“I have tickets for Europe. Do you think I should fly?”

“We have the house in the country. Is it better to hang out there with the kids until all of this blows over?”

“I read something on the internet about a Saturn something with Pluto. How long does that go on for?”

“Am I gonna be okay?”

More and more, thanks to Saturn and Pluto, questions like these are being put to astrologers. Even The Boston Globe recently did an article on the boon of business to astrologers, psychics and the like since the tragedy of 9/11. There’s been plenty on the news, too, noting the increased use of Prozac, alcohol and cigarettes.

Maybe I’ve gotten more than my share of these questions, thanks to the dynamics of my own 7th house, a steady clientele well before 9/11, and a long background in bereavement counseling. But if you haven’t been faced with such questions yet, believe me, you will be. And hopefully, you will also hear the question beneath the question.

Far from being an expert in trauma counseling, and certainly with so little time passed 9/11, and such a rapid barrage of events following this great tragedy, I can’t offer a standard of astrological counseling in the day and age of the Saturn-Pluto Opposition; but I would like to share with you some counseling points from my own practice. Some of them may be obvious and some of them may be considerations which astrologers should have all of the time. But I offer them in the hope that they will prepare you for your own clients’ needs and how astrology may (and may not) be of help to them.

I’ve become aware of several different categories of clients since 9/11. First, there are those who have an established relationship with me, and then, there are first-time clients. Even in that established group, there are long-term clients who share a great familiarity with me; and then, there are those on only their second or third readings, which I consider to be relatively new. When you’re counseling, take into account the degree of familiarity between the client and you. It greatly alters the comfort level of the client and yourself under such duress as this is these days.

Of course, that should automatically lead you to ask yourself “if they are traumatized even to only a small degree, why are they seeing an astrologer?” Are you a part of a team whose help they are seeking? Or are you on your own in helping them? Also, find out if this is a general reading, or is it related to issues that are a direct result of 9/11.

There are categories, too, for the degree of intensity to the trauma or reaction. I’ve noticed, for instance, that those who are most personally effected by the tragedy, i.e., having lost an immediate family member, are least likely to seek help from astrological counseling unless there is a prior well-established relationship with the astrologer. (That holds true in most grief experiences, not just the tragedy of the World Trade Center.) For these people, the loss is so real that it doesn’t require validation or guidance “from the stars.” Despite the havoc around them, they are actually centered in the crisis. They are very much “in the moment,” and that is exactly where they should be. Prediction, which astrology is so associated with (for better or worse), is of no use in this bereavement situation.

Those people, however, who did not have such a personal loss, but were in the immediate surroundings of the explosion, i.e., in the towers and escaped, are tending to turn to astrology for some philosophical understanding of what this means in their lives. This group of clients has shared profound and very touching revelations in the wake of their experiences. They are not so much looking for astrological predictions or natal interpretations per se; but rather, they are seeking some explanation of what happened and why they survived. (Again, take into account for your effectiveness in the reading the degree of familiarity, which this client has with you and what the natal chart indicates.) This might be, and I emphasize the “might be,” the case most likened to “survivor’s guilt.”

Finally, I’ve noticed the people who were most distant from the event, i.e., had no personal losses or experiences with it, but witnessed it only on TV, have the most unrealistic questions and comments, in the effort of trying to make the tragedy real for themselves. In my experience with this group so far, they also have the most need to “tell their story.” Their fear is anxiety-based and they seem to have the most anticipation of the unknown. Relatively speaking, the events of 9/11 are least visceral for this group of clients; and therefore, their reactions may be the most unfocused, at least this point.

It is very important to consider how much time has passed from 9/11 to the date of your reading too. Time might heal everything ultimately, but given the sudden developments of world events, i.e., anthrax scares and the fall of the Taliban, the healing process can be altered as well. For instance, this article is being submitted over Thanksgiving weekend. Things have already rapidly changed in the counseling process since 9/11, and they will probably change even more by the time of its printing at the Capricorn Ingress. Counseling is always an evolving process, but especially in the face of such critical times as these.

