Reading tarot cards for people in abusive or dysfunctional relationships

Most tarot readers want to help. Which is often what draws us to this work in the first place.

Much of our client works centers around helping people with their relationships. Will I get married? Will I meet someone new? Will he come back? Those types of situations.

On occasion, you’ll encounter a client who is in a toxic or abusive relationship. They may be seeking guidance on how to leave…or how to manage the relationship.
I’ve had experience with clients in situations like this and, most of the time, I’ve been able to help them…or steer them to the person who can.

In my opinion, tarot can be a helpful tool for healing but it’s not as effective as working with a licensed therapist who specializes in dysfunctional relationships and domestic abuse. That being said, there are times when a client is not comfortable with that route or they may not know where to find those resources. It’s also possible that they may be desperate and a tarot reader, astrologer or other metaphysical practitioner may be the only person they feel they can turn to.

No matter what the case may be, it’s your role as a service provider to offer a good service and that begins by creating a safe space for the client to talk. Oftentimes, people in toxic relationships are fearful about discussing their situation, especially if their family and friends have not been supportive. A tarot reading can be a calm and sacred space for them. Start by listening and allowing them to talk. Let them share their story and refrain from judgment.

You’ll need to keep an open heart and mind as you listen but also as you give advice. That means no judging, even if they decide to stay with their partner. (Trust me, that is NOT easy to do but free will means respecting other people’s choices, even if you don’t agree with it.) Do not blame, shame or guilt.

Try to stay as grounded as possible, even if you are feeling upset or angered by what you are hearing. A neutral mind is needed. If you cannot be objective, you risk projecting and that may not help the client. If you find that you are reacting to the reading, it may be best to refrain from working with them in the future.

An example: I once had a client who was in a horrible relationship with a man who would beat her and cheat on her. She would only come for a reading when they broke up to see if he would return. The cards always said yes…and he would. And then the pattern would continue. After a few of these readings, I gently asked her why she persisted with this man. “I love him and abuse is all I’ve known all my life. I’m used to it.” She almost seemed defiant. I had to stop working with her because it upset me so deeply that I knew I would not be able to offer her an objective reading. (I’m also not very good at telling people what they want to hear.)  It was simply too much for me.

I recommend that you ALWAYS refer the client to a professional. Tarot is NOT a substitute for counseling, EVER. Have a list of therapists and specialists handy and be sure to share them.

If you feel a client may be in danger, a good resource is The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).  

Be mindful about the advice you give. Remember – you are not a counselor.  (Sometimes they may not want to hear your well-meaning advice anyway.)

Be honest about what you see in the cards. If you see something bad, it’s important not to lie but it’s also equally important that you look for solutions. Follow up questions that are strategy oriented can help.

Find good questions that empower the client. Questions such as “will he change?” are rarely helpful. Instead “what can I do to protect myself in this situation” or “what can we do to heal our relationship” are better because the client will get information that may show them steps they can take to move towards a healthier path. (Sometimes you may try to steer a client in this direction but they may still be fixated on getting the partner to change. You’ll need to explain that they cannot change another person – only that person has the power to change themselves.)

Client confidentiality is a MUST. That means, you do not discuss their reading with anyone. If their friends or spouse come in and want to know what was said in the reading, you remain mum.

On occasion, you may have both parties seated in front of you. This is uncommon but it does happen. Should you find yourself in this scenario, you’ll need to be as grounded as possible. Choose your words carefully but always remain focused on being compassionate. That means for both parties – even if you perceive one person is the “bad guy”. (Trust me, this is not easy. My suggestion: avoid this at all costs if possible. You’ll be better able to be objective without two anxious people sitting at the table.)

If the client wants to bring in the partner in the hope that you’ll “change them”, say no.  This will only put you in an awkward position and it’s also likely that you won’t be objective anyways.  Suggest that the other person get their own reader.

Do prepare yourself for the rare situation where the client may take the information in the reading back to their spouse and use it as a way to try to manipulate the partner with “that tarot reader said you’re a terrible person and you better change or I should leave you.” This could enrage the partner and suddenly, they want to attack you for “ruining their relationship.” If they are mad enough, they may even threaten you or show up at your office looking to start trouble. I call this “getting Hilary Swanked” after a scene exactly like that from the movie “The Gift” where an abused girlfriend played by Hilary Swank gets a psychic reading about her twisted relationship and goes back to the partner and tells him what was said. The dude goes on a bender and then shows up at the psychic’s house and tries to physically attack her. If an abusive partner thinks that you are somehow interfering in their relationship, this CAN happen. And yes, I’ve experienced this.

If that scenario does occur, you’ll need to make sure that you have safety measures in place. Screen any clients that you don’t know carefully or refuse to see people in person if need be. Do not give out your address or list it publicly if you work out of your home. (My clients are thoroughly screened and I only read in person at my office when my husband is around.) If you work in an outside office, you may want to have a security camera installed as well as buzzer to let people in. If you work in a metaphysical shop that offers walk-in clients, you may want to alert the owner to the problem so that they can create safety policies to protect you and the other readers that work there. If you are the person running a metaphysical establishment, be sure to have security measures in place to protect your staff from these types of situations.

If your client “Hilary Swanks” you, you may also have to refuse to read for them (and any people connected to them) in the future. Even if you want to help, you do not want to be in the middle of a dangerous shit show. This may feel harsh, but your safety is important too. You’re not a fall guy and should never be put in that role.

Bear in mind that you can help but you cannot rescue anyone. Your job is to offer support but it’s their job to make a decision to stay or leave.

Do your work, be compassionate, point them to the right professional help…and then bless them and let it go.

“It’s never pretty when you leave an abusive and controlling relationship. The warden always protests when the prison gets shut-down.” ~ Steve Maraboli


Help for people in toxic or abusive relationships:

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Love Is Respect

Can I Stop Being Abusive?

Beverly Engel, LMFT, psychotherapist

Lundy Bancroft, Prevention, Response, and Healing for Domestic Abuse and Child Maltreatment

Recommended reading if you are in an abusive or toxic relationship:

Should I Stay or Should I Go?: A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can–and Should–be Saved by Lundy Bancroft

The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing by Beverly Engel

© Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2015

image from stock photography

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