This is good news for astrology, because finding a likable therapist is greatly hindered by the bureaucracy of institutionalised therapies, and is greatly helped by the informality of most astrologers. Similarly, success is unlikely if the therapist does not like you. Also, the more interest a therapist shows in the system the more effective the results this works even for shamans who are knowingly using deception, see Frank and Frank , probably because clients think the interest is directed at them.
On the other hand, judging by the ever growing demand for self-help books, many persons seem not to need a live therapist at all. When previous approaches have failed, such books can inspire hope and can be especially useful whenever, for whatever reason, a physically-present therapist might be intimidating. Self-help books In a survey of self-help therapy in the USA, Rosen et al note that self-help books have always been popular. But it was not until the s that psychologists became seriously involved.
Today there are several thousand titles in English in print, which with tapes and CDs have resulted in a self-help industry in the USA worth several billion dollars a year. For comparison there are about one thousand astrology titles in English in print. The vast majority of self-help books have not been independently assessed. Rosen et al stress that "Psychologists who write self-help materials based on methods they find effective in office settings have no assurance that the public can successfully apply these procedures on their own" p.
They give a checklist of 14 questions based on "who benefits under what conditions? What makes a good client? A good client ie one for whom success is most likely is one who shares the therapist's values and beliefs. It is as simple as that. More specifically the client "should be able to easily absorb dogmas and ideas of the most abstract, even outlandish dimension. He should be philosophically adaptable and able to ape the therapist's value system and biases. The more he agrees with the therapist, the better his chances of being helped. This conditioning process is at the core of all faith healing, magic and religion" Gross If astrologers take care to avoid such clients, and to accept only clients who share their values and beliefs, their own beliefs cannot fail to be reinforced, including the wrong belief that astrology is a source of information.
But once the client and astrologer have found each other, what should happen next? Basic techniques of counselling It happens to all of us. Friends, workmates, people you meet along the way, suddenly pour out their troubles. They need someone to talk to, and as a caring person you want to help, even if the problems seem to have no solution. It is here that a few simple counselling techniques can make all the difference.
There are of course many methods of counselling ranging from confession to encounter groups, none of them automatically the best, so each counsellor uses whatever method feels right for them. But underlying all methods are the following basic techniques from Layman :. Negative feelings always emerge first and are always followed in due course by positive feelings. Reinforce all good suggestions and discourage bad ones. Clients have to take charge of their own lives. A client's affairs are none of your business. Do not rush it.
Do not argue with the client. Give information, not advice. You reflect and stimulate the client's ideas. You do not dictate. Leave room for another meeting. They do not prepare you for severe problems. All this will fail if you misinterpret what your client says. So how to stay on track? As a general rule avoid evaluation you shouldn't do X , interpretation it happened because of X , and probing why did you do X? Sympathy can help it's awful to get X , but best of all is paraphrasing you are unhappy with X?
You repeat what your client says, but in fewer words with a clearer focus, asking for confirmation. You focus on your client's experience not on the problem. For example "You feel worried because it makes you angry? Your client's reactions will show if you are paraphrasing well or badly. It's not paraphrasing if you guess something your client has not stated.
Don't despair if the client does all the talking. Varah cites an occasion where his client did not stop for well over an hour, then left after thanking him for "the best advice she had ever had", although all he had done was listen attentively and slip in an occasional "Mmmmm".
Clearly there is no conflict between the above skills and astrology. Nevertheless astrology is not counselling. People with problems need to learn coping skills, but this will not happen unless the astrologer is informed about coping skills and is able to help people work their own way through problems.
In such areas appeals to planetary gods other than to illustrate the client's position are not likely to be helpful, especially if they seduce the astrologer into playing God, the all-knowing channel for cosmic wisdom. Nor do astrologers who promote invalid beliefs get off the hook for having kind hearts and generous intentions -- the wrong thing done for the right reasons is still the wrong thing. Part 3. Using astrology in counselling Views, being a better astrologer, training, dangers.
How astrology can help counselling Astrology and the main orthodox psychotherapies, plus their underlying principles, can be summarised as follows:. The above listing shows that orthodox psychotherapies are based on a recognised mechanism learning, perceiving, reliving, discovering inhibitions and unconscious processes. In contrast, astrology is based on "the distinctive attributes Because the ancient founders of astrology chose gods that mirrored human conditions, astrologers such as Ralph Metzner can claim that astrology is "probably better adapted to the complex variety of human natures than existing [orthodox] systems".
The faces we see are our own. Astrology guarantees a match with this celestial identikit in three ways. First, by allocating human attributes at wonderfully abstract levels, which for Sun through Pluto are inner self, emotions, intellect, affections, drive, abundance, discipline, change, intangibles, intensity. For houses 1 through 12 they are disposition, possessions, communication, security, pleasures, service, friends, hidden things, travel, career, social ideals, sorrows.
And for signs Aries through Pisces they are assertive, possessive, versatile, sensitive, creative, critical, harmonious, secretive, adventurous, prudent, detached, impressionable. Second, by allowing a wonderful flexibility in bringing these abstract ideas down to earth. For example hard aspects are bad because their obstacles lead to failure, and good because their challenges lead to success Carter Venus square Saturn can be shy and isolated in love relationships or alternatively can overcompensate Five planets in Aries is compatible with both aggression and suppression of aggression Hamblin Rex Bills gives about meanings for Aries, for Gemini, for Venus, for Saturn, and so on.
