4 Clear Signs that Your Spiritual Teacher and Healer Is Abusive or Unethical

On any given day, I get emails and comments from readers and clients talking or asking about topics that are covered on this website. Lately I’ve noticed a consistent theme in people telling me about their experiences with healers, psychics and spiritual teachers that have been negative.

I wanted to create an article which can help others to recognize abusive behaviours from anyone who offers intuitive or healing services – primarily because it is something that has impacted me a great deal in the past. I have been abused in this area and more than once. It also seems the more people I hear from about this, it’s not an uncommon thing to heal or resolve a bad experience one has had with a healer (kind of ironic!) And because there is no regulatory body to turn to after a bad or even traumatic experience, you’re on your own.

Recognizing manipulative or unethical behaviours in a psychic, healer or spiritual teacher

It’s obvious to many clients that if a psychic tells you that you’re cursed and you need to pay them $1000 to remove it, it’s likely to be a scam. But what about encounters that are less black and white, but which still leave you in turmoil or upset?

The first thing I wanted to point out in this article is something clients and students can often forget:

The profession of psychic stuff, spiritual teaching and spiritual healing is totally unregulated. No-one holds anyone else accountable.  No-one is there to protect you if something goes wrong. If a healer behaves badly, they won’t get struck off a register like they would if they were a psychotherapist. You won’t be able to go to any regulatory body with your complaint. Instead, you might feel a need to resolve it by cutting a cord (I have a couple of cords to abusive healers and teachers and it’s not a bad way to get closure.) Since you are the only one looking out for you in this area, it makes sense to do one’s homework.

Because this field is unregulated, and also because intuitives and healers can wield a lot of influence, it can on occasion attract the kind of person who is on a power trip. It can also attract people who have deep unresolved traumas or emotions that interfere with their ability to treat clients with respect and as equals (i.e. abusive people.) You might be the kind of person who would not take abuse in your relationships, yet with a spiritual teacher or healer, abusive behaviours can knock you for six, because you might be open and vulnerable in your spirituality, and open to hearing from an authority, in a way that you might not be to the same extent in your relationship or friendships.

Again, the abusive ones form a small percentage of the people practising. This article aims to help you avoid those people.

Below are some behaviours which I feel are red flags, in a relationship with a healer, spiritual teacher or psychic. If you’re thinking of working with a new healer or spiritual teacher and you want to be careful (like me) because you don’t want to have a bad experience, the first step is to get a feel for how a person presents themselves in their work. Don’t jump in feet first without knowing someone.

When you look at the person’s website or whatever, if that person has ‘issues’ which will impact on their work with you, you’ll feel it, as you read their book, website or promotional materials. You might not notice these issues consciously, but often you will notice things unconsciously through your intuition. When this happens and something feels a little bit ‘off’, it’s because your unconscious mind has noticed something ‘off’ but your conscious mind hasn’t pinpointed what it is yet. So watch out for a feeling of discomfort even if you can’t explain the reason for it.

Here are four red flags that I have noticed abusive or unethical teachers like to use:

(For purposes of brevity, I’ll call him or her a teacher all throughout this article, but I mean anyone who is either a teacher, psychic or healer, or perhaps all of those at once.)

1. When a teacher tells you that his techniques are better than everyone else’s, and that he has access to wisdom or teachings that no-one else possesses

The truth about this:

There are many good healing techniques out there.  Some spiritual teachers or healers have a unique selling point, but most don’t. I have known teachers who believe that their technique is the only one that works for a certain process, such as cord-cutting or energetic clearing. Not true. When you explore and experiment, you’ll find there are so many brilliant techniques out there. This is because everyone has a connection back to Source, and anyone can receive inspiration and come up with a new method.

In addition, no one person has all the answers. No one modality is a ‘one stop shop’. No one teacher can be everything to one client or student.  That is a good thing. I can’t imagine how insufferable a person might become, knowing they are the be-all-and-end-all for any group of people!!

2. When a healer invalidates you and challenges your subjective perceptions

Invalidation is when a person tries to brainwash you, telling you that the way you see things is not right. Invalidating seeks to distort or undermine a person’s perceptions of their world. It is an indication of emotional abuse when practised consistently. And it’s a form of emotional abuse that unethical healers use to keep you off kilter and not trusting your perceptions and your gut, because then they have more influence over you and you are more likely to agree with them.

