The healing intersection between astrology and psychology
Turning to your birth chart can help you to understand your sensitivity to certain personal dynamics in the world, such as family patterns and romantic interactions.
Where did our relationship with our psyche begin?
Humans have turned to healers since the dawn of time, and not only for physical ailments. Shamans and spiritual leaders provided mental and emotional support, acting as a guide or mediator to higher wisdom. Listening intently as people attempted to find meaning to their lives, seeking hope, comfort and direction in the universal and divine.
Ancient Greek, Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern scholars believed the mind directed our emotions and behaviour, along some aspects of physical health. Psychology is derived from the word psyche; Greek for “the human soul, mind, or spirit”. Plato used the idea of the psyche to describe human drives, thinking and behaviour. Aristotle’s Para Psyche and its tenants on human reasoning still influence modern psychologists today. In those ancient times, the mind and the soul were believed to be interlinked, part of a greater whole, and that this ability to reason shows humans have a unique connection to universal forces.
It’s only since the recent scientific Age of Reason that spirit and soul were removed from the equation and the study of the psyche became a science devoted to the mind and behaviour alone. As psychology strove to be accepted by the scientific community, it put aside the intangible heart and spirit in favour of the logical systems that can easily measure client progress and development.
Astrology: Bringing the magic back into psychotherapy
Psychotherapist Scott Miller recently posed a theory that “psychotherapy lost its magick” as a possible reason why the profession has been in global decline for the last few decades. Psychology came into its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, and while everyone seemed to have a therapist in the 80s and 90s, in the new millennia, clients seek meaning and purpose that go beyond the psychoanalytic approach. As the Western world has gradually shifted from organised religion, the current trend has moved toward understanding how to bring purpose and meaning to our lives, beyond our physical body alone. Humans are stretching towards the Universe again. This is where astrology offers a bridge; where we can bring the soul back into psychology.
The symbolic richness of the astrological landscape is fertile ground for self-exploration and acceptance. Carl Jung, one of the founders of modern psychology, easily adopted astrology into his theory of the human mind and how we access, experience and integrate unconscious material into awareness. He described it like mythology, a way to explore themes in client’s lives that seem intimately unique and yet link with the overarching experience of what it means to be human.
Turning to your birth chart can help you to understand your sensitivity to certain personal dynamics in the world, such as family patterns and romantic interactions. It can also describe attachment styles and relationship attitudes. Astrology can help clients more readily access their unconscious, rather than simply opening up to a therapist. The therapist needs to be very careful of labelling and using a “one-size-fits-all” approach. When astrology initiates the conversation, deeper explorations, self-insight, understanding and compassion can bloom more easily.
The gift of self-understanding
When used as a healing tool, astrology can help unravel the mystery of who you are and what your purpose is. It’s hard to describe the potency of an aha moment, when you realise you can stop trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and accept yourself as you are. Astrologers know this power, and psychology is starting too as well. Therapists don’t need to study astrology, but if it’s a client’s way of relating to the world, then looking through a zodiacal lens can support acceptance and understanding — key tenants of therapeutic healing.
The gift for someone with a Leo ascendant may be to accept their fiery nature and urges towards generosity as part of their astrological DNA, learning not to dull their light to meet others’ expectations. Or, for a Scorpio moon to accept the intensity of their emotional life, understand their need for privacy, while discovering the richness their emotional landscape can offer.
I had a Gemini-moon client who, as a child, loved collecting small and random objects, which she’d adorn her room with. Shells, flowers, free postcards; it didn’t matter. As long as it sparked her curiosity she would collect them, and they became her most precious possessions. However, her mother hated mess and chaos. She would chastise her child, regularly forcing her to throw out her collection, which was heartbreaking for this child. As an adult, understanding that curiosity and collecting is a natural part of how she feels comfortable gave her the permission to let a little chaos in and start her beloved practice of collecting things again. A story like this may not naturally come to the surface in a therapy session, but with astrology as a tool, it became a simple way to for her to feel seen and be reminded of a comforting, nurturing ritual.
Going deeper with therapeutic styles
When astrology is paired with therapy, it provides a pathway to get underneath these drives and impulses and grapple with the shadow side. For the Leo-ascendant client, it may be examining what drives dramatic impulses and exploring past events that made a lack of self-confidence a major theme in their lives. With the Scorpio-moon client, a therapist has a framework to explore why control equals safety for them and how events in the past now make vulnerability feel like a death sentence. For a Pisces-sun client, examining the reasons why they give so generously to others and how exploring their sense of self can strengthen emotional boundaries. Each time, the symbolism and themes are there, but the personal lived experience will vary greatly. The sweet spot between the two is where we always need to land.
