Choosing an Astrologer Christa Asks: “How would I go about looking up an astrologer or a psychic for a reading? How do I know if they are ‘for real’ or not? Can you give me some suggestions as to what to look for?” Kevin Answers: Christa, Thank you for an excellent question, one that I know many of you have asked yourselves. The fact of the matter is that for every trained, gifted, talented, and spiritual advisor or counselor out there, there are many who are less qualified and less ethical…oh, why mince words? There are a hell of a lot of crooks out there calling themselves “psychics” and all they’re looking for is a way into your bank account. So how do you tell who’s “for real” and who’s nothing but a con artist? Well, with astrologers, it’s a bit easier to find someone who is qualified because (and this is nothing against psychic readers, mind you) astrologers don’t just pull things out of the air. Astrology is something that must be studied—for years and with skilled teachers if it is to be learned with anything even approaching competence. So the first question to ask a potential astrologer is “how long have you been studying?” and then “how long have you been practicing on a professional level?” Although there is no requirement for licensing or certification for astrologers, there are several certification programs available through the national (and international) astrology organizations. By far the most comprehensive testing program is offered through NCGR (National Council for Geocosimic Research). NCGR offers four levels of certification, with three different professional (Level IV) certifications (Astrological Counseling, Scientific Research, and General Research). An astrologer who has a Level III or Level IV certification from NCGR has had to demonstrate a significant level of competence with interpretation. AFA (American Federation of Astrologers) also offers a testing and certification program, although it is not quite as rigorous or comprehensive as NCGR’s. AMAFA is the lowest level of certification and designates an “Associate Member, AFA,” while PMAFA is the higher level of certification and designates a “Professional Member, AFA.” Again, it’s not required to be a member of any astrological organization, nor is it required to certify in order to be a competent and professional astrologer. Many astrologers teach or lecture, write articles and newsletters, or make themselves and their knowledge of astrology available in other ways. Ask if they have been published, teach classes, lecture, etc., and see if you can read or hear a sample of their work. Again, this is by no means a requirement, but it is one way to get to know the astrologer a bit better. Once you’re satisfied that the astrologer seems to have the experience and training that you’re looking for, you’re only half-way done with the evaluation process. There are as many different approaches to astrology as there are astrologers. First of all, you want to make sure that the astrologer that you’re consulting with actually specializes in the type of astrology that you are looking for. If you have questions about investments and financial planning, you’re going to want to go to a financial astrologer, not one who specializes in birth chart interpretation and counseling. Likewise, you wouldn’t ask a financial astrologer about how to cope with your issues with your parents. Some astrologers specialize in predictions; others focus on process and don’t do any predictive work at all. Finally, you want to make sure that you have a rapport with the astrologer, and that his or her approach to interpretation resonates well with you. It’s a bit more difficult screening out psychics both because there really isn’t much formal training available in developing psychic ability, and because there are far more unethical individuals out there claiming to be “psychic” than there are claiming to be “astrologers.” One of the oldest scams in the world begins when a “psychic” or “palm reader” tells you that you’re under some sort of “evil” influence or a “curse.” Run, don’t walk out of there: it’s a scam. Beyond that, I don’t have much concrete advice to offer other than some general guidelines. Ask for references!! This can apply to astrologers as well, although many (myself included) who focus on personal transformation and counseling keep their client list strictly private. Tarot readers, palm readers and psychics generally don’t have the same limitations, and should be able to get you in touch with satisfied customers. Agree on a time limit and a price in advance, and stick to it. (This means don’t waste your money on the $2.99/minute psychic hotlines!). A sample tarot reading can take as little as 10–15 minutes. Granted, you won’t be able to go into great depth, but you will be able to decide for yourself if this is someone you can trust. Accept the fact that for the most part, you get what you pay for. Each astrologer, psychic, reader, etc., decides for him or herself what they charge for their services. For “psychic” and “tarot” type readings, expect to pay about $1/minute. For a consultation with a professional astrologer, you’re looking at anywhere from $60–$250 per hour (astrologers charge more both because of the preparation required, and because of the training and skill needed). People who charge significantly less than these rates may either be inexperienced or not confident of their abilities or the value of their services. Again, this is not always the case, and many readers operate strictly on a donation or “love offering” basis. However, if you’re serious about finding spiritual guidance, you will probably want to work with someone who is serious about providing it—and that means finding someone with established, professional business practices. Take everything with at least a grain of salt! We each create our own future and our own reality, and nothing that you are told about your future is set in stone. Period. Predictions often come true simply because we don’t exercise our free will; most of the time, we’re on auto-pilot. If you’re told something about yourself that seems entirely wrong, then it may well be entirely wrong. I recommend doing a little internal check to see if you find any strong resistance to the comment. If you do find resistance, then you may be in denial, and might benefit from considering the advice. If, on the other hand, you don’t find any resistance to the idea, and it still seems completely off-base, then just let it go. Astrologers and psychics are human, and we do make mistakes. We also have our own prejudices and preconceived notions, and no matter how objective we intend to be, no matter how much training we’ve had to suspend judgment, our perceptions and advice is still being filtered on some level by who we are as individuals. Sometimes this gives us great and personal insight, and sometimes it means that we’re so far off the mark that it’s not even funny. I hope that this has been of some help. Remember, that these are simply guidelines, and also that they are my guidelines. They may or may not work for you, but they’re the best that I can offer.