The Cards You’re Dealt, A Conversation With Theresa Reed (The Tarot Lady)

‘The Cards You’re Dealt’ by Theresa Reed aka The Tarot Lady

I was recently contacted by Weiser Books about Theresa Reed’s (The Tarot Lady) new book, ‘The Cards You’re Dealt’. I was asked if I wanted a free copy of the book and an interview with Theresa herself. I jumped at the chance.

Something I love about Theresa’s approach to the Tarot is that it’s grounded in reality. It focuses on the present and dealing with the shadow side of life just as much as the good stuff.

Like me, she focuses on balance and using Tarot in a practical way, to support and guide the self through the many challenges real life throws at us. Something her new book ‘The Cards You’re Dealt’ deals with in spades.

Many Tarot readers today have to push back against the traditional tropes the Tarot and readers have been given over the last few hundred years. This can make it tricky to show people just how influential and supportive Tarot can be with modern life and real, human situations.

“I think a lot of folks have the impression tarot is focused on the ‘tall dark stranger’ trope, but it’s not accurate.“ says Theresa, “Many people seek tarot readings when they are in pain. Tarot can be a helpful tool for sorting out emotions and finding better, healthier ways to deal with life’s ups and downs.“.

Whenever I talk to other Tarot readers I’m always curious as to when they had that realisation. When was the moment they realised that they could use the cards for something more than just a bit of fun or a quick check-in?

“I don’t know if there was a specific ‘aha’ moment. The truth is, I was simply doing my work and these topics were as common as questions about love at my tarot table.“

Many people seek tarot readings when they are in pain. Tarot can be a helpful tool for sorting out emotions and finding better, healthier ways to deal with life’s ups and downs.

Theresa has been reading for the public for over 30 years now and her experiences with her clients have taught her just as much about what the Tarot can aid with, as practising in the privacy of her own home.

When it comes to reading for the public, something that I worry about is the ethics that come attached to the practice. There are many amazing readers who simply want to help others, but there are also a lot of fraudsters out there who want to take advantage of those in a vulnerable emotional state.

Something I loved about ‘The Cards You’re Dealt’ was that it hits you with a disclaimer straight out of the gate.

Please Note: Tarot is never a substitute for therapy, grief counselling, legal advice, health-care advice or other professional services…
— The Cards You’re Dealt by Theresa Reed

As the subject of the book is so sensitive – guiding you through using Tarot for grief and more of life’s toughest battles – I was so happy to see that Theresa had made sure to keep ethics at the forefront of her offering.

One way that I use Tarot and how I started to use the cards, is to support my mental health. I have depression and an anxiety disorder, something I’ve had since I was around 13. I’ve used Tarot cards alongside professional services like counselling, psychotherapies and other talk therapies for years.

I asked Theresa why she felt the cards were such a great accompaniment to these professional therapies.

“I feel that talking is one way we can heal. More therapists are adding tarot and oracle cards to their practices because they can see their potential for healing through conversation. The cards are perfect for inspiring people to talk. When we do that, we have the power to rewrite our stories. I think we’ve only just begun to see where Tarot is going. There is so much more it can do – and I cannot wait to see how it continues to expand in new ways.“

This new book from Theresa really feels like a crutch for those times in life when you have battles only you can fight. It’s for when you are surrounded by people and yet feel completely alone.

In the book Theresa talks about her career as a Tarot reader and how she has worked with a variety of clients to find more clarity and comfort during their biggest life challenges. She outlines some real-world examples of how Tarot has helped her own clients but doesn’t shy away from some of the frustrations of being a reader.

Something any Tarot reader will know is that when you first start out – before you find your groove – you’ll get a lot of people looking for those fortune-telling style readings and questions about love and lust. Theresa talks about her preference for working with more hard-hitting questions for readings.

I find these topics more compelling for Tarot readings rather than the standard “Will I get married?” type queries.
— The Cards You’re Dealt

Although Tarot is great for those types of questions, it’s the gritty stuff in life that Tarot can really help dig down into. I asked Theresa what the biggest differences were between the clients who ask the more surface-level questions, compared to those who want to really explore the more sensitive problems in their lives.

