Posted by: Donna Cunningham | December 2, 2014

Setting Healthy Boundaries in Astrology Sessions

(c)12-2-2014 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

 Setting and respecting boundaries has been a theme on Skywriter since I started it in 2010. We’ve talked about how the concept applies to our connections with family, friends, and coworkers. We’ve discussed related topics like codependency, enabling, and bullying. At the end of this post, you’ll find links to several past posts on the nature of boundaries.

As those posts discuss, the astrological signatures of bad boundaries often involve some combination of Neptune, the Moon, and Pluto, as well as their associated signs, Pisces, Cancer, or Scorpio. With Neptune now in its own sign, Pisces, boundaries in the world at large are harder and harder to discern and to maintain.

Only recently did it occur to me that we’ve never discussed how crucial it is for a professional astrologer to establish and maintain clear, healthy boundaries in sessions with clients. Many of us hold sessions in our homes, creating an informal atmosphere that can be comforting and cozy, yet can lend itself to overly relaxed boundaries unless we are watchful. It’s important, therefore, to remember that in the session you are doing counseling, whether you have the background or not. Like all counseling sessions, the client is paying you to listen attentively, without an agenda of your own, and to focus on their present problems in order to gain helpful insights.

Many of you have taken psychology and counseling courses now. At the most recent United Astrology Congress, I was gratified to discover that 25 of the speakers had gone on to get counseling credentials. Another helpful course of study would be coaching credentials since ‘life coach’ appears to be the credentialed helping profession on the rise that interfaces well with spiritually-oriented healing practices and the digital age.

Whether you’re able to afford that sort of training or not, you can learn to establish and maintain professional boundaries by reading materials like those available below and participating in the discussion that follows. The knowledge can help you avoid serious boundary breaches that all too often occur in astrological practice.

What sort of breaches am I talking about? In the letters to my astrology advice column in Dell horoscope over the past 20 years, there were many appalling stories of harm done by astrologers with bad boundaries. In the running for the all time worst was a very old school astrologer who gave a young, nervous and vulnerable first-time mom a reading of her newborn’s chart, which contained an 8th house stellium. She gleefully informed her, “Your baby boy is going to grow up to be a sex maniac!”

What spurred me to write about this topic now was something I heard recently. In compliance with professional confidentiality guidelines, I’m not at liberty to discuss this breach beyond this paraphrased statement:

“I went to a local astrologer to throw light on my relationship problems. She proceeded to go into an emotional tirade about her own marital woes. It went on and on. What little interpretation of the relationship patterns in my natal chart she provided was heavily influenced by her own bitterness toward men. I left feeling ripped off. She should have paid ME for the session! I’d think twice before I ever went to an astrologer again.”

In essence, boundary violations really are a violation of trust, and one that the person violated has trouble letting go of. Unfortunately, the loss of trust not only extends to the person who did it, but taints the credibility of whichever field they practice….it would be hard to see astrology, energy work, or essences as a trustworthy mode of healing once someone does that to you.

How and Why Bad Boundaries Arise in an Astrology Practice

 Since there are few forums or formal courses to ease the transition from astrology student to professional, the question of how to set and maintain healthy boundaries in an astrology practice largely goes unaddressed. (The exceptions I’m aware of are higher level online courses at Kepler College of Astrological Arts and Sciences and the International Academy of Astrology.)

As a result, astrologers may unknowingly cross boundaries or allow their own boundaries to be breached in astrology sessions.   As a rule, this happens when a client’s problems mirror and evoke the astrologer’s own unresolved issues and unhealed wounds.

It’s important to have self-awareness about the parts of our own history that can still be stirred up in ways that can bleed through to the session. Doing as much healing as possible on that history is important so that you can deal with the client’s concerns in a centered way.

It’s also important to know which parts of your own chart represent that history. As you prepare for the session, find the contacts between your chart and the client’s to the areas in question.  If tough transits are activating those contacts, you’ll need to be very aware of things you or the client might do or say that would infringe on boundaries.

Let’s say that natal placements or transits in the client’s 3rd house are stressful ones, and there are chart contacts between the client’s and astrologer’s 3rd house. Any of the astrologer’s own sibling issues, past or current, may be triggered, making them respond as though clients were siblings. The astrologer may feel a need to be the Big Sister or Brother who fixes or “saves” the client, so he or she becomes anxious and overprotective and feels that they must tell the person how to manage their life.  

2014 CPA cvr-CunnninghamA Guide to Better Boundaries

One common way that astrologers lack healthy boundaries in their work is to allow their relationships with clients to become codependent. A chapter of my ebook, Counseling Principles for Astrologers goes into codependency and its implications for practicing astrologers in depth. Download the chapter here: 2014 Ch7 CPA.  