Michael Munkasey collected all the astrological keywords he could find and after six years of work he had pages of keywords. So in astrology there is always something that will fit any client. Third, if an awkward indication cannot be overturned by another factor, standard practice allows it to be explained away as untypical, or as an unfulfilled potential, or as repressed, or as an error in the birth time, or as an outcome of the practitioner's fallibility. Or it can simply be ignored. Furthermore, as already mentioned, standard practice rests on non-astrological factors such as hidden persuaders that make astrology seem to work even when it doesn't.
In other words it is always possible to plausibly fit any chart to any person, which of course is astrology's strength as a focus for therapy by conversation, and its weakness as a source of information. Two examples of this from top astrologer Noel Tyl are given later. Another benefit is more subtle. Rosenblum notes that "clients cannot overcome difficult traits unless they fully accept the fact that they have them", yet they are generally unwilling to do so just because the psychotherapist or doctor or psychiatrist or priest says they have them.
But when the celestial identikit confronts them with "accurate generalities" that seem enshrined in their birth chart, they come to the party, especially as there is no implied physical, mental or moral weakness as with a doctor, psychiatrist or priest. The process is non-threatening. Saying that you're 'just curious' about your future is less humbling than saying that you need help" Cunningham In other words clients can understand themselves better by talking to astrologers than to psychotherapists.
The same process is described by Mivtzari as involving a "numinous third party", and by Noel Tyl as "objectification", whereby the chart puts the client's identity "on the desk top, becoming remarkably free from personal censorship, defense mechanisms, value judgement. People unwilling to accept sympathy and reassurance directly may do so if the process is suitably "objectified" even if cloaked in the mystery of an ancient system and its arcane symbols.
The above points seem like a persuasive argument in favour of astrology being a useful tool for helping therapy by conversation. But how do orthodox psychotherapists and counsellors feel about it? Orthodox views of using astrology in counselling Most but not all orthodox views of using astrology in counselling are positive.
Sun Sign Finder
Here are some examples:. Sechrest and Bryan , two psychologists, consulted 18 US astrologers who advertised mail-order marital advice. They found that the advice bore no discernible relationship to astrological principles but was always realistic, and was usually direct, clear, vigorous, personal and friendly. They concluded that the advice was not likely to be damaging and, because it was friendly and cheap, was even a great bargain. Skafte , a psychologist and counsellor, tested the effect of introducing popular astrology and palmistry and numerology into personal and vocational counselling, for example by saying "a person born under your sign is supposed to enjoy travel -- does this sound like you?
She found that: 1 This provides a focal point for discussion that often stimulates clients to talk openly about themselves. Laster , an educational psychologist and astrologer, makes the pragmatic point that the many people who believe in astrology can be reached on common grounds of faith by counselors familiar with astrology, just as Jews can be better reached by Jewish counselors than by non-Jewish ones.
But as in the previous paragraph, if astrologers tend to attract only clients already into astrology, this might be a case of the blind leading the blind. Wedow , a sociologist, made tape recordings of counselling sessions with eight astrologers to find out what happens when they make a wrong statement about the client.
She found that they gave one or more of the following explanations: Client does not know himself, astrologer is not infallible, another chart factor is responsible, manifestation is not typical. Wedow notes that such explanations make the whole process non-falsifiable, and that the participants seem to be unaware of this non-falsifiability. Hence once the session has begun, the end result can hardly fail to maintain astrology's credibility, and thus support whatever positive or negative effect it might be having.
Askren , a psychiatrist who was once skeptical of astrology but later came to use it in his practice, describes the benefits of using astrology as follows: "[Astrology provides] me with a different view of personality -- one that seems to be more congruent with the world By giving me a new set [of analogies] with which to perceive, it helps me to see things I would not see otherwise. My patients have responded -- some negatively, some positively, some gradually positively.
Perinbanayagam , a psychiatrist in Sri Lanka, found that belief in astrology and karma allowed various forms of misfortune to be understood and handled. Case studies showed how astrology and the doctrine of karma enabled a person of that culture to create a number of structures that have a therapeutic effect. Lester , a professor of psychology, visited an astrologer, talked to clients of astrologers, and surveyed astrological writings. He concluded that: 1 Astrologers play a role similar to that of psycho-therapists.
Valentine , in an anthology of innovative methods in psychotherapy, notes that the practitioner can use the birth chart as a means of reflecting and exploring the client's experience. It helps to bridge the gap between therapist and client and thus improves the psychotherapy. Noble , a therapist for women, noted that tapping into unseen, energetic and magical realms as in oracles, astrology, shamanism and collective ritual can be the source of deep healing and illumination in the therapeutic process.
Using nonrational knowledge techniques takes the pressure off the individual therapist to figure everything out and relieves the client of helplessness and despair. Mivtzari , as part of his PhD thesis, interviewed in depth four licensed psychotherapists who used astrology in their practice. All four were passionate about astrology but apprehensive of criticism.
They saw the chart as altering the therapeutic procedure by introducing a numinous third party into the relationship. They felt the chart was not just a tool but had a much deeper meaning because it brought a whole worldview and spiritual beliefs into the therapeutic process.
