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Tarot Psychotherapy with the Birth Cards (Part 1)
by Elinor Greenberg, PhD, CGP, CPTR
Editor's Note from Lynda Martin: This article introduces a four-part series on how a highly credentialed psychotherapist uses Tarot in her therapy. Part 2 shows how to calculate and use two (sometimes three) birth cards to identify the focus of your lifelong learning. Part 3 is a case-study, and Part 4 talks about some possible objections. I always love to see ways that Tarot can get more respect and help more people! (The entire article is available at www.thetarotschool.com in the Articles section.)
As a practicing psychologist for over 30 years, I am always on the lookout for accurate methods that will help me get to know my clients quickly. Often, the success of the therapy depends on how well I understand my client's approach to life. For the past three years I have been experimenting with Wald and Ruth Ann Amberstone's "Tarot Psychology" methods; specifically the "Birth Cards Continuum," the "Elemental Array" and the "Hidden Face Spread." I have found them to be unusually useful ways to get a lot of accurate information quickly. Moreover, my clients have been fascinated and entertained by the things that I have been able to tell them about themselves based on these methods.
My goal is to integrate tarot with psychology in order to develop a new form of psychotherapy that is solidly based on the insights about us that tarot can offer. At its best, the tarot psychotherapy that I envision will place one's personal therapy in the larger context of one's spiritual evolution.
Today I will describe how I introduce my clients to tarot by calculating and explaining their Birth Cards to them. Of course, these methods can be adapted to enhance any tarot reading or to aid one's own personal growth.
The Benefits of Working with Birth Cards in Psychotherapy or Counseling
One of the major benefits of illustrating one's life issues with Birth Cards is that it decreases the sense of shame that many people feel about their perceived "flaws." The underlying assumption of Tarot Psychology is that everyone is struggling with the issues of their Birth Cards and that everyone is equal in this respect. In addition, because different sets of Birth Cards have different issues and personality styles associated with them, any system of Tarot Psychotherapy that evolves out of Tarot Psychology automatically recognizes that different people need different approaches.
Birth Card Continuum work assumes that we are reincarnated over and over again and that eventually each of will work on the issues of every Birth Card pair or triplet as we personally and spiritually evolve. This automatically adds a spiritual dimension to the psychotherapy work and allows us to view psychotherapy as only one aspect of our general evolution as spiritual beings. It is my view that we have to have a working ego before we can successfully transcend it. Or, as I might put it in Tarot Psychotherapy terms, we need to feel finished with the issues of this world (Malkuth in Kabalistic Tarot and the domain of pentacles or Earth), before we can commit to the journey of return to our divine source.
Introducing Birth Cards to Clients
Most of my clients are unfamiliar with tarot and are initially surprised that the cards can be used for anything besides "fortune-telling." I introduce the tarot deck that I use in session, a giant Rider-Waite-Smith deck, as having evolved out of a pre-psychoanalytic system of personal growth that draws on a number of spiritual traditions. I then tell them that there is a way, based on their date of birth, to choose two major arcana cards that represent the kind of personal growth issues that they will be dealing with over and over again during this life-time. I tell them that there is no logical scientific reason that I know of why this numerical reduction to Birth Cards should apply to them (after all, the calendar is a relatively new human invention); however I have found these cards to be very useful none-the-less.
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About the Author
Elinor Greenberg, PhD, CGP, CPTR has been a practicing psychotherapist for over 30 years. Dr. Greenberg is a teaching member of the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy; former faculty member of The Masterson Institute for the Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy of Borderline, Narcissistic and Schizoid Disorders; and is in the National Registry for Certified Group Psychotherapists. She has been studying tarot since 1995 and is psychology consultant to The Tarot School where she earned a Third Degree in Tarot. She is a member of B.O.T.A. and has been certified as a professional tarot reader by the American Tarot Association. Dr. Greenberg has developed and teaches her own unique blend of Tarot and psychological Counseling that she calls “Tarot Counseling” at both tarot conferences and psychotherapy institutes. Dr. Greenberg can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.