Therapeutic Astrology(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Therapeutic astrology, or “astrotherapy,” can be defined as the application of astrology to psychotherapy. More specifically, it is the attempt to integrate astrological principles with psychological concepts and practices, particularly as these relate to working with clients on an ongoing basis. As clinical psychology is concerned with the examination and treatment of patients, therapeutic astrology would be any form of treatment utilizing astrological precepts for the purpose of treating emotional and behavioral problems, removing or modifying existing symptoms, and promoting positive personality growth and fulfillment.
Just as there are many forms of psychotherapy, there are many forms of astrotherapy as well. Efforts have been made to integrate astrology with humanistic, Jungian, psychoanalytic, gestalt, psychosynthesis, object relations, and transpersonal therapies. There is, in short, no single form of astrotherapy. It is rather a general tool for fostering empathic understanding of the client’s internal world.
Like an X ray of consciousness, a birth chart reveals the mental and emotional processes that constitute psychic structure. It assists the therapist in understanding the intrapsychic dynamics that underlay the presenting problem and so enables the therapist to better support the client’s efforts at changing emotional, cognitive, and behavioral patterns. Because the language of astrology is symbolic, and thus without restricted meanings for its component variables, it can be translated into almost any psychological model or type of therapy.
Astrology as a Diagnostic Tool
In its application to psychotherapy, astrology is primarily used as a diagnostic tool rather than as a form of treatment. Because every chart is unique, astrology functions as a diagnostic assessment device of unparalleled richness. Many therapists are beginning to use astrology as a diagnostic tool because of the advantages it presents over traditional psychological tests. Since it is based on an external frame of reference, the chart offers a character portrait that is entirely independent of test responses as occur on traditional psychological questionnaires, thus eliminating any possibility of response bias by subjects who might unconsciously wish to manipulate their scores. Whereas most diagnostic tests provide a flat, static profile based on a quantitative assessment of various personality attributes, astrology presents a qualitative assessment of psychic structure based on psychological processes in interaction (i.e., conscious and unconscious dynamics, areas of repression and conflict, pathways of sublimation, projection, and the like). Thus, the horoscope more closely approximates the psychic geography that therapist and client are exploring.
Because it is based on external referents that are observable and predictable, therapeutic astrology provides an objective reference point to balance the subjectivity of the therapeutic process. Whereas traditional tests are restricted to linear measurements that fragment the personality into a multitude of traits, motives, needs, factors, and scales, a horoscope depicts personality as the overall pattern of behaviors resulting from the unique organization of its underlying variables. Here, again, it is superior to devices that are limited to measuring parts of the personality because such assessments cannot offer an integrative picture of the whole person.
The dysfunctional extremes of zodiacal signs can be precisely correlated to some of the major diagnostic categories of traditional psychology. Generally, however, astrology does not reduce people down to preformed categories with pathological diagnoses. Rather, a chart enlarges one’s sense of identity and creates a sense of possibility. Astrology suggests that the individual is not merely a consequence of multiple impinging factors, such as genetics or environmental conditions, but is a mirror of the living universe. The hermetic doctrine of the macrocosm and the microcosm provides the philosophical foundation of astrology and is a counterpart to the modern philosophy of holism. In this view, the psyche is not merely a whole for itself but is also a part of the greater whole that reflects it. Psyche is isomorphic with cosmos. This explains, in part, why human beings are capable of evolving toward communion with the source of individual existence.
Not only does astrology present a comprehensive portrait of the psyche in all its rich complexity, it is also capable of looking backwards into the past or projecting forwards into the future. Astrology is a diagnostic time machine that allows the therapist to gain access to psychological events that span the period from birth to death. For example, by examining the transits and progressions for any year of the life the astrologer is able to discern clues to traumatic events that might have occurred in early childhood, or project into the future and target periods when the individual is liable to face new crises. Such projections do not just predict a generic crisis, but a crisis of a specific type and duration. A chart assists the therapist in both diagnosis and prognosis, for where it symbolizes inborn conflicts, complexes, and areas of repression, it also points to latent potentials and areas (and times) of probable growth. In effect, the chart can be seen as a symbolic map of the process of self-actualization.
