Getting a psychic reading: An insider's guide

Posted by Michelle Gruben on

Getting a psychic reading

I sense…there’s something you’re searching for. It’s becoming clearer…

I’ve got it! You’re curious about getting a psychic reading!

The topic of psychic readings is one that is shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding. In this article, we’ll delve into what goes on behind that lacy dragonfly curtain at your local witchy emporium. We’ll take a balanced look at scams and skepticism—two subjects that most people in the psychic industry don’t want to talk about. We’ll also touch on how you can prepare yourself to get the most out of your time with a psychic reader.

I have experience on both sides of the table, as a reader and a client. I spent many hours at psychic fairs in the early stages of starting my business, and have observed hundreds (if not thousands) of people getting readings. I truly believe that going to psychics can be a fun, enlightening way to learn about yourself—if you approach the reading with the right attitude.

What to expect from a psychic reading

For those who have never had a reading before, it can be an unnerving experience. If you’re a believer in psychic abilities, you’re giving a stranger permission to probe your most private thoughts and deepest secrets. If you’re a skeptic (or on the fence), you’re potentially throwing money away while the psychic inwardly chuckles at your credulity. Either way, it’s a vulnerable position to be in.

I have helped connect many people with their first psychic reading—and for most, it’s been a positive experience. Psychic readings are fun! Sometimes profound, sometimes perplexing…but almost always fun. At its best, getting a psychic reading is like having a very intense, very intimate conversation with a good friend—a person who knows lots about you, and cares about you deeply. And then you go about your day with a warm fuzzy feeling and some new insights to think about.

Shopping for readings

Psychics work over the internet or phone, in shops and homes and offices, and at fairs and special events. Their website or business card will usually contain some info about what offerings the client can expect. Many psychics describe their services based on their individual gifts (clairvoyance, clairaudience, mediumship), spiritual modalities (Reiki, angelic contact, shamanism), and/or tools and items they employ in their practice (Tarot cards, runes, spirit portraiture). These differing methods serve the enormous variety of people who come to psychics for guidance.

A psychic reading generally lasts somewhere between 15 minutes and an hour, agreed upon in advance by the psychic and client. Psychic fairs sometimes offer 5- or 10-minute mini readings so attendees can “sample” various readers. Prices vary: In my city, the going rate for a 20-minute reading is about $25 to $45, and an hour will cost about $90 to $120. Credit cards are usually accepted—but not always. Some payment processors restrict payments for metaphysical services, so it’s a good idea to bring cash just in case.

On fixed-price readings: Instead of a timed conversation, some psychics offer readings as a recorded video or in writing. In this case, the psychic publishes her rates for different types of readings, and you pay by the number of cards drawn or questions answered, for instance. (This system is common for online Tarot readers and astrologers.) After you receive the document, you may have the opportunity for brief follow-up questions. For fixed-price readings, all the terms should be spelled out before you commit to buying.

On long distance readings: Readings by phone or chat are not necessarily less accurate, despite what you may have heard. The rules that seem to govern psychic perception just don’t seem to have a lot to do with distance. Some psychics even say that it’s easier for them to do readings from a distance because there are fewer visual cues to distract them. Of course, it’s totally okay if you prefer to get readings in person.

A typical reading will go like this:

You’ll sit down at the reader’s table (or open a phone call or chat) and agree on payment. The psychic will usually give you a brief introduction to their practice—what gifts they work with, primary spirit contacts, the types of messages you can expect to receive, and so on. They may lead you in a prayer or breathing exercise to open the session. They might ask you if you have any questions or areas of concern…or they might just leap right in.

The next several minutes will go by incredibly quickly. Whether you’re laughing with recognition or learning something new about yourself, a good reading will leave you with lots to think about. You can expect the reader to do most of the talking, but it’s usually okay to interrupt or ask questions. As your time ends, the reader will probably ask if you have any questions or if you’d like to extend the session to cover a topic in-depth.

Don’t worry about the reader dishing about you after the session. Professional readers follow a code of ethics not to spill your private information, and most have methods for clearing their thoughts and energy between clients.

Finding a reader

Psychic gifts aren’t distributed evenly through the population—and neither are the gifts of compassion, wisdom, and clear communication. These traits are also essential elements of a good reading, and they don’t necessarily coincide with psychic aptitude. You want a reader who can both receive clear psychic messages for you and deliver them with clarity and empathy.

How do you find a psychic reader who’s the real deal? Word of mouth. Experienced psychics tend to have many happy clients who can vouch for them. Try asking friends and acquaintances if they’ve ever gotten a reading and who they’d recommend.

