What Is the Difference Between Psychic and Intuitive?

Hi Anna,

For years I’ve referred to people who share their psychic gifts as ‘intuitives’ rather than ‘psychics’ to avoid the troublesome connotations that the word ‘psychic’ has.

Is this just a matter of semantics or do you see fundamental differences between psychics and intuitives (and empaths)?
~ Robert

Hi Robert,

Thanks for sending in your question. You’re the second person who has asked me this in the space of a few days so I figured it was time to answer it on my blog.

Fundamentally, there is not much difference between a psychic and an intuitive. When you think about the word ‘psychic’, fortune-tellers and crystal balls may come to mind. But at its root, the word ‘psychic’ does not necessarily refer to fortune telling – it is from the Greek, and simply means ‘of the soul’. So when I use the word ‘psychic’, I am referring to guidance that comes from your soul and the spiritual realm, or someone who can channel such guidance.

And again, intuition is the means by which the higher self communicates with us – it is a function of the soul. So not a whole lot of difference there between the two, at first look.

Intuitives & Psychics might use different clair gifts

The only minor difference between the two that I am aware of, is that psychic gifts are thought of as being clairvoyance and clairaudience (clear-seeing and clear-hearing, so that means receiving guidance through one’s inner ear or mind’s eye.)

These might be considered the more flashy and dramatic ways to get spiritual guidance. So if someone calls themselves a psychic, the connotation is that they are likely to use either clairvoyance or clairaudience, as part of their skill set.

Intuitive gifts, on the other hand, are more likely to be the quieter, more subtle clairs: clairsentience and claircognizance (clear feeling and clear knowing.) Clairsentience is about gut instincts and hunches, and claircognizance is about inner knowing. Not so flashy or dramatic.

So if someone calls themselves an ‘intuitive’, it’s more likely that the person uses clairsentience or claircognizance as part of their skillset.

Of course some people call themselves ‘intuitive’ just because they don’t like the word ‘psychic’

I changed the name of my ‘Psychic Awakening’ Course several years ago, to ‘Intuitive Awakening‘ for this very reason. And in that course, I teach students to identify and develop any and all of their gifts, which include clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience and claircognizance. So you can see that the distinction I made above doesn’t always stand.

Personally, I don’t dislike the word ‘psychic’ when used among those who understand and are open to the work I do. But it can make a bad impression among those who have little understanding of the spiritual world. So that is why I changed the name of my course. And I know other psychics who label themselves ‘intuitives’ for the same reason.

what about empaths?

Robert, in your question, you mentioned the word ‘empath’, which is a different thing altogether.

An empath is someone who has a psychic gift which enables them to ‘feel into’ and put themselves in the shoes of another person’s experience. An emotional empath, for example, is able to explore someone’s emotional experience, and may come away from that affected or burdened by what they have explored.

Note that this is a gift that goes beyond the conventional type of empathy that the majority of human beings experience. Most of us will wince if we see someone else undergoing something painful, for example: an operation without anaesthesia. Or to give another example, we may feel a sense of trepidation when we see a stunt artist walking a tightrope between two high rise buildings.

But emotional empathy is a psychic gift that (1) goes beyond what most people experience and (2) often has a paranormal element to it. So, an emotional empath can be adversely affected by other peoples’ experiences long after they have occurred. And emotional empaths are also able to ‘tap into’ other peoples’ experiences from a distance, or without even knowing for sure that such experiences have occurred in reality.

Here’s a couple of examples of the latter in action:

Alice’s Car Accident

An empath client of mine once told me a story about a rather dramatic example of her emotional empathy in action:

Right after her daughter “Alice” set off on a long road trip in a mountainous & sparsely populated area of the South Island of New Zealand, Jenny began to feel an unusual sense of dread and panic. She knew it was related to her daughter and she couldn’t shake the feeling or get in touch with her by phone. So, even though it was late at night, she decided to just get into her car and drive in the same direction her daughter had taken on her trip. Jenny had no idea what she was doing, but she knew she just had to get in her car and go.

After driving for about half an hour along the route she knew Alice would take, she saw some lights down an embankment in the dark – it was her daughter’s car. Alice’s car was teetering close to the edge of a hill.