They felt the worldview enhanced their skills and deepened the clinical work they did with their clients. Not all professionals come away from astrology with such glowing opinions. Dr Anthony Stevens, a psychiatrist who assessed chart readings as part of Derek Parker's investigation of astrology, concluded that astrology is a delusional system comparable to organised religion and is used to impose order on private chaos.
Unlike psychiatrists, who free clients from their paranoia that events are beyond their control, astrologers reinforce it by dragging their clients into a shared paranoia,. Note how the problem raised by Stevens is due to using astrology as a source of information, which was the way it was generally used in those days. That the same is now known to be true of psychoanalysis does not negate the argument, although it does weaken the case for outlawing astrology if psychoanalysis is allowed to go free.
Once we abandon that idea and move away from chart reading to chart exploration , the problem disappears. So how can we apply what we have learnt to being a better astrologer? How to be a better astrologer By now it should be easy to see what really matters. As follows:. If you lack wisdom then hold off until it has accumulated. The more the mutual liking the better the results. Refuse clients with problems beyond your expertise. Ensure privacy. Refuse phone calls. Research indicates that, in factual terms, all astrological techniques are equally invalid.
So use whatever technique you like, simple or complex, logical or crazy, it makes no difference. The only thing that matters is that you and your clients should like it. In other words what matters is the astrologer not the astrology. All of the above points are vividly explored by Jacques Halbronn in his pithy Astrologer meets client on this website under Applied Astrology. Once his confidence has been obtained by your general attitude, astrology can gradually grow blurred, leaving you to focus on the feedback.
Soon you and your client will be closely joined in a dialogue, and astrology can mostly be ignored except as a convenient means of changing the subject. What about training in counselling? The astro-counselling session can be seen as an interplay between the client identifying problems a process helped by objectification in the chart and the therapist identifying potential solutions a process helped by the particular psychotherapy. In other words the chart helps set the stage for a psychotherapeutic encounter. Rose notes that the process usually requires several sessions, and that at least some basic counselling training is "necessary for the astrologer, for a qualification in astrology itself does not automatically imply counselling ability" p.
If the astrologer does not have this training, they need to recognise when it is needed and refer the client accordingly. Astrology does not exempt the astrologer from being responsible. In any case the rule is: Discussion, yes, advice or direction, no. Rosenblum identifies four common client problems that require proper training, namely: stuck in a negative relationship, excessive dependency on astrologer, depression, and serious psychopathology. The last is most commonly revealed by past history or by disturbed eye contact such as rigid, fixed; or staring; or darting, unsteady; or dead, unfeeling; or frightened, childlike.
The untrained astrologer should refer these cases to a qualified therapist. Rose stresses that not all astrologers "are suited to counselling Others are eminently suited to it. Each counsellor is the foundation upon which all of the information or skills ultimately rest; therefore any training begins, and continues, inside the person herself". You can read about counselling skills in books and in this article but if it isn't instinctive it doesn't work. Good counselling comes from the heart, and clients notice if it doesn't.
What matters is being a good person rather than a good astrologer. Money, money, money Astrology is no longer the low-cost alternative that it was in the s. Of course even these rates may still be half the cost of an hour with an astrologer via a psychic phoneline, but is it ethical to charge for time spent studying what is effectively nonsense?
To be fair this problem is not unique to astrology and exists throughout psychotherapy generally, see Appendix 4. For disturbing insights into astrology by phone see the first long note in Sun sign columns: Response to an armchair invitation on this website under Sun Signs. Is astrology harmful? Eysenck and Nias felt that any neurotic addiction eg to sun sign columns would be mostly harmless and unlikely to occur on a large scale.
But Culver and Ianna felt that "such massive rejection of rationality" is a sign of the deterioration of our culture and its imminent downfall. Ankerberg and Weldon devoted an entire chapter to astrology's dangers, and concluded it is harmful because it is false, it has demonic origins, it denies responsibility for human error, it can justify selfish behaviour and promiscuity, it promotes fear and helplessness, it can lead to the wrong choice of marital decisions, it leads people away from God, and in the wrong hands it can be dangerous as when astrologers play God or put their own needs first or encourage dependence which of course are problems shared by all psychotherapies.
In an article "Top scientists must fight astrology or all of us will face the consequences", philosopher Robert Crease points out that the dangers of astrological thinking should not be underestimated:. Others have documented how occult practices themselves can be harmful. For example in a survey of British schoolchildren aged found that most saw astrology as harmless fun.
But more than one-third actually believed their stars. And a minority had been led to other occult practices that ended in trauma, so for them astrology was not harmless fun Boyd Indeed, scattered across astrology books are many cases of adult clients being near-traumatised by unwise readings. Of course people can suffer just as much from parents, teachers, clergy, and lawyers, so it might be unfair to single out astrologers, especially as they are much easier to avoid.
Indeed, people can suffer even more from psychotherapists whose disdain for empirical research has long been infecting psychotherapy and is now widespread and pernicious. They have torn up families, sent innocents to prison, cost people their jobs, and promoted great harm. See Appendix 4 on pernicious psychotherapies.