Handling boundaries effectively in sessions is crucial at a time when so many clients are under extreme stress from the transiting Pluto-Uranus square, Neptune in Pisces, and Saturn in Scorpio.     

Here are more boundary-related situations commonly met in astrology practice that the book discusses:

Many difficult clients have serious boundaries problems of their own, making it hard to conduct a session. The material about the initial phone call from a potential client shows how to assess whether it’s wise for you to work with them and how to reach an agreement about what the session will cover.

What if the client is more than a client—handling challenges that can arise in doing charts for friends, family, or people from other areas of your life.

Boundary and ethical questions that arise when a third party’s chart is involved—the person’s significant other, teenage child, or young adult. ­ How your own childhood may be played out in the session. Working with young people, and respecting their right to confidentiality.  

Developing a network of healing professionals and other resources that you know and respect so that you don’t feel you have to meet all the client’s needs in a crisis. Therapies indicated for various astrological types.

Order Counseling Principles for Astrologers here: moonmavenpublications.com

Readers, please share your own thoughts and observations about setting boundaries in astrology practice in the comment section below this post. We can all learn a great deal about this crucial issue from the discussion.  If you’re an astrologer, share your thoughts and any experiences like this that arose in your practice. If you’re a client, what did the astrologer do or say that felt like they were crossing the line?  

Update:  the discussion in the comment section is profound and sheds more light on the kinds of things that happen that are damaging to the client. Come and join us.

IMPORTANT: NAME NO NAMES AND REMOVE IDENTIFYING INFORMATION SUCH AS BIRTH DATA. THIS IS FOR YOUR OWN PROTECTION, AS THIS IS A PUBLIC FORUM.

Next: Awful Things Astrologers Say to Clients plus a guest post about boundaries in astrological sessions: Issues that Come Up in Astrological Consulting: Practicing Healthy Boundaries.

 More Skywriter Posts Related to Boundaries:


Responses

  1. FINALLY. One of the most important and needed topics for astrologers and readers of all types. My prayers are answered.

    • Thanks, Sherry. It sounds like you’ve had some encounters with astrologers who need the information. Donna

  2. Glad to know that more astrologers are getting counseling credentials. It is also important to know when to refer for someone else of someone has untreated mental health issues and is using astrology in place of therapy.

    • I totally agree. An astrology consultation can be brilliant at providing insight, but it’s not therapy. Having a resource list of therapists and other healers whose work you know and admire is an excellent tool for an astrologer. It also gets them out from pressure to meet all the client’s needs. Donna

  3. This is such an important issue, Donna. It happens so often that a client comes to me with a particular challenge at the same time that a very similar challenge has cropped up in my own life. If I looked at the transits and the links between the client’s chart and my own, I would probably be able to pinpoint the transit(s) that brought the client to me at that time.

    These echoes could easily trigger boundary issues – hopefully, I am able to focus on my clients and leave my shadow self out of the reading. I’ve found, though, that it’s often wise to take a second look at what I have said to the client – and then apply the same counsel to my own life. A useful side benefit of an astrology practice!

    • This sort of synchronicity in the lives of astrologer and client, to me, is a facet of the law of attraction in astrological practice. But you’re right that it can result in blurring of boundaries if we’re not aware it’s happening,.

      In my practice, I always seemed to attract people who needed the info I’d just acquired in working on my own version of the same issue. Seeing how the client was handling it and whether the solutions I’d come up with would work for them as well was a good spur toward fine tuning. Donna

  4. Hi Donna, great post, thank you, wish more therapists had counselling skills, lost track of the amount of therapists who have/had ‘relationships’ with their clients.
    Arrived just at the right time too, to remind me about client issues.
    I have a supervisor, which is a CDP necessity for homeopaths, and believe me, it’s a MUST.
    Astrological clients need care and TLC, they do NOT need our ‘stuff’….so you’re quite correct in pointing out about boundaries.
    I have a counselling skills certificate, and I got it especially to use in my Astrological practice and I’m SO glad I did.
    If I find I can’t ‘help’ a client 100% I know people I can refer them to.
    I’m really glad you’ve written this post and I really hope more astrologers read it and take note!!
    (((((hugs)))))xxx

    • Good to hear from you, Mary. I wish newly professionals could have a supervisor/mentor to help them get through those early stages of their career. Most professions have internships, but we don’t. Donna

  5. Thanks for such a significant post, Donna.

    Years ago I had a damaging phone consultation with a popular astrologer. I have read this person’s books and learned tons of information. The person knew a lot yet clearly got quite triggered by my (then) denial regarding some of the aspects in my chart and was rude, even crude as a result of their exasperation with me.

    Apart from one part he insisted upon, I don’t remember the reading at all.

    Of course, everybody is human and the person made a mistake with me that day. Yet I won’t be a repeat customer.

    I still get readings with those who are professional as astrology rocks and is very helpful.

