Creative Connections & Client Communications
Counseling Insights, Feb 28, 2007A Psychotherapist’s Way with AstrologyBy guest astrologer Teri Freeman
Teri Freeman is a psychotherapist in private practice in Arlington Massachusetts, working with individuals, couples and groups, for the past 25 years. Since childhood, her passion for understanding the human experience has included exploration in the mystical, esoteric, transpersonal and astrological realms. She is most inspired when the territories of therapy and astrology integrate and add to the richness of personal transformation; firstname.lastname@example.org. Teri is a student in Noel Tyl’s Masters Degree Certification Course, and also studies astrology with Monica Dimino.
“Therapy is a process of changing awareness and behavior. The sine qua non of the creative process is change: The transformation of one form to another, of a symbol into an insight, of a gesture into a new set of behaviors, of a dream into dramatic enactment. Thus creativity and psychotherapy are interconnected at a fundamental level: transformation, metamorphosis, change.” --Joseph Zinker, Creative Process in Gestalt Therapy, First Vintage Books, 1978
Therapists and astrologers have a lot in common. We share an interest in helping people know more about themselves; we want our clients to feel more empowered, more hopeful about their lives.
The best examples of good therapy and good astrology are those experiences that have honored peoples’ strengths and have communicated respect for the challenges in the life that may have contributed to pain and suffering. Each discipline works to increase the client’s awareness of individual potential, of discovering and developing new ways to make their life more satisfying.
This interest in the human condition, this process of engagement with the unfolding complexities of life, this adventure in focusing and learning about how
to ease the knot of human suffering and bring greater awareness, hope, possibility, and on a really good day, inspiration---this is the passion of my life. And I am most fortunate that I have a richly textured roadmap informed by both gestalt therapy and astrology to enliven and guide me and my clients through our journey of metamorphosis.
What is this interplay between therapy and astrology that gets my juices flowing and energy buzzing? How does my training as a gestalt therapist inform and affect my work as an astrologer, and how does my education as an astrologer affect my ability to be an effective herapist? From the most practical, down-to-earth, psychodynamic insight, to the more metaphysical and karmic perspective, astrology’s symbols and cycles are an intrinsic part of my worldview, polishing the lens through which I perceive and make meaning. Organizing Experience, Meaning, and Diagnosis
One way that clinicians –both medical and mental health-- seek to understand suffering is to observe patterns over time and organize these patterns into a diagnosis that reflects psychological, social and biological factors. The
nomenclature of diagnoses relies on our contrasting models of dysfunction to models of health.
Therapists who view life experience through a humanistic lens, rather than a pathological lens, are often ambivalent about relying heavily on diagnoses; there
is a reluctance to view suffering and our related coping and adaptation styles through a construct of pathology. Inherently, this can imply that the patterns of the past are doomed to be repeated in the future. Additionally, relying on a prescribed constellation of symptoms and patterns can divert the clinician’s mind and perceptual field from learning about the actual experience of the client, which also includes observing the abundance of phenomenological information in the present moment.
Practicing an existentially based therapy, my orientation is to pay attention to the information unfolding in the present moment. I am concerned with the nature and structure of perceptual awareness—my client’s, and my own. So while I hold the “facts” of the life history and experiences, I am also attending to and learning from the information expressed non-verbally. The information that is beyond the content, such as the body language, volume, intensity and pace of speech, the changes in expression, breathing, musculature, the intensity and shifts in energy are as important as the content and themes.
“Diagnosis is first and foremost a descriptive statement that articulates what is being noticed in the moment. Yet it also means going beyond the moment, implying a pattern as well as a prediction, no matter how minimal…Thus to diagnose is to attempt to enlarge the picture, to move from what is observable to what is difficult to notice. It includes a schema not only of what is to be noticed, but how it is observed.” J. Melnick and S. Nevis, “The Struggle For A Meaningful Paradigm” (page 58) in Gestalt Therapy: Perspectives and Applications, Edited by E. Nevis, Gestalt Institute of Cleveland Press.Astrology as A Meaningful Diagnostic Paradigm In Therapy
When I am able to include in my work the richness of information provided by the horoscope, I can hear the horoscope come alive as it is reflected by what the client expresses. As well, I have the ability to see the suggestions of experiences, responses and patterns in the client’s life that have yet to be explored. (“Suggestions” is emphasized, because projections from the
consultant, whatever the source, must be corroborated within the context of the client’s experience.)
When the client has expressed an interest that the horoscope be included in the therapeutic process, then the data in the chart is included as a means of homing in on issues, increasing the client’s awareness and identifying
strategies for change. (This might involve identifying debilitating cognitive patterns involving aspects and house rulerships of Mercury, which are related to identity and relationship patterns involving the early home life: planets, aspects and rulerships of Houses 1, 4, 7 and 10.)
An example of the horoscope illuminating an emotional pattern might be reflected by a Water Grand Trine involving the Moon in Scorpio, suggesting a closed circuit of emotional self-sufficiency; a set of defensive emotional patterns evolving out of early circumstances in which there was not enough emotional support. Perhaps that Moon is in the 8th House, squared by Neptune: helping others with their visions gives meaning to the life, i.e., assisting others with their resources, and as well providing a means for connection, which serves to loosen defensive behaviors that might impede acquiring support.
The state of Saturn in the chart as well as the Moon’s Nodes are anatomical bones that provide much insight and illumination to repeating themes.
If the client has not expressed an interest in astrological perspectives, and I have the birth date only (no birth time), I hold the archetypes of the planets,
signs, aspect structures, and the Moon’s nodes in my mind; I reflect on this information and make creative connections and related interventions the same
way as I hold and utilize other information about the client that I have learned.
In this way, I am moving between and attending to both what is observed in the therapy (from my client and the interaction between us) and as well, what is unseen (information contained in the horoscope). The art, of course, is in how the information from the client and the information in the horoscope are integrated and creatively woven together for insight and intervention. It is this dynamic interaction among the client’s experience, my experience and skills as a therapist, and the rich territory of the horoscope that we, together, weave into a
rich tapestry of personal growth.
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Next Update: March 31, 2007