Such disdain for research makes people vulnerable to whatever hysterical therapy comes along next, and is of course typical of astrologers who wear it like a badge of office. Rosenblum identifies characteristics that make bad astrologers, namely: superiority, need to be right, hunger for power, bland positivism, failure to recognise own hangups, and intruding own philosophy. Suspect these if you find yourself becoming impatient with clients, or having arguments, or avoiding certain topics, or yielding to frequent demands for extra time. Cunningham , in a chapter entitled Games astrologers play , suggests that clients "be suspicious of astrologers who advertise -- the best ones operate solely on the recommendations of their satisfied clients", and that they be wary of the guru, the power-hungry, the astro-junkie, the totally negative, the totally positive, the prurient peeping tom, and the spotlight seeker.
The above negative qualities fit a recognised disorder called the narcissistic personality disorder , characterised by grandiose ideas, self-importance, exploitiveness, fantasies of power, excessive need for admiration, lack of empathy, and patronizing arrogance Oxford Dictionary of Psychology Most astrologers are nice people with a genuine concern for others. Bourque concludes her survey with this suggestion: If you feel that irrationality can be a good thing, that demonic forces are imaginary, and that occultism is always positive, then astrology might be OK.
Otherwise the worst worries are that 1 astrology encourages do what you want rather than do what will help others , and 2 occult practices may be harmful. Of course many of the above worries arise from the use of astrology as a source of information, and will no longer apply when astrology is used as a counselling tool. Which introduces the key issue facing such use.
The key issue facing astrology as a counselling tool If astrological claims do not need to be true, they presumably need to be believed to be true. Thus even the most irrational consumer might resist using a tool of this complexity unless some underlying truth is assumed, in the same way that we would resist using English if it required us to speak in riddles.
After all, there are plenty of other self-help systems to choose from. So the key issue is a simple one: How to encourage believe in astrology if genuine cosmic correspondences are disclaimed and on which a placebo effect would presumably depend. The problem is less one for clients than it is for astrologers. Clients tend to arrive with at least some expectation of fortune telling, which has to be gently corrected by reference to the stars inclining and not compelling, to the imprecision of symbolism, and so on.
Astrologers have always had to limit their clients' expectations in this way, so more of the same should not be a problem. Clients would not need to cancel their belief in astrology because once in the consulting room it would do no harm. But astrologers do not have the same option. It is cancel belief or nothing. And this is where the problem lies.
Would admitting that astrology is little more than a placebo effectively kill it off, as happened with phrenology? If so, would astrologers have no option but to defend the opposite view to the limit? Obviously a system that requires belief in claims that need not be true leads to personal and ethical issues that astrologers have generally yet to recognise let alone deal with.
The similarity with religion is unmistakeable. Probably most astrologers, as their experience increases, learn to see the chart more as a guide than as a prescription. And some of them, as foreshadowed by Rose , do turn a blind eye to what the chart says in favour of using it strictly as a tool, a checklist of things to talk about, as Rudolf Smit does at the end of his Moment Supreme , and which Arthur Mather suggests is the only valid way ahead for astrology in his Optimum place for astrology , both on this website under Applied Astrology. Where some go, others can follow.
Part 4. Examples Chart exploration, non-astrological factors, experiential. Examples of how chart exploration works Suppose you are experiencing emotional ups and downs. The astrologer points out that your chart has Mars aspecting Venus, or the Moon in a Fire sign, or a lack of Earth, or transiting Uranus in fifth house, or any of a hundred other things, all of them indicating ups and downs and thus confirming your situation. Together you discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these factors and how any liabilities can be turned into assets, for example by avoiding situations abrasive to your sensitive Neptunian nature, or by concentrating on the fine communicative skills shown by your strong 3rd and 9th houses.
In effect your ups and downs are repacked and put into coherent order by the structure of the chart, so you see them from a new vantage point. Since you have never heard yourself explained in such a simple and appealing way, it is a revelation; you end up very satisfied with the service, which the astrologer accepts as yet more evidence that astrology works. Rose stresses that the astrologer and client should work together on the chart. Having identified a particular chart factor:. Rose gives many examples from actual counselling sessions. Jackie's Venus in Libra prompts an exploration of possible Libra-like careers.
Brian's Mars in Aries helps him understand aggression in others. Carol's Moon in Scorpio helps her explore her jealousy. Catherine's emphasis on Earth and her young son's emphasis on Fire helps her understand their relationship all from pp. And similarly for other factors such as house position, aspects, and transits. Thus the first quarter of Anna's Uranus return leads to recognition of why her attempted suicide was so transforming p. The key point is that there is no attempt to push what the factor is supposed to mean.
More than anything else, through the counsellor listening to and conversing with the client, the chart is automatically 'interpreted', for the client is speaking it, living it, being it" pp. Rose also gives examples of the danger of pushing what the chart factor is supposed to mean. For example during Jane's long period of depression, her astrologer noted how the happy lucky Grand Trine in her chart was just what the doctor ordered. But what the doctor actually ordered was "15mg Valium, 20mg Tofranol, 25mg ampitriptilyne, bed rest in hospital and a visit from the psychiatrist there"!
Valium is a tranquiliser, the other two are anti-depressants. Examples of non-chart factors that work An example of a non-chart factor is provided by Noel Tyl , who homes in on the correct interpretation by "artful use of perception and dialogue", starting with the client's body language.
The astrologer lists important topics such as parents, relationships, and employment, eg by simply explaining house meanings, and "watches for the slightest reaction from the client, spacing the topic references carefully to allow recognition and response to each by the client. He can learn from the client's slightest reaction eyes, posture, mouth, words where the strongest place to begin is. In this way "the astrologer can become extremely sure of a deduction Tyl gives another example of a non-chart factor when he points out how astrologers needn't worry about chart technique or accuracy, simply because:.