3. When a teacher gives you an ultimatum

In my article ‘The Dark Side of Spirituality’ I talk about the experience I had with an abusive teacher who told me that I had until I was in my thirties to step into my power and ‘fulfil my potential’. If I didn’t, after a certain age, (I think it was 32) God and the angels would abandon me.  He also told me that only he could help me stop this from happening.

Other clients I’ve known have been told things like: you’ll never achieve X until you reach perfection or a place of complete healing as a person. It’s not true.

God or Source (or whatever you would like to call it) never abandons us.  Spirit doesn’t give us deadlines or ultimatums. If a healer or teacher does, it’s about their control issues.

4. When a teacher allows clients or students to put them on a pedestal

This is a big one for me. I am always suspicious of teachers who claim to be enlightened or perfected beings or those who are comfortable with being put on a pedestal. For me, this is a red flag because it belies a need for adoration or admiration that can interfere with the person’s work.

Some of the craziest and most abusive behaviours that I have heard about have come from self-styled ‘enlightened’ people. This is perhaps because a state of dissociation often looks like enlightenment (in case that is a new term for anyone reading this, dissociation is when a person is psychically or mentally absent from their life, perhaps using alcohol or drugs and sometimes even spiritual pursuits to numb pain or to mentally check out.)

The more checked out a person can be from life, using their escape route of choice, the more this can look like spiritual bliss. But it’s not. It just looks that way for a while.

Those who do not admit to having any faults or allow others to believe that they are somehow superior or more perfected than other people are usually quite dysfunctional for this reason.  But people like this who seem to have life all worked out can attract quite a following, because many people are looking for ‘the answer’. Most people look for the answers, but some spiritual people look for THE answer, very often in the form of a guru. The guru is then put on a pedestal and seen as an amazing, enlightened being. This also has something to do with the fact that the teachings the person imparts can seem very evolved and amazing.

What I have personally learned over the last few years in this area is not to equate the teachings with the teacher. I used to automatically think someone is fantastic as a person because they’ve brought forth amazing spiritual teachings into the world. Teachings can be impressive, and make the person seem impressive too, but the issue here is that all teachings come from somewhere and most do not come from the teacher.

Most healing techniques and teachings have a long history of being used. In my opinion, there is very little that is new or original. If you do some research, you’ll be able to track the lineage of most of them. The vast majority of teachers use things they themselves have been taught, and some alter or adapt the teachings somewhat. I used to be taught something and think ‘wow, this teacher is incredible’. Now I myself am teaching, I realise the teachings are not the person, nor do they come directly from the person’s brain in most cases.

As for faults that all human beings have – basically, every kind of human meltdown, crisis, upset, weakness that you or I have ever had, you can guarantee every spiritual teacher also has their own equivalent, no matter how wise, clever or ‘sorted’ they seem. Some are just very good at presenting a front or an image. Sometimes you unconsciously create the image for them, in your own mind.

And the ones who claim to be enlightened are often even more extreme than the rest of us in terms of what they struggle with, but won’t show you.

This isn’t just a theory I have – it’s what I’ve experienced when I’ve been allowed ‘behind the scenes’ and when I have seen who a person really is, behind what they present and teach.

Ultimately the people who have unwittingly chosen abusive teachers along the way on their spiritual path sometimes have mixed feelings about the experience, feeling strangely grateful, because it can teach you a lot and make you much more careful. Such experiences can teach us a lot about discernment and trusting ourselves.  But they can be horrible at the time.

Please use the comments section below to share your point of view or your stories. I’ve given four red flags here but I know there are more. I hope someone found this helpful in some way.

Meet Anna

Hi, I’m Anna Sayce! My purpose here on this website is to provide practical techniques and information to help empaths to understand, and fix the root of their energetic overwhelm & also to help sensitives to embrace and develop their intuitive gifts. I believe that developing our spiritual & intuitive side is very powerful and allows us to improve our own lives, and if we wish, even make the world a better place for others. Discover more >


  1. Julie | A Clear Sign


    It probably shouldn’t surprise me that people fall into this situation or get duped. That to me seems like the grossest form of abuse outside of perhaps the physical.