    Glad to hear standards of teaching are improving via credentials and counselling training🙂

    • There’s no excuse for bulldozing a client who isn’t ready to hear the truth (as the astrologer–who can’t possibly be all-knowing–sees it). We have self-protective mechanisms for not taking in more than we can deal with, and any astrologer, counselor, or healer who pushes past that is invading our boundaries. Donna

  6. I think one of the most egregious violations of boundries I have seen was the male astrologer, who at the time, asked his female clients to pay him in an …ahem….’energy exchange.’
    Another violation was the astrologer who would get very angry at any person who doubted his readings or his superior knowledge.

  7. As someone who is intuitive in daily life with a Pisces Sun, I had a relevant experience on the subway today. The car was crowded and I stood near a beautiful person in fancy clothes who looked familiar.

    A seat opened up and I sat down. She was nearby. I closed my eyes and mediated as the train sped through the tunnel. I wondered who she was, then felt as if i could find out by psychically asking her or just taking a peak in. I did not. Instead I put out that I am curious but I respect her privacy. And I didn’t take a peak. I had a nice meditation and then got off at my stop.

    Also, another thing I realize is the importance of respecting others versions of reality. Just because you believe in psychic energy doesn’t mean every one has to.

    • This is an important point you are making, Shelley. It’s possible to breach boundaries psychically and energetically too, even with the best of intent, and because such encroachments are intangible, the person can be confused and defenseless.

      I take a rather extreme position on the subject and will not even pray for someone or send them energy (I am trained in Reiki, MariEL, and the Reconnection) unless I have explained precisely what I am thinking of doing and they have given explicit consent.

      A very bad breach of energetic boundaries happened to me once, and I have never forgiven or forgotten it. I’d moved from New York, and my Reiki master and her partner were coming to visit as part of their vacation. En route, even though they were just an hour from my house, she raised my Kundalini psychically. Once she arrived, there was a conversation about the technique, and I intuitively knew what she had done.

      She admitted it, and said that she doesn’t have to ask permission of the person, she just asks their Higher Self. It took months of work and healing to undo the damage, as what she did created a lot of instability energy wise. I fired her as my Reiki master, something that is just. not. done.

      Another practice that seriously disturbs me is when someone gives a family member or significant flower essences without their knowledge, because the person who receives it would not agree to take it. To me, that’s a despicable violation of trust and of the person’s right to free will. It’s like slipping someone a drug without their knowledge.

      That, in essence, what the boundary violations we are talking about really are. A violation of trust, and one that the person violated has trouble letting go of.

      Unfortunately, the loss of trust not only extends to the person who did it, but taints the credibility of whichever field they practice….it would be hard to see astrology, energy work, or essences as a trustworthy mode of healing once someone does that to you. Donna

      • I am so glad that you brought up the flower essence example! I have a friend who is an aspiring homeopath. She wants to specialize in families and children, and is quite excited about the potential of the remedies to address “behavioral problems.” I have been debating with her about this issue, because of the strong correlation between parental issues and children’s behavior.

        When I was in training with flower essences, my mentor always suggested to us that if a parent was absolutelt irked by a child’s behavior, he or she should use the essence indicated for that behavior for a few days instead of “forcing” it on the child. Using this advice has amazed me repeatedly!

        The defiant child calms down when the parent has taken Holly for a few days, the clingy child feels more confident when Mom or Dad uses Chicory.

        For myself, I have seen my spacey daughter (stellia in Sagittarius and Aquarius) become much more grounded when I remember to put drops of Clematis into my water bottle. I’ll keep this in mind when talking to people about their charts, as well!

      • You are so right, Mary. I don’t recall if you followed the flower essence online magazine when we were doing it (Vibration), but we had a couple of special issues on children and on families, and there were some writers who specialized in children, and they often came up withe same observation. Donna

      • Yes, Donna, always with consent is the golden rule.
        When i was younger, in my thirties, i had many dreams about other people. I didn’t hold back from telling them my dreams, which included private information that no one else knew, a drug addiction, an unwanted pregnancy. I finally learned to share only with very close friends who wanted that kind of info.

      • Good observation, Shelley. Part of a grown up–oops, I mean evolved–Jupiter is discerning when it’s not a good idea to share everything we know! Donna PS: there are some articles here about the down side of the up planet, Jupiter.

  8. My most accurate natal aspect is a Mercury Neptune square (exact by 8 mins). It’s wonderful for the arts, but in other parts of life not as practical. When I remember that I have a tendency to be very gullible and connect to people without knowing that I do it, it’s fine but I just as often forget and have to sort out what actually happened afterwards.

    Therefore, I have very few astrological and other consultations and not until I have studied the astrologer’s records. Thankfully, I have met some real fine counsellors over time.