“The biggest thing that sets these types of readings apart is that folks who come for the ‘will I get married’ type questions view it as entertainment, and, in many cases, they assume the future will somehow just ‘happen to them,’ which can make them passive. They will then sit around, waiting for things to happen ‘to them’ instead of taking a proactive approach.”

Tarot is all about the balance between passive and active energies. Like manifestation, to really get the most from Tarot readings – whether you do them for yourself or get readings from others – you need to be able to take action on the guidance the cards offer.

“When people come to a Tarot reader to talk about serious stuff like illness or loss, they’re looking at what they can do to move through the situation with grace. They aren’t lounging around hoping for an outcome. Instead, they realize how precious time is and are looking to make the most out of living, right here, right now.”

Tarot can also show you when you’re headed toward burnout. Sometimes that’s hard for them to recognize, especially when they are knee-deep in responsibilities. A Tarot reading might say ‘Hey, you’re doing too much. Slow down.’

The book ‘The Cards You’re Dealt’ is split into two parts, the first showing those who are new to the cards how they can get started. The second is where the real magic takes place.

Theresa offers a number of different spreads and guidance around many tricky subjects. For example, there is a ‘Recovery Spread’ for those in recovery from an illness, addiction or surgery. There are also spreads for grief, caregivers and even to help make sense of natural disasters.

One aspect that I found most interesting was the focus on caregivers. As someone who has family members who require care, who are caregivers and who offer care in a more professional capacity, this is something that is at the forefront of my mind.

I asked Theresa what it was about caregivers in particular, that made them some of the best benefactors of Tarot guidance.

“Caregivers are constantly giving, and they often ignore their own needs. I know this story all too well. Tarot can help caregivers recognize what they need – and learn how to take better care of themselves so they can continue to support the people who need them.”

“Tarot can also show you when you’re headed toward burnout. Sometimes that’s hard for them to recognize, especially when they are knee-deep in responsibilities. A Tarot reading might say ‘Hey, you’re doing too much. Slow down.’ That’s a message caregivers need to hear but may have trouble hearing. I’m back in caregiving mode at this time, and I found some of my old habits of over-giving creeping back in. I’m using Tarot to reel myself back on track!”

A look inside ‘The Cards You’re Dealt’ by Theresa Reed

Something that Tarot has taught me, and something I see my workshop students and group members learning as they go, is the concept of cycles and how to manage them. It’s the consistent turning of life and the repetition of cycles that often throw us through a loop and leave us confused about which way we’re facing.

Things like caregiving and especially grief and hardship, can all drive home the harsh realities of the cycles we move through in life. Theresa speaks to this a lot in her book. I asked her about any patterns she’s noticed over the years reading for the public. I asked if there have been any changes in the way we approach the idea of beginnings, middles and ends since she first started reading for others.

“I have found when it comes to loss, the main thing people struggle with is regrets. ‘I should have done this differently’ or ‘I wish I would have said…’ are two sentiments I’ve heard over and over from people dealing with grief. That’s why I think it’s so important to be fully present in the moment, especially when you’re with loved ones.”

“I never go a day without talking to my children and letting them know I love them. I had challenging relationships with my parents, so there were unresolved issues when they passed, and although enough time has passed, and I’ve released that energy, I never want to experience that with my children.“

In the book, there is a section where Theresa talks about our modern approach to things like grief that I found really interesting. In it she says,

Our culture has a fear-based view of dying and grief. As Megan Devine says in her book ‘It’s OK That You’re Not OK: “The way we deal with grief in our culture is broken.” We treat it like it’s a pile of dirty clothes that needs to be laundered and put away as swiftly as possible.
— The Cards You’re Dealt

In 2021 I lost my grandmother to a stroke, this was after not being able to see her due to the pandemic and only having seen her once between my arrival back in the UK in 2019, and when we went into lockdown in early 2020. I won’t pretend that I had a healthy approach to the grief I dealt with and I could have probably used this book back then.