An astrological chart has one further advantage over traditional diagnostic schemes. While every assessment device is capable of describing the personality of its subject, traditional tests do nothing to illuminate the specific types of objects that the individual is likely to encounter. In astrology, however, each symbol of the chart is a corollary to both an intrapsychic process and an environmental condition. This means that a chart presents a portrait not simply of the individual, but of the individual in dynamic relation to an environment. Because subject and object define one another, the environment is seen as a reflection of the psyche to which it adheres. The advantage of such a conception is that it shows how interpersonal problems are precisely mirrored in intrapsychic structures. Astrological indications of interpersonal problems are not of a general type, but of highly specialized relations with potential marriage partners, children, authority figures, financial institutions, religious organizations, friends, employers and employees, and just about any other type of relation.
Basic Needs and Psychopathology
The application of astrology to therapeutic practice can take many and varied forms. Whatever method one employs, however, an immediate advantage of astrology is that it provides a clear framework for understanding a client’s needs. Each sign of the zodiac represents a fundamental human need or motivational drive. While all 12 signs are operative in consciousness, constituting the archetypal structure of the psyche, the signs the planets occupy show those needs that are going to be highlighted in the personality. The overall network of planetary aspects symbolizes cognitive structure—that relatively enduring organization of ideas, attitudes, and expectancies by which the individual interprets his world and directs his behavior.
If, for example, a person’s Sun squares Neptune, the underlying needs that these planets rule are in conflict (square aspect). The need for validation (Leo) and the capacity for creative self-expression (Sun) are in conflict with the need to surrender ego in selfless service to the whole (Pisces/Neptune). This conflict will emerge into consciousness as a particular way of thinking, perceiving, and behaving. That is, the person may not believe that he or she deserves recognition; that others are perceived as more important, or disinterested, or invalidating; or that there can be an expectation that one will not be acknowledged or appreciated. On a behavioral level, the will is weakened, intentions are unclear, and there is likely to be a tendency toward self-sacrifice, self-sabotage, or self-delusion. The individual may likewise be deceptive with others. Duplicity or fraudulent behavior is a central feature of “the false self’ that is characteristic of a Narcissistic personality disorder (i.e., the individual may overcompensate for his perceived deficiencies by developing a behavioral style that seems to say, “I’m special, wonderful, perfect, and superior while you [all other people] are nothing.”) The signs that the planets occupy show the particular way this process is likely to unfold.
The point here is that beliefs are cognitive structures that emerge out of the relative integration of underlying needs, while behavior is the observable expression of these internal structures. By examining the client’s birth chart, the astrotherapist is able to gain insight into the core ideas that underlie the presenting problem. Psychopathology can be seen as a product of grim, unconscious, pathogenic beliefs that result from a lack of integration of basic needs. These negative or false beliefs predict that the individual will hurt himself and/or others by his attempts to satisfy specific needs. Invariably, false beliefs are rooted in painful childhood relationships that offer the first, and thus prototypical, relational experiences that will later be recreated in adult life. These early formative experiences are the exteriorization of intrapsychic patterns that are symbolized by the birth chart. In other words, the pathogenic beliefs that develop in response to painful childhood experiences are symbolized by certain planetary configurations.
Therapeutic astrology, or astrotherapy, is the application of astrological concepts to clinical practice. It presents a complex, multidimensional theory of behavior that depicts the psyche as a hierarchical structure comprised of archetypal needs, cognitive structures, emergent thoughts and behaviors, and corresponding events. It is also a powerful and flexible assessment device that allows the practitioner to discern clues to the formative experiences of childhood, gain insight into the meaning of current events, and target periods of future growth. Unlike traditional, event-oriented astrology, astrotherapy is not concerned with superficial trait descriptions or the prediction of future events. Rather, astrology is used to foster empathy for the client’s internal world and thereby enhance the therapist’s ability to effectively treat psychological problems, modify or remove existing symptoms, and promote positive personality growth and fulfillment. A birth chart accelerates the assessment phase of therapy by assisting in the formation of hypotheses regarding the patient’s psychopathology. As a diagnostic tool, it provides objective information that may confirm, disconfirm, augment, or alter the therapist’s subjective perceptions of intrapsychic structure.
—Glenn Perry, Ph.D.