    But I’m still working on an image that one put into me, that I inherited an murderer from my grandfather and that I as a child made a mental block in order not to go his violent way and to avoid psychosis. Could be, and could be not. It scared me quite a bit.

    • There are a variety of people who practice astrology and other divinitory techniques who glory in telling their clients about catastrophic and dark events that may or may not have occurred. Or catastrophic predictions for that client.

      (In doing those things, they’re not all that different from storefront fortune tellers who demand money for taking off a curse that may or may not ever have happened.) Donna

  9. Although I was not doing a reading for anyone, I inadvertently picked up on someone’s situation psychically and didn’t realize I had done so at the time.

    I distinctly heard a person tell me she had become engaged I don’t know why I picked up her situation as she was not anyone close to me or anyone I socialized with in any way. She worked in a store near me.
    I saw the person a few days later and congratulated her on her impending nuptials.

    She said to me: “How in the world did you know that? I’m not wearing a ring and we haven’t even told our families! ” I told her I heard her tell me about the engagement.
    To say the least, she was freaked out.

    Had I realized that she hadn’t actually told me, I would never have said anything to her.
    How does one deal with such unintentional and unconscious boundry violations? I am sure it must happen to some astrologers, at least upon occasion.

    I have Nep Rising sq. Moon/Uranus on the MC and Mercury in 12 sq. Chiron in 3, Pluto conj. Sun in 11 which may explain such things astrologically. Or may not…

    • That’s very interesting, Melo. How should we deal with situations like that? With humility and gentleness. Donna

      • ‘humility and gentleness’ yes!

  10. Another very insightful article on astrology practice. I return to your site again and again because I like your no-nonsense approach and support for your fellow astrology bloggers. Have learned much here… And am in agreement that we need to develop a range of skills in our profession – from counseling to web design to self promotion – if we are going to be successful both as individuals and in sharing the wisdom of astrology. Love your work!

  11. I definitely can relate to Melo’s conundrum mentioned above describing permeability of the information fire walls. I’ve been known to do the same thing he describes from time to time, but I generally don’t see it as a problem and I find it helps me in my astrological readings.

    I just figure, I wouldn’t have been given that information if I wasn’t meant to have it. And the fact that it nebulously enters a conversation shouldn’t really pose a threat to anyone.

    I know that I’m not spying on that person and I am not using information against anyone or with intention to harm, so, I’m fine with it. If I encounter an exchange where the disclosure somehow makes the person uncomfortable, I usually diffuse the situation and just say something — like in your case where the woman just got engaged but hadn’t yet made it public — “I don’t know how I came upon this. Maybe I saw it in a dream, or maybe you’re just glowing with an elevated level of oxytocin since you’re so in love right now.”

    I do see that some people are definitely more sensitively attuned and possess radars that can pick up on many frequencies. And with Neptune in Pisces, I think we all are upleveling our telepathic abilities. From what I see in my practice, Mercurial connections to transpersonal planets are always a very strong indicator of these inclinations. Learning to work well with these gifts does carry some responsibility though and I always guide my clients (and myself!) to follow the golden rule when sharing information: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

  12. Thanks so much for this post and discussion, Donna and commenters. I am going to write a short piece for my own blog shortly on the topic of boundaries and power issues in astrological practice, and will include a link to this post and the two that follow.

    I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had a former career as a social worker – including five years in psychiatric work – before I discovered astrology, shortly after which I set up a private counselling practice which ran alongside, but separate from, my practice as an astrologer.

    When I embarked on my Diploma in Psychological Astrology with Liz Greene and the late Charles Harvey at the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London between 1995-8, all students were obliged to undertake at least a year of their own therapy as a condition of entry into the Diploma Course, and all the work we did with clients was thoroughly supervised.

    On my return to part-time practice in 1992 after a very long sabbatical, the first thing I did was to re-connect with my former supervisor, who is a very experienced astrologer and psychodynamic psychotherapist: I find this kind of challenge and support essential in keeping an eye on my own current issues in relation to the work I do with clients.

    Invariably, as some of the commentators here have pointed out, astrology ( and counselling) clients bring us our own issues very often, and we need to be aware of this.

    Power and boundary issues need to be discussed more than they are, so many thanks Donna for setting off this much needed discussion!

    • Great to hear from you, Anne. I’m thankful that you’ll address the issue of boundaries on your blog as well, so that it reaches a different audience. I knew that the Centre for Psychological Astrology had a great curriculum and exceptional teachers, but I didn’t know about the therapy requirement.

      It would be ideal for all astrologers to go through therapy, because self-awareness is the finest tool an astrologer could have before going into practice. That makes us aware of issues that come up in client sessions that can trigger our own history. Donna

  13. ps I should have said ‘2012 after a very long sabbatical’! A serious case of late middle aged brain cell fatigue in evidence here….


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