A Piece of My Mind: A Reader's Ethics

By Jeanne Fiorini

Let’s follow up on some of the thoughts from last month’s self-examination query for Tarot Readers with a look at some of the ethical issues involved in providing readings for others. These issues have no doubt been brought to light at other times on the ATA site, but the concepts bear repeated attention and assessment during a reader’s term at the table.

We’ll start with some hard and fast practical matters, a few building blocks to have in place before you find yourself sitting in the Reader’s position:

  • How will you keep track of time?
  • How many hours out of each day and in what circumstances are you available to do readings?
  • Are there some questions you refuse to address in a reading?
  • Are there some people for whom you do not want to read?

I imagine that some of you are smiling right about now. How many of you have been contacted by a frantic client who needs you to put down your paintbrush and tend – immediately - to their crisis? “But it will only take a minute…” Or how about the client who booked a one-hour appointment and 90 minutes later, as you’re sidling toward the door, is still providing details about a broken relationship? As with any job, time management skills are very useful; as a Reader, to have dexterity with them helps keep your clients on track and prevents you from feeling excessively drained.

How about knowing when to say “no”? “No, I’m uncomfortable looking into your ex’s new relationship.” “No, I don’t want to look at something that far into the future.” “No, it isn’t useful to ask why she left you 10 years ago.” Or simply, “No, I don’t want to address that question.” As was stated in February’s column Trick Questions, you always have the right to invoke Chapter 12/Paragraph 17/Lines 3-4 of the Reader’s Rights and Responsibilities Code: Right of the reader at any given moment to refuse a particular line of questioning. This item also supports the refusal of services to any one particular person for any number of non-specified reasons.

If you’re lucky enough to have a broad base of returning clients, over time you’ll be able to teach them your “rules of engagement”: when it’s okay (and not okay) for them to call you, the minimum and maximum amount of time you will spend with them, how soon they can expect to be getting an appointment, etc. Your practice will run much more smoothly if you’re prepared to carve out parameters that work for you. As for those folks for whom you simply do not want to read, you’ll have to trust your own guts on that one. But don’t forget that you have the inalienable right to choose.

Let’s move on to money, fees, and professional compensation, a topic very likely to become a sticky wicket when people provide any kind of spiritual work for others. Here are a few questions to roll around in your mind:

  • Are you charging money for your sessions? Why or why not?
  • What are your qualifications as the Reader?
  • How do you - or don't you - "prepare yourself" to do a reading?
  • Do you think it's appropriate to make money on a spiritual pursuit?
  • What is the right amount to charge for your services?
  • What conditions justify your fee?

Spiritual work and money: never the twain shall meet? How valuable is your time? Are clients paying for your information, your learning, your wisdom, or your time…or all the above? Some of these questions may be answered by whether your Tarot practice is your livelihood or a sideline, and by your financial situation aside from your practice. Keep in mind, however, that everyone likes Tarot when it’s free, and that people will pay for what they value.

By now it’s abundantly clear that good boundaries are essential for an effective Tarot practice. Taking care of yourself so that you can better take care of others, not allowing clients to paint you into corners in which you do not wish to sit, defining what you will hold responsibility for and what you will not, honoring yourself and your work in equal measure to what you expect to receive from others: being a Reader entails so much more than having memorized card meanings! 

Being a Reader means that you’re willing to share yourself with others, melding your energies for a time in order to bring something new into consciousness. It’s about empathy, compassion, intuition, and something unseen. It’s about moving out of your own life and into someone else’s, and while this is an honor and a responsibility, you don’t have to do anything while working in their realm that you wouldn’t want to do while in your own.

A few final thoughts for Readers, in regard to reader/client privilege and privacy:

  • Are you conscious of confidentiality, both during and after a session?
  • Are there some things you are obliged to keep to yourself, no matter what?
  • Are you required to report to the client everything you see in the cards, or are some things better left unspoken?
  • How willing are you to be absolutely honest, and is that necessarily always a good thing?
  • Under what circumstances, if any, is it alright to NOT tell the truth?
  • What constitutes The Truth?

There are no simple or pat answers to these questions. But here’s a question which can help you clarify your own personal answers to the queries presented here: What is the single most important thing you want a client to take away from a reading with you? If you can answer that one, you’ll be able to figure out the rest.   

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Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2009

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