Her mother believed that as an empath, she had been picking up on her daughter’s terror and her heightened senses alerted her to where her daughter was trapped. Luckily Alice had not been injured and was rescued by the emergency services.

My Psychic Empathy

In a less dramatic example, I used to coach students over the phone in a 6-week long program to connect with their Spirit Guides. Before each call, I used to ‘tune in’ to the student’s Spirit Guide team and upon doing this, I would also feel how the student felt at that moment and get a sense for what was going on in their lives. I would know whether they were doing well or if they were struggling. This was not something that happened to me consciously – it was simply what would happen when I tuned into the student from a distance, to connect with their guides.

It is not unusual for emotional empaths to have experiences like the two I mentioned above.

There are other forms of empathy, too, such as physical empathy, psychological empathy and more. You can read more about those here: What Kind of Empath Are You?

So being an empath is different from being a psychic or an intuitive. Psychics and intuitives receive information through various clairs, from the spiritual realm (i.e. Spirit Guides & the Higher self). Whereas empaths receive information from a person’s energy field, and they receive such information by experiencing it as if it is happening to them. Empathy is a form of clairsentience, but a kind that has a person feelings things vicariously.

I prefer the word ‘sensitive’

The blanket word I prefer these days is ‘sensitive’ – because it encompasses ‘psychic’, ‘intuitive’ and ’empath’ and it doesn’t have as many negative connotations.

Over to you – what do you see as the difference between these two terms, and which is your preferred one?

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. Regina A Forster

    Hi Anna,
    Thanks for this comparison to intuitive vs. psychic. Very helpful, especially how different clairs are used by each.

    As far as empaths go, I’m not generally empathic except with someone I’ve got a deep heart connection with like Jenny and Alice. That kind of experience like Jenny’s is pretty infrequent for me though I recently had a situation that has left me very confused.

    First, years ago my partner/now wife had a client come for an energy session and shortly after they began I started having intense anxiety related to him coming onto her sexually. It was nighttime and I felt absolutely compelled to go outside and was able to peek into the window and see that everything seemed OK. She told me later that he did suggest something sexual which she promptly refused. She was grateful for my awareness as she hadn’t picked that up from him otherwise. And I was gratified to know that I wasn’t going crazy and imagining things.

    But then, just last week, I had something very strange happen. I was clairaudiently awakened at 5:30 a.m. to a gentle sounding alarm clock and a soft feminine voice saying, “Time to put your collar on.” (I’m an ordained interfaith minister but not actively and have never worn a collar per se) Then I clairvoyantly saw a man get out of bed and throw two pillows out an open door into the next room and stand in front of a dresser with his back to me. He had a shirt on, white with very thin blue lines crossing each other (sort of plaid but not intense like a plaid) and I noticed his shirt had no collar! I opened my eyes, in real life, and it was 5:55 a.m. which to me means change. That would have all been fine, kind of typical of messages for me, except I then began to have anxious thoughts about an ex from the 90’s. We’ve recently reconnected and my wife and I and my ex are now all close friends. I really think the three of us are like the Three Musketeers on a soul level. Anyway, I could feel how deeply I loved her (soul wise) and felt panicked like something had happened to her. The only thing I could think of was that she’d gotten the Coronavirus and was in the hospital. She’s 79 and recently diagnosed with COPD. It was so intense I thought she must be dying. The thoughts and process were so similar to what happened with my wife years ago. I felt compelled to call her at 8 a.m. but got no answer, same at 9 a.m. I then felt that same compulsion like Jenny to drive to her house and my wife and I were just leaving to do that when she called and said she’d slept in after doing a lot of yard work the day before, and was just fine health wise.

    So now I’m not sure what that was all about?! I’m completely flummoxed. And was really shocked though relieved when she called and was OK. Was this a different type of situation than the first one with my wife? Could I have been picking something up that’s in her future? Any light you could shed on this would be very appreciated! Thanks!

  2. Regina A Forster

    I forgot to mention that I was feeling overwhelming grief and loss at the thought of never seeing her again in the physical. And I assumed the connection between my clairaudient/clairvoyant experience at 5:30 and the feelings that came up about her was because she’s asked me, as a minister, to do her funeral service when she passes. I’m just feeling like there’s something here that I’m missing, something important I could learn. Thank you!


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