Posted by: Donna Cunningham | December 6, 2014

Issues that Come Up in Astrological Consulting: Practicing Healthy Boundaries

A guest post by Liz Howell, (c)12-6-2014

 Note from Donna:  Our current discussion on setting healthy boundaries started with thoughtful exchanges on that subject with fellow Portland astrologer, Liz Howell.  I asked her to share her conclusions on this blog.

Donna, thanks for provoking some thought on this topic and getting me to churn my wheels on boundaries and guidelines I have developed for myself over the years in my astrological practice.

I can’t say that I have any hard and fast rules, but I do know that I am forever learning, adjusting and bringing deeper clarity to both my ability to help others and the appropriateness of my engagement as an astrologer.

When in doubt, I generally error on the side of caution and will not hesitate to say NO to a new or existing client or opportunity if I feel that there is any conflict of interest. I think the most common thread that appears in all the boundary issues I have encountered as a practicing astrologer boil down to having to play multiple roles and wear more than one hat at a time. Two Examples:

#1: Never Read for Anyone in Your Building:

This was the advice New York City astrologer, Carole Murray, gave me early in my career and it has served me well over the decades. I considered compromising this “rule” on a few occasions but was very glad I did not actually establish a professional consulting relationship with any of the people requesting readings in apartment buildings or housing situations in which I lived.

I can see how this can really complicate things if you are having to conduct yourself as a person’s paid trusted advisor while also having to negotiate interpersonal conflict you may be experiencing directly as a result of living under the same roof.

#2: Refer Your Family Members Out to Qualified Astrologers:

Everyone loves to joke about having an astrologer in the family, whether they think you are a direct channel to the divine or a crackpot doing cheap parlor tricks on the side. Either way, your free advice and forecasting abilities will be called upon regularly. So, not only is the appropriateness of establishing a professional consulting relationship with a family member in question, but also the issue of charging for the service.

For me this has been an evolving challenge and for the first 10 years of my practice, I did NOT offer professional services to family, but instead referred them out to one of my trusted teachers.

But If You Go There:

In the last 8 years, I have gradually taken on readings for family members in large part due to the fact that I feel much clearer about how and where I can be of service or a strong support by using the foundation of the family relationship as an opportunity to venture into greater depth of material covered based on the shared history and understanding of this person’s world.

What I always need to keep front and center as we explore their astrology is that the reading is about them, about their experience and about their interpretation of their world. So even if I have insider information on events or if I see them headed for the same misstep for the umpteenth time, I must suspend personal judgement and approach with objectivity and the fresh eyes of an astrologer who is analyzing the planetary dynamics with their individual growth and development in mind.

I am quite clear that I do not want to discuss 8th house sexual issues with my mother or rehash ancient 3rd house sibling rivalry with my sister, so there can be subjects I will sidestep. If I felt that greater in-depth exploration would be required in one of these areas, I would simply identify the area theoretically and suggest ways in which subsequent investigation with another practitioner or therapist would be helpful to them.

Since family is forever, it must be recognized that if you take family on and then decide you need to fire them as a client, you still need to be prepared to sit at the Thanksgiving table with them, break bread and resume your family roles in a comfortable way. I did have this happen in one case and was able to resolve it fairly seamlessly. When I found the boundaries were getting blurred, and the burden of maintaining the boundaries had grown too large, I recused myself as astrological consultant to that family member and let them know why I was doing so.

Ultimately, I think as skilled as we presume ourselves to be at separating and compartmentalizing our roles, eventually the professional and personal collide and it can be messy without clear intention, healthy boundary assignment and understanding the division of responsibility between client and service provider. Reviewing and sharpening the edges of my professional relationships is an ongoing exercise I welcome daily and I believe I am a better astrologer for it.

