Tarot cards: an investigation of their benefit as a tool for self reflection




Hofer, Gigi Michelle

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The purpose of this study was to investigate the way in which regular users of Tarot cards employ the cards and the focus was on the participants', or co-researchers', use of Tarot for self-reflection rather than for divination. Although Tarot cards have been in existence for at least 700 years (Beal, 1975; Cavendish, 1975) and there are over 1000 different Tarot decks, and the related oracle decks, in existence (Aeclectic Tarot, 2009) there is a paucity of academic research on Tarot use (Crocker, 2004). Studies that have been done on Tarot have focused on its effectiveness as a divination tool (Blackmore, 1983) and the susceptibility of individuals to the Barnum effect (Glick, 1989; Ivtzan, 2007). A few studies have looked at psychological correlates of Tarot use (Crocker, 2004; Sjoberg, 2002) and have offered general descriptions of its use in a therapeutic setting (Coulter, 2004; Kopp, 1984). Research has not investigated the way in which Tarot is being used, nor has it given detailed descriptions of its potential usage in therapy sessions. This study sought to investigate the way in which Tarot is being used and based on the results, outline clear and concrete ways in which Tarot can be employed in therapeutic sessions. This study adopted a postmodern approach to the pursuit of knowledge, such that knowledge was viewed as a social and linguistic construction. The methodology employed was qualitative in nature and the general research design was heuristic (Moustakas, 1990). Interviews were conducted with four female co-researchers who used Tarot cards regularly and in a self-reflective manner. The interviews were transcribed and common qualities and themes that existed between them were extracted. The results indicated that the co-researchers use Tarot as a way to gain insight into current situations and possible action plans. The cards were used most often in difficult times, at which point, they offered comfort. This comfort involved confirmation that things were ok and that life was not without order. Tarot was also used as positive reinforcement for what the co-researchers were seeking in life and cards were drawn both intentionally, such as in positive reinforcement activities, and at random, in instances when novel insights were sought. The co-researchers sometimes pulled one card, a few cards, and sometimes used an entire spread. Just as different Tarot decks were used for different purposes, so different Tarot spreads were used in different circumstances. The nature of the co-researchers’ use of Tarot supports the utilization of Tarot in a therapeutic context and this study explored various ways in which this can be done, including as a means of acquiring new perspectives and of identifying wishes or goals.



Counseling, Tarot Cards