It is mainly this last group of clients who is most likely to project those all-too-human feelings of powerlessness onto the events and perpetrators. They might be driven, too, by the sense of “I’m too young to die,” so to speak; they are waking up to all their unfinished business. They might also be prompted to take action or make resolves in the wake of 9/11.

These are the people who have been saying, “Ever since September 11th, I know what my priorities are.” Some are staying with the relationships that were bad, but resolving to make them better, because now they know what is important to them. Some are leaving relationships because now they also know what is important to them. That can just as easily apply to careers, families, pets or whatever. Hence, an appointment is made with the Great Oracle for some validation and good timing. So, the Oracle had better be prepared with some good counseling skills to help these clients understand their motivations for change. They run the risk of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

On a practical level, what can be of great help to all of these clients, especially this last category, which obviously constitutes the largest number, is volunteer work. Being close to Ground Zero or in its emotional proximity will help to make it more real for them, and therefore, more easily processed by the psyche.

The astrologer should be ready to ask, how old is the client, really? We’re all human, and no matter how much therapy we’ve had, traumas and irrational fears can take any of us right back to stuff of childhood in a split second.

Understanding the current transits and progressions will help explain how any client is experiencing this tragedy. For instance, if Saturn is passing through the client’s 9th house now, this might be an indignation to his or her cultural and political beliefs. If someone is steeped in a Pluto progression, this is a great opportunity vent its rage. A hard Uranus transit might take this as a great awakening and a call to arms, while something from Neptune might be good reason to run and hide. A ’55 babyboomer, whose Jupiter in Cancer was hit by last summer’s eclipse, said to me, “The American flag never meant anything to me until now.”

However, what every client, young or old, new or old, on the frontlines of the event or “as seen on TV,” seems to have is the need to tell his or her story. Sometimes, it’s in a few poignant words. Sometimes, it pervades the reading. At all times, though, we just need to give each person the chance to say it. And it becomes our job just to listen; thereby, helping to make it real. And if we can listen with the ear of the Great Oracle that our clients think we are (actually still knowing that we, too, are only human with our own stories and foibles), then all the better for their healing.

Also consider how the client’s past grief may be reactivated by this present trauma. This connection may or may not be conscious, but it might be fueling the emotionality or motivating current behavior and decisions. The horoscope may give some indications on how to work with it in a willing client.

Another consideration, although a less frequent instance, is the client who actually feels better in such traumatic situations for society. This client tends to be a chronically depressed personality or someone who lives with a festering trauma from the past. Ironically, social crisis of such magnitude can have a healing effect on such a person. As one client put it to me, “Now, I feel understood by the world. This frees me. Now, I can participate.”

Of course, we should be prepared to refer clients appropriately to other professionals. This should always be part of an astrologer’s job. For the kind of distress resulting from this tragedy, usually hypnosis or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing method) is most effective, especially in the immediate wake of it. Acupuncture is excellent for those with heightened stress reactions. Therefore, have ready a referral list of appropriate therapists or other means of healing. Sometimes, we are the client’s first and last source to such connections.

Although many very good books on trauma, counseling techniques and bereavement care have appeared in recent years, I always recommend the basics: On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is the textbook in hospice and bereavement work. And Eugene Kennedy’s On Becoming a Counselor is a must-read for all practicing astrologers in any era.

During my years as a bereavement counselor, I was awestruck by a consistent happening. The process of dying did not change anyone. It only made them more of who they always were. Their caretakers, however, did change. I believe as the survivors of this unspeakable loss, we, too, have a great opportunity, no, a responsibility to change.

Actually, in looking back on the results of previous Saturn-Pluto Oppositions, in fact, we have no choice, but to change. And as astrologers, we have the additional privilege to participate in the process of this change with our clients.