Though there’s no hard science behind astrology, a mental health program in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is so convinced of its value that it’s offering a “Knowing yourself through the stars” astrology workshop in conjunction with the local hospital.
The workshop, which began in February this year and runs for 90 minutes a week, uses astrology to help patients of Hospital Pirovano, referred by doctors to develop stronger mental health. Claudia Rico, the astrologist who runs the workshop, says it’s also attended by nursing students from the University Favaloro who are interns at the mental health program, and is open to anyone interested in astrology.
Rico makes star charts for all the program participants and guides group discussions, using astrology to interpret life experiences from the distant past to the coming month.
“Emotions and feelings are mixed with astrology to help them understand the ‘why’ and the ‘for what?’ of every life experience, whether it was a good one or a painful one,” she says.
Whereas psychotherapy often focuses on mental health alone, astrology takes a more holistic approach. “Therapeutic astrology tries to generate a balance of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of human beings,” says Rico.
Some workshop participants are simply interested in learning about astrology, while others turn to the stars for answers to challenging events. Rico cites a man who arrived alone in Buenos Aires on a ship from Spain when he was 14, went through several failed marriages, and suffered the death of his daughter. “He’s looking for another answer from astrology to the question of why all of this happened to him, to get closure, and to find peace,” says Rico.
She says that this participant is an Aries, which has given him a push to do things independently and “be the architect of his own destiny.” His rising sign is in Cancer, which makes him appear sensitive, though “this is a mask.” Meanwhile, the planet Pluto is in the area of his personality, which can make him powerfully explosive.
Though the workshop wouldn’t point out such character traits explicitly, Rico says she would bear them in mind when giving guidance.
The cyclical periods of the cosmos are embodied in us as individuals, she says, and the relationship between medicine and astrology dates back to antiquity. “In ancient times we understood that we had to live in harmony with nature and the universe, and that the consequence of that was good health,” says Rico.
Rico says she submitted her workshop program proposal in October 2015. It was approved by the Coordinator General of the Barrial Mental Health Program.
But not everyone believes that such an astrology workshop is the key to self-knowledge. Diego Andrés Golombek, professor at the University of Quilmes, who helped develop Argentina’s Science Cultural Centre and writes on science for the general public, says he’s shocked by the news and thinks the connection between a public hospital and the program is “absolutely dreadful.”
“Astrology can be harmless, of course, unless it gives directions and instructions into how to proceed with, for example, an illness or medical treatment,” he says. “And, indeed, having such a program organized by a hospital leads into the completely false assumption that astrology might have some kind of scientific background which, of course, it completely lacks. I am horrified by this prospect!”
A spokesperson for Barrial mental health program said the program was a community workshop rather than a form of professional psychotherapy. “Its goal is not to heal, but to provide support,” they added. Quartz has contacted Hospital Pirovano for comment, and will update this story with any response.
Additional reporting by Felicitas Sanchez.