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Seeing a Psychic Isn’t a Replacement for a Mental Health Professional

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Let me begin with unequivocally stating that I have zero qualms with psychics, tarot, crystals or any other practice that someone may use as part of their self-care or spiritual fulfillment. In fact I’m fully mindful of and supportive of people turning toward any faith-based practice that helps them to feel safe, connected, gives them meaning and otherwise contributes to their well being, as long as they don’t push those beliefs onto others. I know that these aspects of a person’s life are crucial and often integral to their identities, which is why I find religious trauma particularly damaging and egregious.

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I also want to say that while I don’t personally actively have any kind of spiritual or religious practice, I am not arrogant enough to think that I know for certain that there isn’t some kind of higher power nor that there aren’t people who for some reason none of us can understand appear to have abilities that go far beyond those that we consider to be “average,” like some kind of ESP or ability to see into the future. I have indeed met people who can tap into things about others that baffle and humble me profoundly. These mystical humans have a lot to offer people when their abilities are used carefully and for the good of others. However, I do not think that going to a psychic is in any way a replacement for therapy.

This may seem to be super random, but it’s something that has actually happened within my family and which has caused a bit of friction between my relatives and I. When I began therapy, and frankly to this day, several family members treated therapy and my therapists with suspicion. They accused them of brainwashing me, having the agenda of destroying families and otherwise being hogwash. For every new revelation I made about my trauma and about my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I was met with skepticism and discouraged from continuing therapy, even though it was quite literally saving my life.

I’m well aware that many of us, particularly those with intergenerational trauma, come from family systems that have fundamentally dysfunctional structures, which reinforce compliance with cultural and familial norms and perpetuate behaviors that maintain the status quo at the expense of individual development and well being. As such anyone who attempts to in any way buck that system threatens to disrupt the entire family dynamic, which can cause a seismic shift in how members of the family interact with one another. I dared to buck that system and it didn’t sit well. Additionally, I have experienced religious trauma, which came to a head with my mothers chaotic ambiguity as to what her beliefs were, leaving me hesitant to commit to any particular religious or spiritual dogma because of how her confusion made me feel unsafe as a child.

So when the suggestion that what I needed to solve my issues was a visit to a psychic instead of a therapist, I was frankly…annoyed. My uncle had tried therapy and medication for his anxiety and depression, but it wasn’t a quick fix and he couldn’t accept that any of his current mental health challenges had anything to do with his (our) traumatic childhood. I get it, it sucks to realize this and it’s even harder to actually do the work to heal those wounds. Visiting a psychic was, for him, a less challenging alternative, even if that psychic didn’t particularly tell him anything he didn’t already know nor did it help alleviate his anxiety or depression long term.

I didn’t dissuade him from going, but I did challenge his suggestion that a psychic was in some way a replacement for therapy. Therapists are highly educated and regulated professionals with very specific ethical constraints within which they operate. Sure there are bad therapists, but I’d argue that for the most part therapists do the best they can to help their clients to address their mental health challenges using a toolbox of various modalities that they can pull out where they think they may be appropriate.

Psychics are not regulated and there are plenty who not only don’t have real psychic abilities, they actually take advantage of people by peddling snake oils and potions that will miraculously heal whatever ails you. I’ve been to many and can count on one hand how many appeared to have actual abilities that baffled me and knowledge of native or herbal medicinal remedies for various physical ailments that were based upon historical and cultural analysis.

The point is, if you want to see a psychic as an adjunct to therapy, go for it. But please don’t profess that it is in any way the same or better than psychology, which is a scientific approach utilizing aspects of biology, neuroscience, behavioral analysis, structural science, sociology, anthropology and pharmacology. The two can co-exist as elements of one’s health and spiritual care, but if you are struggling with mental health issues that are disrupting your life, please consider seeking the help of a mental health professional. There’s no stigma, it isn’t brainwashing and you aren’t betraying your spiritual or religious beliefs.

Getty image by Planet Flem

Originally published: March 10, 2022
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