The above is consistent with what research was soon to conclude, namely that astrology does not need to be true, so its value lies in its structure and symbolism. The unsuspecting client makes the chart fit by choosing hits from a smorgasbord of ambiguity that requires the collusion of the client to become meaningful. Control hidden persuaders and the chart no longer fits. But thirty years later, instead of embracing the obvious, Tyl does a cover up.
He starts by calling chart factors "measurements", presumably to disguise their true basis in fantasy, and then piles on the obfuscation: "a minor measurement, eg an asteroid, a decile aspect, a planetary node, for example -- does not blow up to have arbitrarily large effects in the whole scheme of things, i. The straightforward message that astrology has no need to be true for the client to recognise himself in its engulfing symbolism is here buried under a smokescreen of "analytical understanding". Cold reading is only one of the many hidden persuaders that make an invalid astrology work.
Another is the Barnum effect, the reading of personal detail into vague generalities, which then appear miraculously prescient. Tyl unwittingly gives a good example of Barnum variations during an actual consultation. To Eric, a new client aged 24, after an introductory exchange, Tyl says:. To uncover hidden persuaders in this way may seem inappropriate in the light of Eric's strong emotional endorsement. After all, if short Barnums like "you have problems with money" were forbidden, normal communication might grind to a halt. Our propensity to read personal detail into vague statements is the price we pay for practical convenience.
Nevertheless it is easy to forget that, for clients, the reading can be profoundly meaningful and life-changing, which can be more important than having any specific substance. This point is further explored below under "astro-poetics". But what is a believing astrologer to do when, despite everythng, astrology goes wrong? What to do when astrology goes wrong?
Astrologer Noel Tyl tackles this problem head on, saying "We must be aware of just how far we can go with what we and our clients expect from our astrology" p. So what can be done when a chart factor refuses to manifest, so that "astrology can fall on its face" p. Tyl suggests two solutions:.
So "Astrologers must be cautious Which does not stop Tyl from devoting many pages to interpreting isolated factors such as Moon through the houses. That was in when there was still hope of factual validity. Today that hope has more or less disappeared, a point explored in the final section of Part 5. Next we look at other therapeutic uses of astrology besides exploring personal birth charts. Experiential astrology as therapy Experiential astrology or creative astrology began in the late s in both the USA and UK Jones It provides techniques for experiencing astrological symbolism directly.
For example under guidance from an astrologer the client might 1 imagine a planetary scenario, eg being a mole underground, which can then be related to their Saturn, 2 write a play in which each chart factor is an actor, 3 describe their feelings about their situation, eg they might feel like being lost at sea, which can then be related to their Saturn in Pisces, or 4 role-play a planet, eg walking in the street like Jupiter. Here the astrologer is merely a facilitator, allowing the client to stay in control, so the methods "give the recipient a sense of achievement and discovery, a sense which can percolate through into other areas of life and restore a person's sense of meaning and confidence" p.
For groups the possibilities are greatly increased. They can even try to decide an unknown birth time by having others role-play possible rising signs. Given our ability to link anything with anything else, the experiential approach can hardly fail even when the symbols are a poor fit. For example Jenkins who conducted large-scale experiential workshops for around people at a time has noted "The planet-in-sign groups reveal [occasional] anomalies such as weak and self-doubting Leos, chaotic, incompetent Virgos, shy Sagittarians and Aquarians who hate groups.
I have sat in horrific silence with twelve Gemini-Moon individuals, have noted the weak positioning of Uranus in the charts of many astrologers, and have heard some people reporting the hardness of Neptune transits, while others describe the softness of Pluto ones! All of which are contrary to what astrology predicts. Yet the result was always a reinforcement of belief, never the opposite because, as Jenkins explains, these particular images are but one of many possibilities, so failure does not invalidate the underlying theme.
Part 5. Implications for research Putting clients before astrology. Implications of chart exploration for research Given that astrology adds nothing useful to the consultation beyond placebo and other non-chart factors, as research has consistently indicated, there is a clear case for future research to abandon the pretence of genuine cosmic correspondences and to focus instead on how astrology can be improved to enhance non-chart effects.
This includes changing or multiplying symbols and their meanings in order to maximise their utility, which in effect is what innovative astrologers have always done, plus attention to known correlates such as warmth and understanding, to say nothing of wisdom. The new research would have many advantages. In particular it would meet what some astrologers see as the primary need for astrology today, namely simplicity. Thus Arroyo comments "If we want more people to understand what astrology is rather than rejecting it outright, it is incumbent upon us to develop a way of defining astrology which is ultimately simple On the other hand the new research would have to overcome a major stumbling block, namely how to encourage belief in astrology on which the accompanying placebo effect presumably depends if genuine cosmic correspondences are disclaimed.
For example Szanto stresses that both astro-counsellor and "client must believe in astrology -- otherwise there will be no real relationship which can provide the basis for treatment". Researchers have to challenge anything that suggests astrology is a source of information, and they must do so without simultaneously depriving humanity of its potential benefits. But how? Some clues are given by the US psychotherapist Dr Michael Mayer who uses just such a system, which he calls astro-poetics to emphasise that no claims of validity are made, otherwise it is the same as conventional astrology.
