Why should such readings be successful

Although the cold reading may be capable of generating quite accurate information, due in part to the client's effort after meaning and their tendency to forget what wasn't true and to embellish what was, it can be argued that this only partly explains the success of the psychic reading. Hyman (1981) notes that although it is unlikely that the pseudopsychic reading will generate information which is truly new to the client, it may still have utility for them, as "He or she may have a new insight into the conflicts and problems that precipitated the consultation. And new alternatives for coping with the situation may have been opened up" (p. 179). Dean (1986/7) has commented that "For every Western astrologer who concentrates on prediction there are probably another two who concentrate on psychology and counselling. The popular view of Western astrology as consisting of prediction and nothing else is incorrect" (p. 168). And Jones (1989) reflects:

It is an entrancing experience, having one's life described by a stranger. It's an exercise as seductive as looking at a photograph of one's self. At the very least, what (you get for your money) [sic] is an attentive listener and guilt-free self-absorption ... Indeed there are some who maintain that today's practicing psychic is the poor man's analyst. (p. 5)

There may still be a stigma attached to visiting a mental health worker or counsellor, particularly among the working classes; according to Ruthchild (1981), visiting a psychic may provide a socially acceptable alternative forum for talking though one's problems and concerns. Pseudopsychics are generally aware of their role as counsellors, and often echo the Hippocratic admonition to 'first do no harm', avoiding offering independent advice but preferring instead to provide non-judgemental support for the decision already reached by the client. Corinda (1984) for example, comments

One thing is vital knowledge to the reader and should never be forgotten; that is, nearly all clients ask a question which has already been considered by them and they have invariably formed their own opinions as to what to do ... make it a rule to find out what they have decided they should do - and you advise the same. (p. 351).

A common scenario is that of a client who has some important or unpalatable life-decision to make. Bascom Jones (1989) notes that such people "know what they ought to do but can't find the courage to do it. What these people need is self-confidence and belief in themselves ... [I just] give them a push in the right direction." (p. 6). In this way, the client can be relieved of some of the responsibility for their choices and actions, as any blame can later be laid at the door of the reader.

There is some evidence to suggest that readers can be quite skilled in the art of counselling. Lester (1982) has considered parallels between the psychic reading and other more orthodox forms of therapy, and noted a number of commonalities, which left him impressed with the readers' competence at the counselling process. Sechrest & Bryan (1968) found the advice offered by astrologers to be realistic, and usually vigorous, personal and friendly, and concluded that such consultations were unlikely to be damaging and probably represented a great bargain because they were relatively cheap. Dean (1986/7) concludes that "In a society that denies ego support to most people, astrology [and presumably other forms of divination] provides it at a very low price." (p. 178). Thurstone & Reed (1984) surprisingly found that psychic readings, given at a distance by anonymous psychics were rated by paying clients as a more valuable source of counselling than more orthodox psychological techniques. This suggests that a reader may be able to provide a valuable service even if his claim to be psychic is untrue. There is great scope to further consider both the interpersonal expertise that the reader may possess, which may contribute to any therapeutic effects, and to determine what criteria the client applies when evaluating the reading. This promises to be a fruitful area for future research.

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