Use of psychics for stress and emotional problems: a descriptive survey comparison with conventional providers and informal helpers

John Farhall*, Christopher A. Pepping, Ru Ying Cai, Marilyn L. Cugnetto, Scott D. Miller

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    Conventional mental health treatments do not meet the needs of all who seek help: some consult informal and alternative providers. Researching the use and perceived benefits of these non-conventional sources of help may contribute to understanding help-seeking behavior and inform mental health policy. We explored the experiences of people consulting psychics (a type of alternative provider) for mental health needs, through comparisons with experiences of people consulting conventional and informal providers. An online survey sought feedback on help seeking for stress or emotional problems from 734 adults who had consulted a psychologist or counsellor; doctor or psychiatrist who prescribed medication; friend or family member; or psychic or similar alternative provider. Analyses included descriptive and inferential statistics and content analysis of textual responses. Problems were commonly described in symptom or disorder terminology with considerable overlap across groups. Content analysis of reasons for choice of helper identified four main categories—functional, reasoned, emotional, and passive—which differed significantly across groups (Cramer’s V = 0.26), with consulting psychics predominantly a reasoned choice. Ratings of overall effectiveness of help by those consulting psychics were greater than for the three other groups (d = 0.31 to 0.42), with very few adverse outcomes in any group. Help seeking for stress or emotional problems includes consultations with psychics or similar alternative providers, with self-reported outcomes better than for conventional providers. Further research is warranted to establish whether psychic consultations may serve a useful public health function.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)326-342
    Number of pages17
    JournalAdministration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


    • psychics
    • mental health
    • alternative providers
    • policy


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