About the Author: For the last two decades, Liz Howell has been a practicing astrologer and educator working in Portland, Oregon and Honolulu, Hawaii. In addition to her work with astrology and her company, Celestial Living Arts, she is a former dancer, chef, media and advertising executive, massage therapist, world traveler, avid hiker, yogi and always happy to be found in the garden. For astrological services, contact her at Liz@CelestialLivingArts or visit her website at:

See the recent articles on this subject here: Setting Healthy Boundaries in Astrology Sessions and here: Awful Things Astrologers Say to Clients.

Readers, have you been in situations like the ones Liz is describing?  How did it work out?

Other Skywriter articles about boundaries:


  1. To Carol M. – Never read for anyone in your building – OH YEAH !!
    I learned that lesson. Years ago I worked part time for a brilliant attorney, and I let it slip that I was an astrologer. Pandora’s Box was opened and because I was her employee she considered my knowledge of astrology as a new part of my job description. Her legal practice, her relationships, everything in her world began evolving around my astrological prowess.

    I fled exhausted, quit, and she chased after me screaming that I couldn’t leave because she needed me, and how could I do that to her. She phoned in the middle of the night. She showed up at my home on Sunday morning, “Just to talk.” Every move, every decision, every thought had to be checked out astrologically, for free, by me. Boundaries were nonexistent.

    How did I stop it? I moved to another city, got married, formed a new life. Recently she found me again. Now Caller ID is my best friend.

    These bottomless pit of need people never stop. She’s now running for Public Office and will probably get elected. Really. Yes, it’s in her chart. My point: Never read for anyone in your building.

    • It’s not funny, but I’m laughing anyway–the world is full of needy, nutty people with bad boundaries. I’ve learned to be verrrrrrrry cautious about who I tell I’m an astrologer. The reactions vary from skeptical haters to religious fanatics to people who stick out their palm and expect me to tell their fortune.

      When people ask what I do (and don’t they all?) I may truthfully say I’m a writer, and when they press, I tell them I write self-help books and columns. (Every word true, as most of my books have a self-help approach.) Only when I have sized the person up and feel they’re okay will I gingerly tell them the whole truth. When I was new in astrology, I felt the need to “prove” it to the skeptics. Now I could care less what people with closed minds and no experience of astrology feel. Donna

      • Oh, PS: Liz, your warning about doing charts for neighbors came just in time. I live in a high rise building for seniors and disabled people, and there are a hundred a residents in this building. If you hadn’t warned me, I might have agreed to do one of their charts and would have wound up being pestered day and night. (Smiley face.)

  2. Hi Sherry,

    If this story isn’t enough to scare an astrologer into thinking twice about stepping over this line, I don’t know what would be. Your example also touches on the potential for blurred boundaries in two additional areas:

    1. Reading for someone you work with, or are employed by.

    2. Astrological resources and skills being taken or granted as non-billable service.

    I’m curious to know if you attempted to refer her out to another astrologer?

  3. Hi Liz: Yes, I tried to refer her out, but it didn’t work. By then she’d been to every astrologer and psychic within 500 miles of us owing most of them money, and squeezing them to death, like me. She’s brilliant, yet so needy people flee screaming just by mentioning her name. She’s putting a campaign together for public office for the next national election, and my bet is she’ll be elected. Double Capricorn with Cancer ascending–she’ll pull it off. Neptune will help her. Later there may be a public scandal around her in a Mel Gibson sort of way when Pluto whammies her Sun and Moon. I see a Joyce Jillson Nancy Regan type of thing. She won’t listen so, oh well. She owes too many readers too much money for all of them to remain silent once her campaign adds start running. Pluto’s just lying in wait . . .

  4. This does sound like a rather extreme case. Brilliance coupled with high levels of ambition and poor boundaries can eventually get people in big trouble. And I think you’re right, perhaps she will eventually overstep a line that finally snags her.

  5. Thank you, Liz Howell. The concrete tips in this post are so important for me to keep in mind that I printed out this page. Givers need to set boundaries, because takers seldom do!

  6. how did the incas tought about astrology can someone declare for me?

    • I don’t honestly know. I’m fascinated by the Incas and know they followed the seasons and eclipses by their observatories, but whether they actually worked with birth charts, I don’t know but suspect not. Donna

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