Local psychic fairs and metaphysical stores offer psychics who are more likely to be vetted by someone who cares about the quality of the readings. Event psychics (those who do birthday parties and corporate events) also rely on positive referrals to attract new clients. I always recommend them over psychics who hawk their services in strip malls or the back of newspapers.

If you’re shopping for online readers, you can read reviews and testimonials to get a feel for the type of work the psychic does. Many online psychics participate in free chats and live streams to attract new clients—newbies can take advantage of these to find a psychic whose reading style you enjoy. You don’t need to have the same religion or beliefs as your reader, but it’s good to find someone whose worldview is more-or-less compatible with your own.

Don’t be afraid to use the power of your own intuition when choosing your reader! Because I’m a psychic fair regular, I’m often asked for recommendations by newbies. Although there are lots of readers I can and do recommend, I usually turn the question around: Who do you feel has something for you today?

If you’re lucky enough to be at a fair where lots of readers are set up, try walking up and down the aisles and see who you feel drawn to. You can think of it like dowsing with your whole body. Pay attention to any thoughts or sensations that occur to you while considering the different readers. Remember that it’s not really about who’s “good” or who's the “most” psychic…it’s about finding the person who’s carrying the message you most need to hear at the current time and place.

One way that I know someone is “right” to talk to is a sense of familiarity. Their name or face will seem familiar to me, even though we’ve never met. It may even be “lit up” with a thin halo of light. Another way I choose readers is with a tingling in a psychically receptive area—my third eye, my upper spine, or behind my ears. These are just a couple of the psychic signs that I know and trust. Of course, everyone’s intuition works differently and your signals may be different.

When is a psychic not a “psychic”? Some local laws prohibit the use of the word “psychic” for businesses—other readers just don’t like it. Hence, your reader may bill themselves as an Intuitive, Spiritual Life Coach, Oracle, Soul Message Specialist, or whatever. Clairvoyant, clairaudient, clairsentient and clair-blend are all words that readers use to describe how they tend to receive psychic information.

Then there’s the weird(er) stuff: While many readers advertise familiar services like palmistry and crystal gazing, some offerings are even more arcane. You can’t toss a smudge stick without hitting someone offering soul retrieval, harmonic attunement, ascension sessions, etc.

I’m not saying it’s all hogwash, but there is a lot of fluff and jargon in the New Age/metaphysical community. It's fine to ask the reader what is meant by these terms and how these services can benefit you. If they hesitate or get defensive, that’s not a great sign.

Which leads us to…

Avoiding the scams

Avoiding psychic scams

When trying to figure out if someone’s running a psychic scam, I offer you the two P’s: Price and pressure. If either one is too high, that’s a red flag that something’s not legit.

First, price: Psychic work is hard work and deserves to be properly compensated. For most psychics, reading people is physically and emotionally draining. Psychic readers are almost always self-employed and they incur lots of business expenses that cut into their earnings. You should expect to pay a psychic about what you would pay any other skilled service provider (a masseuse or hair stylist, for instance) for their one-on-one time.

Some psychics can, because of high demand, command higher-than-average rates for readings. You’ll pay more for a YouTube celebrity or popular reader at a busy store, and less for a newcomer who has few clients—that just makes economic sense.

What you should watch out for is readers who charge double or more the prevailing rate, or pitch you exorbitant extras like a $70 prosperity candle or a $200 blessing oil. Sky-high prices are a sign that the psychic may be relying on a gullible few (rather than many repeat customers) to pay their bills.

There should also be published rates for the readings with no surprises. Ethical readers don’t size up customers when deciding what to charge or use tactics like “cliffhangers” to try and extract more money from a reading once it’s begun.

Which brings us to the second warning sign: Pressure. Scam artists know that people are reluctant to plunk down cash for shady services, so they try to manipulate your emotions to outweigh your common sense.

Psychic scammers will tell you that there’s a curse upon you that only they can get to the bottom of, or that they have an urgent message for you that you must hear today. They may play to your sense of pity, telling you that Archangel Michael commanded him to do 12 readings today or else, or that she and her nine cats will surely be evicted if you don’t sit for another session.

Eeeek. Ethical readers earn your business and your trust by delivering a good product—not by using guilt, fear, or high-pressure sales tactics. Unfortunately, there are a few bad apples out there hurting everyone else's reputation.

Moderating your skepticism

Crystal ball

Psychic abilities are real. That’s been my experience throughout my life, and it would take heaps of counter-evidence to change my mind. However, I accept that mainstream science doesn’t have a place (yet) for psychic phenomena, and that many people think paranormal belief systems are ridiculous.

The psychic industry has a very bad reputation overall, some of it well-deserved. There are scams, and there are people who prey upon the credulous, the weak-willed, and the bereaved. In addition, psychic readings can be addictive and there are many sad stories of people who meet financial ruin by over-indulging in psychics.

