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August 8, 2012

Psychics 2.0

Savvy professional women seeking insight on love, career, and money matters are investing serious cash in future-predicting "intuitives." Is there a real payoff or is this the oldest con in the book?

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Photo Credit: Helen Sear/Courtesy of Klompching Gallery

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When Jennifer Rainville, then a 32-year-old New York City TV reporter, quit her job in 2007, exhausted by the demanding 24-hour news cycle, she lost her hard-charging professional identity. Falling into a rut of declining invitations and ignoring calls from friends, she became a hermit. When an acquaintance recommended she visit Tony LeRoy, a so-called intuitive who claimed to use his powers of perception to guide clients through difficult times, Rainville was skeptical; she'd never seen a psychic. But LeRoy's professional reputation and sterling client list, including fashion insiders like Isaac Mizrahi, were persuasive. Desperate, she forked over $200 for an hour of "intuitive counseling."

The experience was transformative. "At the first session, Tony said I had a book in me. And he knew the details of my life, like that I was raised by a single mother. He even brought up a spiritual experience I had at age 7 that I'd never revealed to anyone," says Rainville. Buoyed by his vision of her as a successful author, Rainville found an agent, published a novel, and started her own media advisory company in a burst of entrepreneurial energy. "Tony hit a reset button. Now I'm writing my second book, and my business is doing well. He lit a spark I didn't know I had."

Forget Miss Cleo and the Psychic Friends Network. The new wave of low-key professional psychics relies on a finely honed sixth sense to guide clients toward rational choices about their lives and careers. As part of a public relations makeover, they're rebranding themselves as intuitives, highly sensitive people who put their skills to work to enhance clients' lives. Tech-savvy and Web-friendly — brandishing smartphones, using Skype, Facebook, and Twitter accounts in place of crystal balls — they're transforming a moth-eaten gypsy practice into a modern-day tool. And in a post-recession world where people are scrambling for any competitive edge to score a promotion or a job, and relationships fall through the cracks, many results-oriented, high-achieving women find these new gurus a fresh resource, trading recommendations as they would with hairdressers or personal trainers. Especially appealing to this time-pressed clientele? Intuitives deliver specific and practical pieces of advice instantaneously, as opposed to therapy's years-in-the-making revelations.

Laura Day, a bicoastal intuitive who's written six books on the practice, says her no-nonsense approach appeals to her high-profile admirers, including doctors and scientists like Nobel laureate James Watson; driven celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman; and even multimillion-dollar corporations like Seagate, a hard-drive manufacturer that incorporated her input in training sessions to get the company's research and marketing teams collaborating better. "I'm a psychic without the dead people and spirits," says Day, whose no-fuss haircut and black shirtdress on the cover of her recent book, How to Rule the World From Your Couch, is more corporate consultant than occult communer.

Los Angeles — based Deborah Essner made an appointment with Day after the Internet company where she worked as a senior product manager folded. She knew she wanted to leave the industry but had no clue for what. Day predicted Essner's next employer would start with the letter F, and that its logo would be an F within a circle. When she came across a job at Factiva, a business information and research tool whose logo was an F inside a circle, Day's prediction gave Essner the confidence to push harder than she would have otherwise, and she landed the position. Essner, 38, still consults Day, valuing her ability to dislodge submerged sentiments and memories; she and clients like her think of intuitives more as fortune-shapers than traditional fortune-tellers, arming women with the tools for self-actualization. "She holds up a mirror that reveals your hidden intentions and motivations," says Essner. "It's amazing."

Though the techniques they employ differ, intuitive counselors all tout an ability to perceive behavioral patterns and visualize past and future events, saying images pop unbidden into their minds the minute a client walks through the door. L.A.-based intuitive Kaeleya Rayne helps women tease out the meaning hidden in their gut reactions to events around them. So if clients are stressed, Rayne suggests they close their eyes, take a deep breath, and allow a true emotion — like fear or loneliness — to bubble to the surface. Day teaches clients mental exercises to improve personal intuition, recommending they do a series of targeted visualization techniques before bed, when they are most likely to be relaxed. LeRoy sketches a quick portrait reflecting his impressions, drawing large feet on a person he perceives as grounded, or a dash on an area of the anatomy, like the stomach, where he senses a physical or emotional problem.


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