How to Deal with Client-Reader Attachment

A Tarot reading is not psychotherapy but sometimes a reading goes just as deep as a counselling session. It therefore follows that, even when readings take place through the ether, clients can form attachments to their readers. This can, in turn, lead to unrealistic expectations of what role the reader should play in the life of the client.

The best defense against client-reader attachment is prevention. A couple of things that you can do to prevent forming an attachment with clients are:

  • Be very clear about what you are selling.
  • Treat clients professionally at every turn, being careful to not befriend the ones you feel greater affinity with. (Yes, attachment can work both ways!)
  • If you are doing Skype readings, don’t go over the allotted time.
  • If you are doing email readings, don’t get involved in an exchange with the client after the reading, other than to answer direct questions about the reading and/or to thank them for feedback.
  • Make sure that frequent readings are mentioned as off-limits in your Terms & Conditions.

Things/phrases to look out for that serve as a red flag for client attachment:

  • The client tells you that nobody else gets them the way you do
  • ‘Worshipful’ praise of your work
  • They tell you they feel close to you
  • They tell you that you share a special bond or past life relationship
  • Asking for another reading within a few days
  • They refer to you as a ‘guru’ or ask you to become their teacher even though you are not offering to teach as part of your professional services
  • They suggest/advise/seek to micromanage the direction you should take with your work (though you haven’t asked for their help). This is blatant emotional manipulation and usually starts after the initial professional boundary has been breached. When this happens, it is wise to examine how you have somehow been complicit in the breach

The reason for a strong instant attachment is natural. You are intuitive, empathic and able to pierce the veil with the help of the Tarot. This allows you to see what is happening below the surface in someone’s life. Funnily enough, this can have quite the opposite effect on some people – some run a mile because they wish to maintain their mask. When you do readings both online and in real life, and have had to deal with people falling off the face of the earth after a reading because they were freaked out by it, it can be tempting to latch on to the clients who praise you.

In my experience, the clients who are quick to form attachments have often been feeling as if nobody who is close to them in real life truly sees them. Sometimes they have a weak sense of self and the fact that you are boosting their sense of self by seeing what lies beneath can create an intense emotional high. It is understandable then that they want more but you cannot and must not be on tap for that – It’s called co-dependency when this happens and the client is appealing to your need to feel needed.

My theory is that in some cases, attachment happens because of transference, i.e. “the redirection of feelings and desires and especially of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object.” You could be subconsciously perceived as the grandmother who saw the child when the mother didn’t, for instance. This would be a form of positive transference but the positive feelings can very quickly be exchanged for negative ones and you become identified (again subconsciously) with someone who rejected or abandoned them if you do not ‘play along’ and keep supporting them beyond the limits of your session.

I believe it is also possible that the client is projecting ‘Golden Shadow,’ on you as a reader – especially when someone comes to you because they wish to be doing what you are doing (or something very similar) for a living. Golden Shadow is a Jungian expression which signifies a repression of a positive trait which, if the client would own it for themself, would make them more powerful. The reason why people instead choose to project this trait onto someone else is because they fear their own power and how owning it makes them have to take responsibility/be accountable. A Golden Shadow projection, just like transference, leads to unrealistic expectations as well as admiration tainted with jealousy.

Either way you are a blank canvas for projections where the only real link between you and the client is client’s question and what has transpired in the reading. The problem in both cases is that when the projected expectations aren’t met, you usually get a backlash where the client seeks to project their sense of shame and humiliation onto you. This negative projection can, unfortunately, happen in public if the client has a particularly vengeful streak.

How to respond to the client attachment and excessive communication:

  • Be polite but firm. Keep the response brief, again by simply thanking them for the feedback.
  • Decline to read for them again too soon – refer to your Terms & Conditions so they won’t take it personally.
  • Dont’ be afraid to address the issue of professional boundaries if need be.
  • If the ‘rejected’ client lashes out in public (reviews, blog comments etc), do not take it personally. It is usually best to not respond at all at this stage.

There are grey areas, of course. What about reading for someone you’re already friends with? Because of potential boundary issues, some professional Tarot readers I know never read for friends or family members. Personally, I have no problem with reading for those people in my life who understand that it is a professional service I offer, and it is up to each Tarot reader to decide if this will work for them or not.

Have you ever had to deal with attachment issues? Please share in the comments!

Love and Blessings,

Lisa