    I’ve always wondered,”What’s REALLY going on in there?” with people who have slick marketing and never reveal a single thing about themselves. It looks like ugliness to me and so I move along. I’ve always endeavored to be transparent and I enjoy working with other people who aren’t afraid to share themselves and their experiences with the world. We ALL have problems!

    There is nothing new under the sun – just some unique personalities who we can work with as we all learn and grow.

  2. Lisa | Practically Intuitive

    Anna, I love your point about separating out the teacher from the teaching. Wisdom always comes FROM Source and THROUGH people. Take what resonates and keep moving.

    And totally with you on “nothing new under the sun” – just ways of seeing and presenting it. A particular teacher may have just the way of saying it that reaches me while someone else saying the same thing flies under my radar. That’s the cool thing about it all! Find a teacher who you can hear and with whom you resonate.

    Wonderful post. Sharing liberally!

  3. Michelle

    Love it Anna! Thanks so much for doing this posting. I totally resonate with everything that you have said. There are many wonderful and beautiful teachers out there but an equal amount of questionable ones too.

    And like you, having met my fair share of spiritual and enlightened teachers on ego trips and whose intentions were sometimes very questionable, the other thing that I found valuable and learnt from my own experiences was not to judge yourself or be too harsh on yourself if you found that you believed in or followed such a teacher. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement sometimes.

    And after all, hindsight is a wonderful thing! 🙂

  4. Susan S.

    “What I have personally learned over the last few years in this area is not to equate the teachings with the teacher.” Anna, that is gold!

    I bought an online course from a fairly well known astrologer/ psychic, and after I bought the course, but before I started working on it, I happened to listen to one of his podcasts. At one point during his “teaching” he went on a rant about having his downloadable content stolen (by people buying it and giving a friend their login info), and about the number of illegally attempted downloads. As I was listening to his rant, I remembered the length of legalese I read when I was purchasing his online program. I was stunned at the volume of the “do not steal my stuff or yada yada yada” that he had.

    Long story short, I’ve had a tough time going through his course- which is very good information- just because, when I see him now, all I see is his insecurity around money (big time!!). I know he has good stuff to teach me, but it will be a little effort to get past his personality and his issues.

  5. Mati Fuller

    I can add a couple of things about enlightened beings. There are actually two ways you can tell if someone is truly enlighened or just on an ego/power trip. The first one is feeling their energy. A truly enlightened person is basically so connected with source that the source energy magnifies to such a level that you can feel this energy even a mile or two away from the person. This is called a “buddhafield” and it is absolutely tangible. The first time I went to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’s ashram, I instantly felt like everything inside me was melting. Tears were coming down my face, for no reason whatsoever, and it felt like everything was letting go inside me – and this was before I even saw him, or heard him speak a word!!! So, if you go to see a “guru/enlightened” being, close your eyes (and ears) and see if you can feel his energy stirring something inside you. If you can’t feel it, chances are, he is no more enlightened than the rest of us.
    The other sign of enlightenment is that the enlightened one doesn’t actually have a teaching. They don’t borrow other people’s stuff. They respond, spontaneously, moment to moment, to each individual, whatever comes through them directly from source. They never harp on old stuff, because for an enlightened being, each moment is always new, and they are just allowing spirit or source to flow through them.
    There are many false teachers and self proclaimed “enlightened” beings out there, but if you can’t feel a buddha field around them, forget about what they are saying, because the buddha field is a very tangible way to recognize the “real thing” from the fake.

  6. Laura Gross

    Hi Anna,

    Beautifully written! I’ve grown SO much spiritually since the last time I’ve spoken to you. My judgement has gotten a lot better too! Recently, my boyfriend and I checked out this psychic shop in Ellicott city the other day. He offered to go since he’s never been to an intuitive before. I told him based off my experience, that he needs to use his own judgement about how he feels about the reading in the end.

    My gut wasn’t too keen on going in, but I just gave it a shot since I’m spiritually open like that. His reading seemed to be fairly quick. Then when it came to me she opened up about commenting on my body in any way she could. I already knew things didn’t seem right when she commented on my perfume being “cheap”. I know for a fact my perfume isn’t cheap since it’s a very popular brand. Towards the end of the reading she continues to go on about these negative energies bla bla bla. It left me pretty upset and down for the day. She tried to offer “crystals” for a discounted price, but this time I used better judgement and just politely declined.

