (everything in its place) in order to feel secure. No socks tucked under the couch!!!

        I’ll read about the conjunction from others viewpoints.

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