Astrology is booming! Sales of astrology books are up, and software companies report increased sales in astrological computer software. As more and more people have become interested in having their charts done, new astrologers have "hung out their shingles." There is always room for more competent and dedicated practitioners. Unfortunately, however, the good have been joined by the bad and the downright "ugly" regarding both ethics and competence. How is the consumer to know the difference?
I assume that you want value for your money when making use of an astrologer's services. To assure that, you should shop for a professional astrologer just as you would for a suitable tax accountant or auto mechanic. And you should have some idea of what to look for. What makes an individual astrologer a "good one"? I suggest you look for strengths in these four main areas: technical competence, interpretive skill, counseling ability, and ethical standards.
Technical competence involves the ability to accurately and swiftly calculate a horoscope. This is an easy criterion to meet. Most astrologers today use computers that provide nearly instant calculation of astrological data. Yes, it is still possible to get reliable work from someone who hand-calculates, but do you want to pay for the extra time they spend number-crunching? Or would you rather they spend that time on the artful process of understanding your particular situation? Look for an astrologer who has the right tools.
Interpretive skills constitute the main reason for consulting a professional astrologer, else those computerized printouts would be all anyone needed. Astrologers learn to interpret a chart by first memorizing . the 39 basic principles (10 planets, 12 signs, 12 houses, 5 primary aspects) The real power of their skill lies in the subtle art of synthesis of these factors into a meaningful story that informs the client. There is little guidance in the astrological books on how to do this. I know of no astrologer who has learned interpretive synthesis other than through sheer practice and experience--and probably with a fair measure of intuition to start with. Seek out astrologers who have amplified their natural talent with much experience.
Counseling ability. There are three common reasons why people approach an astrologer. Some come out of pure curiosity, some for guidance in decisions about relationships, jobs, or life in general, and others come in times of real emotional crisis. It doesn't take a particularly skilled astrologer to satisfy your needs if you are simply curious. More is required of a guide for your decision making, and if you seek help with a crisis, you need and deserve an astrologer with well-developed counseling skills and experience. Many of the counseling abilities are interpersonal and thus will be apparent even in your first telephone contact with the astrologer. Does he or she listen? Respond with empathy to your concerns? Seem to have time to answer your reasonable questions? (Don't expect much if you ask for actual guidance over the phone!) All these are good indicators, especially when your questions about counseling background and the availability of backup (for referral to therapists or other professionals when the problem is beyond the astrologer's expertise, for example) are satisfactorily answered. Give this kind of astrologer a try.
Ethical standards, or the lack of them, may be evident even in an advertisement for astrological services. If ads or promotional materials make extravagant claims or the practitioner, in print or when contacted, is not straightforward about services and costs, take your business elsewhere. Be especially careful of mail order operators; a few appear to be run by the same people who try to sell you platinum siding or vacation property on Jupiter. Give short shrift to an astrologer who attempts to tell you what you should do. The proper role of the astrologer is to elucidate your current position, to offer possible alternatives for appropriate action, and then to leave it to you to make the actual decision. Anything more than that is inappropriate interference. With common sense and with your ethical sensitivities turned up to full volume, you will easily weed out the few bad operators and have a good experience of astrology.
Now how do you go about actually finding a good astrologer? Here are some suggestions to help steer you toward someone from whom you will get worthwhile results.
Perhaps the best way is to get recommendations from friends whose opinion you respect. Start asking friends who have had chart work done. Who did they see and what was their experience like? Get recommendations from several friends. Is there one astrologer's name that keeps coming up?
If you don't know anyone who can recommend an astrologer to you, call up a number of people advertising themselves as astrologers and interview them. Below are the questions you might ask and some background for interpreting the answers. Pay as much attention to how a question is answered as to what particular information the answer contains.
What kind of services do you offer? Most astrologers offer the basic services: the natal chart (a succinct character analysis), the progressed chart (current and near future patterns in your life) and compatibility charts (comparing your natal chart with another--your boss, your husband, etc.) Some astrologers also offer additional services, among them, electional charts (choosing the best moment to initiate an important action such as a marriage or business opening), horary charts (to answer a specific question) or computer generated chart reports (a twenty-or-so page report "interpreting" your horoscope--inexpensive and not a bad way for beginning astrology students to learn the basic meanings of their signs, houses and aspects, but a far cry from a professional consultation.)
How much do you charge? Most professional astrologers charge anywhere between $50 to $200 a session depending upon the service. (Comparison or compatibility charts cost more because there is more work involved.) You might expect to pay about $50 to an astrologer just starting out. The average fee is around $90, and higher fees are charged by astrologers with years of experience and proven track records.)
What can I expect for my money? Most astrologers will record the session on tape cassette for you to take home and will give you a (paper) copy of your natal chart. If the session is not recorded for your future study, you will soon find that details have faded from memory. Today, very few astrologers will type out an interpretation. If you live far away, ask the astrologer about a phone consultation (you pick up the phone bill) or a mail reading.(in which the astrologer sits down with your chart and the tape recorder, does the session as if you were there, and then mails the tape to you.) Some astrologers will not do these type of "blind" consultations. I 've done so for years and feel comfortable with the format. But, obviously, sitting down face to face gives you the best results.
What is your background in astrology and in counseling? This information is more difficult to interpret. Most astrologers are initially self taught or have begun studies with a qualified teacher. Beyond that many will have studied astrology intensively with an advanced teacher or training facility. A few will have sought the credentials offered by the professional astrology associations described below. If they are serious about the counseling aspect of practice, they are also likely to have studied counseling, group leadership, and the like, with a few going on for masters degrees or higher in a counseling related field, though some of the best may have acquired all these skills through disciplined self-guided learning and painstaking experience.
Other questions. The above questions are adequate in most circumstances, but others may suggest themselves. You might ask, point blank, "How many charts have you interpreted?" No astrologer will know this answer exactly, but most can give you a fair estimate. Or ask, "What is your approach?" Do they primarily interpret the chart, or do they educate as well, teaching you some astrology as they work? Do they use a psychological or spiritual approach? (A businesswoman may have less interest in spiritual considerations than in pragmatic matters.) Have they made any special contributions to astrology? Books, articles, research may indicate commitment to the field.
If you have a specific problem you'd like help with, tell the astrologer that. Do they have experience dealing with this issue? If not, can they refer you to one of their colleagues skilled in this particular area? Don't hesitate to ask your own questions, but to try to balance your inquisitiveness with a respect for the astrologer's time.
Astrology today is not licensed though there is some regulation. There are credentials which an astrologer can get which can assure you of at least their technical competence. Two astrology organizations confer credentials. The National Council of Geo-Cosmic Research, (N.C.G.R.) offers four levels of testing to their members, with level four representing a professional certification. Tests are given about twice a year at regional and national conferences. All members of NCGR, whether they seek a higher credential or not, sign a code of ethics that defines minimum standards of practice. Another organization, the American Federation of Astrologers has two tests which qualifies a member to use these initials after their name: AMAFA (Advance Member, AFA), which tells you the astrologer has passed the first test, and PMAFA (Professional Member, AFA) telling you they have passed the second, higher-level, examination. The initials MAFA tell you only that an astrologer is a dues-paying member of AFA and has signed a code of ethics, not that knowledge or skills have been certified.
Most people have a very satisfying first experience with a professional astrology consultation. But, as in any field, there are some opportunists, some incompetents, and even a few rip-off artists. As in all matters, let the buyer beware. With this information, you will have a better chance to find an astrologer who represents the finest in our field--competent and skilled, with dedication and integrity.