I did exactly what Theresa spoke about, I acknowledged it and cleaned it away as quickly as possible so I could get on with everything else in life. I could relate to a lot of what Theresa touched on in the book about the difficulties people face around grief, and it got me thinking about how I could have used my cards better during that time.

Using Tarot for grief is something that I have never given much thought towards. Probably because I have such a resistance to dealing with my own grief. During this time though I did try and be more mindful around my self-care routines and mirrored that with access to professional services.

Often in these times, turning to the wellness industry seems like the most obvious thing to do. I’ve noticed a very slow and gradual uptick in Tarot being used within ‘wellness’, but I was curious to hear Theresa’s thoughts on the trajectory of Tarot’s place within this trending space.

“For the wellness industry, I hope they respect Tarot and don’t treat it like the yoga pose of the month. It has a rich history, and I’d love it if they would learn about that. Also, I do worry about some folks encouraging people to forgo therapy in favor of self-care. While self-care is essential, and Tarot can be a vital part of that, neither is a substitute for professional treatment.”

With social media and the internet, the line between medical practices and wellness can easily become blurred. Something we don’t want to happen is for Tarot to be positioned as a ‘fix all’ tool. Like Theresa says here, neither self-care nor Tarot readings should be used as a substitute when you need more professional support.

I know from experience, that there is a time and place for everything. If I had relied solely on my wellness practices to manage my mental health I would have gone backwards instead of forwards. Tarot and self-care are tools that can help support and guide you, but they are not medical or psychological treatments.

It’s important as Tarot readers, that we make sure to keep Tarot in its lane. To ensure that it is represented in the most authentic, ethical and beneficial way possible.

I spoke to Theresa about the rise of Tarot into the mainstream wellness movement:

“While I appreciate Tarot being more ‘mainstream,’ I worry it will get watered down to placate the masses. I’d like it to remain a bit edgy, rather than becoming metaphysical muzak. Maybe that’s the old-school punk rocker in me. Or perhaps it’s because I have seen some folks with the whole ‘positive vibes only’ mindset trying to remove the so-called ‘negative’ aspects of Tarot. Life is a full spectrum with all sorts of experiences, both good and not-so-great. Tarot reflects all of that. Why would we want to ignore the hard stuff?“

The focus on ‘love and light’ is something that I was inundated with when I first started out. Like Theresa though I knew straight away that I didn’t want to just be another person on the internet telling you to raise your vibe all the time. As a human I struggle with the shadows, both medically and just within my personality, so ignoring that side of my humanity and preaching ‘love and light’ would not have been an authentic thing for me to do.

I think that’s why I’m so much more drawn towards the Tarot than Oracle cards. To me, Oracle cards are marketed more as a ‘high vibe’ tool, with Tarot as the tool for the nitty gritty. The Tarot, as Theresa said, is a little bit edgy because of its ability to not shy away from the darkness of the human condition.

While I appreciate Tarot being more “mainstream,” I worry it will get watered down to placate the masses. I’d like it to remain a bit edgy, rather than becoming metaphysical muzak.

I’ve learned so much about myself from the Tarot over the years. I’ve learned why I do what I do, why I think the way I do and how to sort through my thoughts when I’m in a spiral. It has given me a huge sense of empowerment that I would have struggled to cultivate otherwise.

When asked about what Tarot had taught her, Theresa said: “I am not powerless. I have agency. I can make different, better decisions. This is my biggest takeaway from Tarot.“

I couldn’t agree more.

You can find Theresa’s new book ‘The Cards You’re Dealt’ online at Weiser Books in the US or pre-order it over on Amazon UK if you’re based in the UK. Here in the UK it will be released on November 28th 2023.

You can find out more about Theresa Reed aka The Tarot Lady below:

Explore her website here

Follow on Instagram

Catch up on her podcast ‘Tarot Bytes’

*Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of the book in advance for PR purposes.