There are journalists and confirmed skeptics who take glee in the so-called debunking of psychic powers. Their objections often focus on two practices: Cold reading and hot reading:

The cold reader uses universal or statistically likely statements (along with compliments) to lure the subject into thinking the reader has genuine psychic powers. The cold reader has an arsenal of statements that could be true of almost anyone, or that we want to be true of us: “You’re well-liked by most people, but someone in the past has treated you unfairly.” The hot reader actively seeks out private information about a client before a reading—a task made much easier by all the people who post about their personal lives on social media. (“You have a white Pomeranian and an ex whose name begins with J.” “What?? Omigod, yes!! I can’t believe this…hold on, let me tweet this real quick.”)

Cold reading happens a lot, and so what? Readers who possess genuine psychic abilities also engage in cold reading, either consciously or unconsciously. Since cold reading also encompasses powers of social intuition and observation (like noticing a person’s clothing, tone of voice, or body language), it’s impossible for a social animal to avoid. Psychic insights are spontaneous—it’s not always possible for a reader to trace all the sensory and extrasensory inputs that led to a conclusion.

In trying to avoid scams and bad logic, debunkers fall victim to a fallacy of their own—that of trying to prove a negative. Just because cold reading works on most people (and hot reading evidently happens), doesn’t mean all psychics’ claims are bogus. There is plenty of evidence—on the fringes of science but moving toward the middle—that does support the mechanisms of psychic perception.

The media—which is very hostile to the psychic industry—would have you believe that people who go to psychics are all rubes getting cheated out of their dollars. It’s condescending for one thing, and for another thing, it’s not true. There’s also a wee bit of sexism involved, since readers and their clients are predominantly women. (And must, therefore, exhibit the “female” traits of being either deceptive or suggestible.) And...there's some research that indicates that poor and uneducated people are more likely to believe in psychic abilities. But never mind that—individuals from all walks of life can be curious about the paranormal.

Here’s a surprising fact I’ve learned from my years working in and around metaphysical events: Lots of people who get psychic readings aren’t big believers. They’re not occultists or kooks. They just enjoy getting readings—and that’s fine! Yes, the majority are women—well-off suburban ladies who are getting the reading for a weekend treat the same way they would treat themselves to a pedicure or brunch. A psychic reading is cheap and fun “me time” that doesn’t have to be taken too seriously.

Here’s another surpising bit of info: Many readers I know prefer working with moderately skeptical folks over true believers. The people who gobble up every word are more likely to cause trouble later (e.g., by getting addicted to psychic readings or blaming the psychic for not warning them of some bad luck).

Skepticism is a normal reaction to the paranormal or uncanny. Remember, psychics are people, too, and often deal with inner doubt. Even those of us who have had psychic gifts from a young age have had to come to terms with the weirdness of what it is that we do.

So, don’t think you need to check your common sense at the door, or hide it from the person who’s giving you the reading. Good readers are not out to “prove” that they’re psychic, and they’re not attached to being right. They’re devoted to being fully present and delivering the best messages they can—nothing more, nothing less.

It’s okay to steer the reader away from topics that aren’t resonating with you. Just be polite and direct so you don’t knock the psychic out of their groove: “No, that doesn’t sound like anyone I know. Can we move on?” or “Perhaps. What do you see on the career horizon?” Remember, you’re not trying to prove the reader wrong or catch them out. Being unsure/skeptical is fine—being hostile will lock down your energy and make it harder for the psychic to do their job.

It’s a fact that some people go to psychics looking for evidence of psychic phenomena. Like UFO fans, these people want to believe, and there is a whole subgenre of psychic ready to feed that desire. Evidentiary psychics specialize in providing evidence of clairvoyance and life-after-death by hitting on concrete details they couldn’t possibly know. This type of reading is very satisfying to clients who have lost a loved one, and to people who want to have their paranormal beliefs vindicated in public.

Unfortunately, evidentiary psychics are plagued by more than their share of hot-reading scandals and mentalism/cold-reading/stage magic tricks. I’m not saying all the so-called "proof" is faked—just that evidentiary mediumship, in particular, is big business. The best approach to a reading is to not be focused on obtaining evidence. Just be open to the possibility of psychic information coming through for you, and be ready to evaluate the information on its own merits.

Preparing for a reading

Preparing for a reading by meditating

If possible, do some simple self-preparation before getting your reading. The more prepared you are, the more you will get for your time and money. The day before the reading, get a good night’s sleep, avoid alcohol and drugs, eat lightly, and avoid anyone/anything that’s going to stress you out. Just before the reading, take a few cleansing breaths and ground and center your energy if you have a personal method for doing that.

