Luna is holding fanned out tarot cards up to the camera

How tarot cards can help with everyday mental health

If you first felt intrigued by tarot during a particularly rough period of mental health, you’re in good company. People all around the world — and the internet — have turned to tarot cards to help cope with symptoms of anxiety, depression, and all the complicated feelings that arise from transitions. Whether you’ve changed jobs, lost a loved one, or are simply trying to keep it together throughout a global pandemic, the tarot is there for you like a trusted friend who always knows the right thing to say.

Pulling tarot cards is like getting an objective opinion from the universe. When things get murky and difficult, tarot cards can help you make sense of a situation.

I bought my first tarot deck about 10 years ago at a metaphysical shop in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I was single, living in Brooklyn, and juggling four part-time jobs just to keep my head above water. Developing a relationship with the cards gave me clarity, hope, and the perspective I needed to make massive changes in my life.

I ended up moving across the country to work on a farm, ICYI!

Whether you have questions that seem unanswerable, or could use some support navigating a difficult life change, a tarot session can do wonders for your mental health.

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What is the tarot?

First, some background! Tarot cards were created in northern Italy in the 15th century, and have been used for divination since the 18th century.

The main tarot categories are major arcana and minor arcana. The major arcana contains 22 cards, numbered 0-21. Also known as trumps, each major arcana card represents a fundamental phase or milestone in the shared human experience. The major arcana begins with The Fool — representing the novice — and ends with The World — which symbolizes mastery or the close of a chapter.

Minor arcana cards are split into four suits and numbered from Ace to 10. There are also four court cards, also called face cards, for each suit. The minor arcana represents habitual behavior patterns, feelings, beliefs, and desires.

How does tarot relate to mental health?

The connection between the tarot and psychology isn’t new. My favorite psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, studied tarot as a tool for penetrating the subconscious mind.

Your subconscious is like the operating system of your conscious mind. It runs in the background —without your complete awareness — and calls the shots as far as our reactions and automatic body processes. Tapping into the subconscious is how we make tectonic-level energy shifts.

However, most of the time the only thoughts we can access are from our conscious mind.

Cue tarot cards!

Tarot cards can complement traditional therapy, but they’re not a replacement. Many therapists use tarot cards in their holistic approach to mental health. The images and symbols on the cards can help people open up and start talking about things they may not have given themselves permission to even think about before.

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What are the benefits of using tarot cards for mental health?

Like dream interpretation, the tarot is a way to penetrate your subconscious mind. Another similarity is that both tarot cards and dreams tell stories through symbols that may be easier to talk about than the actual problem or issue at hand.

For example, maybe you don’t want to talk about a traumatic past event, but opening up about how the image of a heart pierced by swords makes you feel is all good.

Tarot cards aren’t affiliated with any religion, philosophy, or belief system — but they speak to the spiritual experience. If you consider yourself “spiritual, but not religious,” tarot cards may be a great way for you to explore that part of yourself.

For me, tarot is a useful tool that supports personal empowerment and encourages self-discovery. However, it’s not a replacement for therapy.

Luna is holding fanned out tarot cards up to the camera

How do you use tarot cards for mental health?

If you’re new to tarot, you may be under the impression that it’s just a fortune-telling trick. Maybe some tarot readers use their decks this way, but not me.

When I pull tarot cards, I look for insight into your situation in the symbols, imagery, colors, characters, and numbers on the cards. Information from the cards helps me pinpoint the underlying issue, and consider what your next steps might look like.

After more than a decade of studying the tarot, I understand the archetypal themes that run throughout the deck. These are the same themes that pop up in fairy tales, folk songs, and ancient mythology — they speak to the trials and tribulations of life that resonate with us all.

A tarot session isn’t the same as therapy, but it can be an enjoyable way to discuss your deepest fears with a compassionate listener.

Many people identify with symbolism in tarot cards the way they would connect with the hero in their favorite story. Pulling your head out of its standard mode of linear thinking, the tarot provides an open platform for healing and recreating your reality.

Most importantly, a tarot session should keep you in the driver’s seat of your life. It’s not divination or fortune-telling.

How do I know if a tarot session is right for me?

Consulting the tarot can help with a wide range of issues, but it’s not for everyone. As I mentioned earlier, the tarot is not associated with any religion. However, I’ve spoken to several people who believe that using tarot cards would go against their religious beliefs. Because I’m not familiar with the rules of every organized religion, I can’t attest to the truth of this statement. 

My advice on this — if the thought of getting a tarot reading brings up feelings of guilt or fear for any reason, it may not be right for you.

It helps to have a question or area of focus, such as:

  • How can I move toward healing?
  • What am I feeling right now and why?
  • How can I make the most of this situation?
  • What is holding me back from achieving my goal?
  • Why am I bothered by this situation?
  • What lesson is this issue teaching me right now?
  • How can I strengthen my connection with myself?
  • How does this affect my relationship?
  • What do I need (physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc.)?

However, having a question in mind isn’t necessary for a good session. I love helping people pinpoint what they really want!

Are you ready to dive in?

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this blog post.


Photos by Emily Brianne

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1 thought on “How tarot cards can help with everyday mental health”

  1. Pingback: How Stranger Things Shows the Destructive Results of Our Subconscious Mind's Desire to Keep Us Safe at All Costs

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