His views and experiences are worth describing in some detail:. Astro-poetics Mayer justifies using astro-poetics in place of astrology because claims of validity are a liability: "Rudhyar took the important first step in shifting astrology away from a chart-centered to a person-centered approach to emphasize the power of the astrological symbols themselves as a transformative language. However, he still stays tied to that aspect of the Jungian synchronistic stance which posits an actual relationship between cosmos and personality. By taking such a stance, Rudhyar and other astrological theorists have contributed to the continued unwilllingness by the greater part of the psychological community to consider using [astrological ideas]" p.
See the present Appendix 2 for more on Rudhyar's approach and its problems. Mayer explains why validity is not needed: "To say that an experimental group with the Moon in Cancer rated significantly higher than a control group on the variable of sensitivity, although providing interesting data on one level of analysis, leaves out the dimension of the person's experience of this quality.
It is this later question which is of primary interest to the psychotherapist. Following this line of interest our inquiry shall focus on how, by using a certain symbol let us say Cancer , the person experiences his or her unique way of being sensitive. Thus our interest is not in describing, diagnosing, or proving that the person is sensitive, but rather to examine the experience that occurs when astrological symbols are used" p. In other words the way in which the person sees the symbol tells the psychotherapist something about the person.
On the other hand, if astrology were actually true, the psychotherapist could know all of this plus a whole lot more, so the argument is somewhat contrived. Mayer emphasises that, like the language of novels and unlike the language of psychology textbooks, the language of astro-poetics is close to human experience. Furthermore, astro-poetics does not presuppose that the client is moulded by his past Freud or his future Adler or his stars conventional astrology. Nor does it emphasise parts at the expense of wholes, which ignores uniqueness, nor does it emphasise wholes at the expense of parts, which reduces the person to an incomprehensible blur.
Mayer argues that, as a aid to counselling for helping clients regain control of their lives which is what counselling is all about , astro-poetics can be superior to orthodox techniques. He adds that its use would be contraindicated for clients incapable of abstract reasoning, or opposed to nonrational appoaches, or overinclined to fantasy, or who have organic problems.
Problems with astro-poetics But this theoretical advantage seems unattainable in practice. Thus Mayer admits that despite his best attempts to disclaim validity, and to emphasise that the birth chart is not a source of information but merely a new way of looking at the client's situation to facilitate discussion, "some clients continue to use it in a deterministic manner", which he sees as detrimental to the client p. He then implies that astro-poetics should not be used for clients who believe in astrology as a source of information "where this potentiality seems to already pervade the client's life in a negative way" p.
He gives no estimate of how many clients this would exclude but presumably it would be many of them. Nor does he suggest a policy for clients where the potentiality is positive. Of course there may always be a tendency for clients to rationalise the logic of any therapy, so it has to be accepted as a natural hazard in astrology and allowed for. The challenge to the client is to apply the benefits of astrological viewpoints without requiring them to be true, which process has to be guided by the practitioner.
Unfortunately Mayer does not consider placebo effects or human judgement biasses hidden persuaders and their influence on the outcome. There are thus three problems with astro-poetics. But this problem is easily overcome by allowing clients to create their own birth chart, a solution not considered by Mayer, which would also bring an important new dimension to both therapy and research. But if clients create their own chart factors from a check list of cookbook meanings with underlying principles, nobody including the therapist has to learn anything.
Research could then focus on establishing the optimum wording. In principle this might lead to a system with decreasing links with astrology, but in practice the appeal of astrology which is what attracts clients in the first place might maintain the status quo. Similarly 3 the faith involved is now of a new kind, namely faith that the procedure can give useful insights rather than faith that cosmic correspondences exist.
To psychologists this is clearly a more acceptable faith, but whether it can invoke as strong a placebo effect is a matter for research. It might not invoke as strong a following. Part 6. Appendices Titles, humanistic, placebos, Samaritans, pernicious psychotherapies. Appendix 1: References plotted in the figure Astrology books with some mention of counselling. Origins Humanistic astrology originated in the United States in the s, largely as a reaction against the not-unexpected failure of the popular astrology of the day to satisfy spiritual needs.
The basic approach was formulated by Marc Edmund Jones , a Presbyterian minister and Theosophist-occultist who attempted to relate occult and philosophical ideas to chart factors. Jones's approach was extended in the s by the Theosophist-composer-poet-painter-astrologer Dane Rudhyar Rudhyar incorporated the ideas of Jungian psychology and Eastern mysticism, and called it humanistic astrology or person-centred astrology Rudhyar to distinguish it from the then more usual event-centred astrology.
Later, in the s, he was to develop transpersonal astrology to describe the illumination of normal personality by transcendant spiritual power. Humanistic astrology is "non-scientific, subjective and purely symbolic" Rudhyar It uses the same chart factors as in ordinary astrology but the aim is to provide meaning rather than anything specific Rudhyar Humanistic astrology is thus a precursor of chart exploration.
Obscurity Rudhyar has been the main driving force behind humanistic astrology via over a thousand articles and twenty-five books. Unfortunately Rudhyar's style of writing is obscure and difficult. The astrologer Dianna Cunningham comments that "Rudhyar set the standard for astropsychological linguistic impenetrability years ago, and the rest of us have struggled to live up to it ever since.