Astrology also gives therapists avenues to access emotions or thinking that may feel shameful to clients, making them reluctant to raise the subject. Personally, I have a healing journey with anger, symbolised by a strong Mars signature in my birth chart. I tend to attract clients with a similar journey. Some clients have been told they are too strong or confident early in their lives and tried to hide their assertive nature, only to have it resurface in uncontrollable ways. Others have looked in the mirror of the people-pleasing culture they inhabit and assumed there is something wrong with them. Others have lived through violence in childhood and only know unhealthy ways of expressing anger. Simply normalising anger offers enormous healing. It encourages listening to their anger signals earlier. Gaining basic knowledge about anger’s role in forming identity and establishing healthy boundaries becomes a game changer for someone who has ignored or buried their anger signals their whole life.
It’s a two-way street
Psychology offers astrology much in return. Astrologers know when you’re in the business of prediction it’s all wonderful when forecasting hope and opportunity ahead. But, if challenges are likely or loss is warned, it can be tempting to either go cold and clinical with the facts or sugar-coat everything with false positivity for fear of scaring the client. It’s actually the road in between that supports our clients to make the most of the reality they are facing — as we walk beside them part of the way, pointing out tools and signposts so they continue their journey with grace and trust. Working with some basic counselling tools makes this process more enriching for both the client and astrologer. The client is able to trust the astrologer more, believing in their own resilience when the astrologer delivers the news in an empathetic and honest way.
Active listening is one such skill; listening deeply, holding eye contact and encouraging dialogue with gentle nods of the head. Just being heard is hugely healing for many and when the client’s story is woven into the astrological understanding it’s magic for both parties.
Providing a non-judgemental space is essential. As my grandmother used to say, “There is more than one way to knit a sweater”. This applies to the way each person lives out their lives. Astrologers are generally a curious group of people, always wondering how energies will play out. This curiosity requires tempering with empathy, warmth and genuine regard for the people in front of them, so it doesn’t feel like a clinical situation.
Therapy styles suitable for your Moon element
If psychology deals primarily in the unconscious, then your moon is the place to look for healing. In an individual session with an astrologer, you would be told about the sign and phase of your natal moon, plus any planetary aspects that modify it. For the sake of this article, you can look at the element your moon is in to see which modalities of therapy may be most comfortable for you.
It is important to note that research has repeatedly shown that the particular model a therapist uses doesn’t matter as much as the relationship between therapist and client itself, which is where healing lies. Therapists generally work with certain styles or techniques that suit them. Finding a suitable style for you can be an indicator of the type of therapist you’d be drawn towards. Try this as a guide to finding the right therapeutic relationship for you.
Moon in Fire signs (Aries, Leo and Sagittarius) desire active expression, therefore Expressive Arts Therapy could work well for you. Art, dance, music, drama, even psychodrama, all offer options to explore your inner world through external creative expression. The main point here is to focus on the process of creation instead of the final product. Fire also craves purpose and meaning, so Jungian Analysis or Existential Therapy styles may help you find meaning, explore your purpose or hold bigger questions in mind — especially for Sagittarius. You may also enjoy Gestalt therapy and it’s actively moving techniques, such as role playing and acting out scenarios.
For the moon in Earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) more grounded and practical approaches suit you best, as you prefer to work with an outcome in mind. Talking for hours isn’t your style as you want to find solutions and get on with life. Solution Focused Brief Therapy and its goal-setting approach would sit well with you. You tend to access your emotions through your body. This is where the newer Somatic Therapy modalities can work for you, helping to explore your inner world through your physiological reactions.
Air-sign moons (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) will love cognitive, talk-based therapies like Psychodynamic Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). The way ACT blends mindfulness skills with the practice of self-acceptance brings you into the present moment and encourages committing to action steps to practically solve issues in your life. Air moons tend to stay in their heads to avoid deeper emotions. A good way to bypass these defence mechanisms is using Somatic Therapy to process emotions though your body.
Water moons (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) feel more comfortable in the emotive realms, though it would be an overreach to say you can access your feelings easily — especially for private Scorpios. Empathy and compassion are top of your list for feeling comfortable, so the Humanistic Therapy approaches suit you well. Person-Centred Counselling, Gestalt Therapy and Existential Therapy all fit the bill. Jungian Analysis may be your cup of tea if you prefer exploring your instincts though archetypes, symbolism, dreams and spiritual understandings — including astrology! If you find your emotions overwhelming, you may need to tap into your body as a container for your emotions, for which Somatic Therapy is beneficial.