Why would you do all that work when you’re the one paying for a service? Medical professionals will hate this analogy…but, oh well. You wouldn’t go into the doctor’s office for blood work if you just had a stack of pancakes for breakfast, because you wouldn’t get results you could use. Having a clear mind and stable energy will give your reader a baseline to work with.

Many people want to get readings in the aftermath of a catastrophe—like a breakup or job loss—and that impulse is understandable. Still, it’s probably better to wait a few days. A querent who’s grieving or angry or desperate is not as likely to be receptive to good advice.

Another aspect of preparation is being ready with the right questions. Try meditating on your questions before going in: What does your highest self really need you to hear today? Formulating questions for divination is a big, big topic—too complex to cover in-depth here. But most readers would agree that the best questions are open-ended and actionable.

Open-ended questions can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no” or a short phrase. They offer more possibilities, more opportunities for psychic insights to emerge. Skeptics would say that they also offer the psychic less risk of being wrong—but that’s beside the point. As a client, you almost always benefit from broadening the conversation to include a whole spectrum of possibilities.

Actionable questions yield answers that you can use to pursue your goals and improve your life. Most psychics (and magickal people in general) reject the concept of absolute destiny. Your life is what you make it. The purpose of a reading is not to predict the future with certainty, but to give you insight about pathways you might wish to pursue or avoid.

Many people, unfortunately, go to psychics because they are looking for easy answers or excuses for why they are miserable. Readers love actionable questions because they signal that you are taking an active role in the experience (and might actually benefit from the psychic’s advice). Most readers genuinely want to help you better your circumstances…but they can’t do it without your participation.

So instead of asking, “Will I get promoted at my job?” try “What career opportunities should I be paying attention to?” Instead of “When will I meet Mr./Ms. Right?” consider “What steps can I take to attract a loving partner into my life?”

Most of all, try and stay open to new information. Confirmation bias (hearing what you want to hear) is all too real—especially if the reader is calling on you to make some life changes. Try not to have your mind made up before the session begins. A psychic reading is rare opportunity to get an unbiased opinion. Don’t squander it out of pride or fear.

Writing it down

As I mentioned earlier in this article, getting a reading from a good psychic is a whirlwind experience. It’s also not uncommon to trance out a little during the session or to feel energetic sensations that are unusual for you. All these experiences can combine to make the content of the reading hard to remember later.

Some readers allow you to record the session. You can also take notes, jotting down important details for later. If you keep a dream journal or Book of Shadows or magickal logbook, this is an excellent place to store the details of your reading for later.

Don’t worry if some things don’t make sense. Go ahead and include them in your notes. When you re-visit the reading, you may find that the psychic was right all along—or that things evolved in a way that nobody could have predicted.

In addition to making their observations/predictions, the psychic may give you some personalized homework. This might include exercises you can do at home: Affirmations/mantras, prayer and meditation, energy work or visualizations. He or she might guide you to make contact with a certain stone or angel or animal spirit. Since they only have your attention for 15 minutes to an hour, the reader’s intuitively prescribed suggestions are their best chance to have a positive impact on your life.

It’s up to you whether you want to do this follow-up work. But if you do, try and record the results. This is the best way, I think, to test the validity of the reading: How well does it work for you going forward?

Following up

There are no rules for how often you should get psychic readings. Psychic readings are a bit like roller coasters. Some people try one and decide it’s not for them, and some people want to ride every single one in the country! I know some clients who get readings for milestone occasions like birthdays and holidays—that seems like a healthy way for civilians to stay in touch with the psychic realm without going overboard.

You can return to the same reader over and over again, or go to someone new. (Most pros have too many clients to remember what you two talked about last time…but they just might surprise you!) It’s not disloyal to sample different readers and different reading styles—many professional readers do the same exact thing in their personal lives.

Whatever your preference, resist the temptation to get a whole series of readings on the same question. It’s usually diminishing returns, and there’s a real risk of just picking the answer you like the best. Wait until a reasonable interval has passed, or until the situation has substantially changed.

Psychic addiction is real. Like gambling addiction, it can get you in financial trouble fast. So, if you find that you're obsessed with psychics, or are keeping your readings secret from family and friends, or are spending more than you can really afford, it’s time to ask for help. This is another reason why it’s a good idea to only work with reputable readers—those who come well-recommended or who have earned your trust. Ethical psychics are focused on improving your life, not milking you for cash.

Hopefully, this article has helped to de-mystify psychic work, and given you some tips to take to your next reading or psychic fair. Thanks for visiting our site, and enjoy your magickal explorations! May wisdom and joy follow you wherever you are.

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