As a reminder to speak plain English, perhaps we should institute Furthermore, Rudhyar states that the very nature of his astrology denies any objective evaluation Rudhyar Nevertheless his writings imply that chart factors are a source of information. For example when he claims that Sun means will and Moon means adaptation and Jupiter means excess and Saturn means stabilize , there is no provision for these meanings to be allocated any other way, so it matters that they mean what they are said to mean, ie are a source of information in whatever context they are applied.
So for every page of his books one could ask the question: Why should anyone believe this? But nowhere are answers provided. All we have are speculations, and clearly this is not enough. The same of course also applies to conventional astrology. Rudhyar's main claims in plain English, and their problems, are as follows:.
The claims of humanistic astrology and their problems 1 Humanistic astrology deals with individual uniqueness whereas science does not. But science is not indifferent to individuals. Thus a test of learning theory is whether Johnny learns better under the conditions specified by the theory.
If not then we reject or revise it. But how does Rudhyar know that the potentialities shown in the chart are in fact correct? The answer he gives is that the issue is not whether the indication is correct but whether the individual sees it as valid. But if correctness is irrelevant, why bother with authentic charts? Rudhyar is saying that what matters is not whether our beliefs are based on fact but whether they make us feel better. But feeling better can be explained without the need for astrology.
Indeed, the symbolism chosen by Rudhyar to convey meaning is so obscure that one wonders how it could benefit anyone, even those who would normally benefit from a less-obscure astrology. Here Rudhyar uses "holistic" both in its normal sense to indicate a concern with the whole person, and to elevate astrology above criticism by claiming it is meaningless to study parts in isolation. But if individual parts don't work then the whole is not likely to work either.
After all, if it were true, then car repairs could not succeed, nor could cars be developed in the first place. Also, these days everyone claims to be holistic, leaving no advantage here for astrology. What is valid or true is just a matter of cultural belief. But this is just a confusing way of saying that people and societies differ in what they believe to be true.
The problem is to determine which beliefs are actually true. So relativism is the problem, not the solution. It implies that no one can be mistaken about their beliefs, which is absurd. What if we believe that relativism is false? Or that astrology is false? It is of course possible that some falsities become so deeply embedded that they become pseudo truths, as did belief in bloodletting. What critics are interested in is establishing which beliefs are true. The six reviewers invited by the editor Marcello Truzzi included Rudhyar, who provided a response to the issues raised.
Unfortunately Rudhyar's response , evaded the issues in various ways: by saying his approach can be understood only in terms of his entire life's work; by debating the meaning of the words fact and reality ; by invoking the error of Newtonian mechanics in the light of relativity; by denying that the scientific method can ever present us with truth; by simply begging to differ; and by successively deflecting the issue back to the irrelevance of correctness when only perceived validity is important, as if belief was sufficient to establish the truth of what is believed.
If it were then all beliefs would be equally legitimate and equally defensible.
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Furthermore the real foundation of Rudhyar's thesis, and his defense against criticism, is nontestability, even though his thesis still requires astrology to be a source of information the two points being contradictory. So the issue is not just whether Rudhyar's ideas make sense but whether anything that has no provision for eliminating error is worth having.
This criticism would of course disappear if astrology was not required to be a source of information. A placebo pronounced pla- see -bo is from the Latin "I shall please", the opening word of the Roman Catholic service Placebo Domino , I shall please the Lord. The placebo effect applies both to physical symptoms eg post-operative pain and psychological symptoms eg anxiety , and is increased for actual sufferers who need relief compared with volunteers who do not.
Two placebo pills have more effect than one, otherwise the effect of pill shape, size and colour depends on what the person likes. Overall the effect is so potent that entire books have been written about it and about the special experimental strategies needed to cope with it eg Spiro In a recent review of the social ie non-medical factors acting on the brain that influence health and well-being, but without specifically mentioning placebo effects, Ray concludes "The power that our thoughts have on the body is not magic.
The mind-body connection is supported by the very best of modern-day research, and each year we learn more and more about how this connection works. It is very clear that what one thinks and believes affects one's health, one's well-being, and even one's chances of dying. The healing rituals of shaman or witch doctor can thus involve not just the person but their entire world-view, thus creating a powerful expectation including the lethal power of spells well beyond anything a Western person might imagine.
Here perceptions and expectations are everything. The placebo effect was observed long before it was named. For example Walsh noted how, up to that time, every new scientific discovery in physics eg electricity, magnetism, x-rays physical science had been followed by attempts to apply it to the treatment of disease. These attempts became the centre of public attention and produced a feeling that another great therapeutic remedy had been discovered. Sometimes wonderful effects were noted. But later, when the novelty wore off, its suggestive power decreased and the remedy lost its therapeutic power.
Ironically it was several decades before the potency of the placebo effect was officially recognised. Only after a classic paper by Beecher on The Powerful Placebo were double-blind designs adopted as standard for evaluating drugs, a good example of a single short paper 5 pages changing the course of scientific history. By the placebo effect was the subject of nearly a thousand articles and books, with many hundreds more since then Roberts et al The placebo effect is held to be the underlying reason why any successful psychotherapy works.
Placebo effect sizes expressed as a correlation can vary from 0 to almost 1 depending on subjects and conditions Wall For mild psychological disorders not requiring hospitalisation, placebo therapy has an effect size typically approaching 0. Total studies then exceeded and may now exceed Only cognitive behaviour therapy shows evidence of effects usefully beyond common factors Erwin Interestingly, "The history of medicine is largely the history of placebos.