    Today when I checked my email, I saw that you posted up this exact article. As I read the article, I took it as “Aha! my spirit guides NEVER let me down!” Haha basically I shared this story, to let people know that you should trust your intuition. At times, you might be unsure, but I truly believe that your spirit team and God will not lead you down the wrong path.

    Love this article!

  7. Anna

    Michelle – Right, that’s good to remember. Sometimes we follow certain questionable teachers because we’re learning something important, and in order to get the learnings, that’s what we do. So there’s no point beating oneself up about it.

    Mati – This sounds like good advice for people who might be interested in judging the enlightenment of others.

    Personally I prefer not to do it myself (it can be misjudged and then one might find oneself giving more deference than is due to a person.) But that’s my preference.

  8. Anna

    Laura, great to hear from you. I am glad that you were able to brush off what this psychic said if it did not resonate with you.

  9. Wendy


    This is such an important article and I’m really glad you wrote it.

    I myself have had various confusing experiences with “teachers” or “healers,” to the extent that I am now going through a withdrawal period where I just want to live my life! with no teaching or healing for the time being…

    I have had experiences with one particular teacher whose techniques truly seemed groundbreaking and amazing to me, that I hadn’t encountered anywhere else. But this particular teacher also seems to be so openly insecure about intellectual property stuff and always needing praise and not brooking any disagreement…oh, and exactly what you mentioned – criticizing other teachers and healers..I think you know who I am referring to.

    I find it so bizarre… the healing techniques this person uses have helped me hugely – so how come they can’t use their own techniques to help with their own issues? It doesn’t make sense to me.

  10. Lee

    I was glad to find this article.

    I have a rare, fatal disease, but it is slow and often doesn’t kill until middle age. I started a yoga class, and I reported this to my teacher, since we are required to report injuries or illness. She immediately emailed me and told me that she is a healer, and she charged $100 a session, and she had a special “method” of healing that is better than any other method. I was hesitant, but she sent me a couple more emails, and I finally decided to try.

    Her “method” was that she said she can take away another person’s “karma” so they can be healed. I was probably gullible, but when you are dying, you’re willing to try anything. I actually spent two and a half years doing sessions with her. Not only did the disease not get better, but other things started going wrong in my body, and I was getting sicker and sicker. When I would mention it, she would say, “Well, I don’t know how much bad karma you have—you must have more than I know.” Mentally, I would think, “How convenient for you,” but I was attached to her at this point & had been doing it for so long that I couldn’t imagine stopping (thinking somehow I would lose whatever I might have gained thus far, although I couldn’t see any results).

    This woman was Korean. We had problems right from the start. She seemed to expect me to adapt to her Korean way of thinking (even though she has spent 30 years in this country) and I knew nothing about Koreans. She would get mad if I didn’t like something that she liked (for example–an Ayurveda massage where I was supposed to lie on a table naked during the massage). I told her I didn’t like being naked, and that Americans are not comfortable with that. She got very upset with me that I didn’t feel the same about this massage as she did, and she made me feel there was something ‘unspiritual’ about me because I wasn’t comfortable with being naked.

    From then on, it was just one thing after another. She would tell me one thing, do something else, and if I emailed & asked about it, she would ignore my emails & never answer. I did get very angry a few times & felt very bad about it, but now looking back I realize that none of the situations ever had to escalate to that point if she had been willing to communicate. I finally just quit going suddenly and went into a deep, three month depression, but once i came out of it, all the things wrong with me physically (not related to the disease) got better. I realized how stressful this relationship had been for me and how much better I felt without it. It’s still hard sometimes because I do miss her in spite of everything. But I feel the same as someone above mentioned—I don’t think I will ever want another teacher or healer. I think we have what we need within ourselves.

  11. Carolyn Morse

    I am going through this right now. The pain is heart shattering. For teacher to say you are not welcome in our life. Last week different words. Talked rebuking to me and assumed wrong. I cant take a class that included payment. She said I have a say who gets to. Last week you are doing great work. Yesterday you havent done any work to stay in class. Devastated with her words and actions. I dont trust easily.but felt comfortable opening up. A coach to heal hearts. Carolyn

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