When subjected to scientific scrutiny, the overwhelming majority of treatments, old and new, turn out to derive their benefits from the placebo effect" Brown When something as invasive and worthless as bloodletting could be accepted for so long, we should not be surprised at the acceptance of the much less invasive but equally invalid astrology. In the Rev Chad Varah was appointed Rector of the Lord Mayor's Parish Church of St Stephen Walbrook in London, specifically to try out his idea of providing an emergency counselling service for the despairing and suicidal. The publicity attracted more clients than he could handle, who therefore had to wait in long queues, but it also attracted helpers who "engaged the clients in conversation, plied them with coffee and cigarettes, and generally made them feel at home" Varah When the waiting clients eventually came to talk with him, he found they were free of the usual exasperation at having to wait and had improved confidence in his counselling.
Many left before seeing him because the talk with a willing listener had done the trick. They didn't need him any more. This led Rev Varah to set up The Samaritans, a help service initially by phone then face to face for the despairing and suicidal that is now worldwide.
Helpers listen attentively and empathetically but without giving advice, helping callers to work out their own way of managing their problems. In short, helpers listen while people talk themselves out of trouble. A good model for chart exploration. Appendix 5. Tavris is an American social psychologist and board member of several journals of scientific clinical psychology.
Most of what she says is true also of astrologers. In the USA anyone can be a psychotherapist. No training is needed. Anyone can market an unvalidated therapy, charge whatever they like, and not be guilty of a single crime. So psychotherapists proliferate, and the work of psychological researchers tends to be invisible outside universities. Many claims promulgated by therapists are actually false, for example:. Indeed, the split is so wide that many psychologists now refer to the "scientist-practitioner gap," where "gap" is actually more like "war".
During the s and s there were three main wars repressed memories, multiple-personality disorder, day-care sex-abuse scandals , all based on the mistaken beliefs of psychotherapists, and ended only by painstaking research. But as soon as one war ends, others such as rebirthng, and restraint therapy, with no scientific validity take their place. Why the gap exists Ideally clinicians study the research findings and proceed from there.
But more and more are coming from schools where such thorough grounding does not exist, which is why the Rorschach test persists. Also, many clinicians who deal with individuals argue that empirical research which deals with people in general is irrelevant. They argue that good therapy depends on insight and experience, not on statistics and control groups. But when clinicians fail to keep up with research they are embracing ignorance, for which their clients duly pay the price. Science vs psychotherapy Two core elements are central to the scientific method but tend to be absent in the training of psychotherapists [and are always absent in the training of astrologers]: 1 A willingness to question received wisdom.
These two core elements force us to avoid fooling ourelves, especially via our strong tendency to remember hits and forget misses. Thus many psychotherapists consider only confirming cases the people they see in therapy , and not the disconfirming cases. If observations confirm X, great, if not, then the observers are incompetent.
They also tend not to be critical of what a client says does he really have a terrible mother? The job of a therapist is to help the subject make sense of her symptoms and her life, not to be a detective or fact-finder or judge or jury. The latter is for scientists trained to ask "what's the evidence? For them clinical insight and intuition are simply not good enough. It is wrong to conclude that a subject is X because they have Y without knowing what Y means for people in general. Gap is here to stay Even so, the gap seems here to stay. There are too many economic and institutional supports for it, including lip-service from the American Psychological Association.
Which is why the American Psychological Society was formed in the late s to represent scientific interests, and why every year psychologists leave the APA for the APS. But to the public, all this remains invisible. And that's the danger. Social-scientific illiteracy is widespread and pernicious. It has has torn up families, sent innocents to prison, cost people their jobs, and promoted harmful therapies. It makes people vulnerable to whatever hysterical therapy comes along next. And there will be many nexts. Part 7. References Includes a few key works on the placebo effect not cited in the text.
APA Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders. Arroyo S CRCS, pp. A new edition of Arroyo Askren EL A psychiatrist-psychologist looks at astrology. Journal of Geocosmic Research Monograph , No Baigent M Penguin Arkana, pp. Beecher HK The powerful placebo.
Journal of the American Medical Association , Although this paper is a classic, it underestimates the variability of the placebo effect with situation. Bogart G Dawn Mountain, pp. Boyd A Dangerous Obsessions: Teenagers and the Occult. Marshall Pickering, London. Bourque A Brown WA The Best Medicine. Psychology Today 30 5 , , 80, 82, September A very readable account.
Who or what can do psychotherapy: The status and challenge of nonprofessional therapies. Psychological Science 5, Clarkson P The nature and range of psychotherapy. Cowen EL Help is where you find it: Four informal helping groups. American Psychologist 37, Corinda T Thirteen Steps to Mentalism. Corinda's Magic Studio, London. Recognised as the definitive work on mental magic including cold reading.
Crease RP Top scientists must fight astrology or all of us will face the consequences. The Scientist 3 5 , , 6 March Curtis JM Elements of prognosis in psychotherapy. Psychological Reports 56, Donchess B Vulcan, Seattle WA. A companion piece to How to Cope with his Horoscope , written for men. The humorous approach to relationships. Egan G Draws on relevant psychological theories and empirical results without dwelling on any one school of psychotherapy, with many vivid examples.
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