The Double Standard: Mediums and Shamans Speak Out

Illuminating the double standard that exists between medical doctors and healers and spiritual doctors and healers. It's time to level the playing field and erase the stigma. 

By Sarah Petruno Shamana with contributions from Amanda Linette Meder

When I was 24, I walked into a high-rise building in upscale La Jolla, California.

There were doormen, waterfalls in the lobby, glass encased elevators, an in-house coffee shop and a restaurant.

I wasn’t there for an executive business meeting.

I was there to meet with a therapist who was charging me $500 an hour, for me to tell her my life story.

Never once did I question her fees. They were, and are, on par with the industry standard for an hourly therapist rates.

That same year, I saw an ophthalmologist who charged me $4,000 for a 30 minute procedure.  

I didn’t question that either.

Medical doctors and therapists routinely charge hundreds, if not thousands of dollars an hour for their services. No one bats an eye.

In part, because insurance covers the bulk of the cost; for those lucky enough to be insured, so many people never see or are directly influenced by the rates.

In part, because these are the standardized accepted rates for western medical and counseling based services.

There is an unspoken understanding that:

The higher the charge, the better the specialist is at what they do, the more training they have and more care, attention and administration will go into the services that are provided.

As rational humans, looking out for our physical and emotional health, if we can get it, we want only the best.

Now let’s talk about the flip side of the coin.

Let’s discuss the spiritual healers and therapists that have long been marginalized by western society.

Your shamans and your mediums.

What happens when a shaman or a medium requests a rate of $400/hr?

People wince.

Greed, most assuredly, many conclude, is the only reason.

We don’t automatically apply the same assumptions as before, when dealing with western therapists and healers. We do not always assume it will be a better, more intentional experience, or consider the cost of their office space and rent in the given area, or the cost of an assistant for professional scheduling and administration, or the cost of more training, or what types of additional gratuitous services are rolled into the cost of the appointment.

If a therapist office offers relaxing music, with a waterfall in the lobby and complimentary herbal teas, we understand these extras cost more and we are willing to pay for the better experience.

Why is this not the same with a spiritual therapist . . . a Medium?

The natural assumption applied to physical doctors and therapists is that if the service costs more, it has to do with some specific reason that makes sense - rent space, schooling, patient amenities, administration.

Rather, for spiritual healers and mediums, it is assumed that if someone has a spiritual or a healing gift, if they REALLY CARED, they should give patient services out for free or no charge without consideration for the costs to provide a quality service.

And while that’s a nice idea, it also implies that the person with the gift must live in poverty without being paid for their work.

With spiritual healers, shamans, and spiritual therapists, mediums, it is assumed that the more they charge, the less they care about their fellow man.

Not, that they want to offer the best they can to those they serve and there are costs to do this.

Sure, some people do expect therapists and medical doctors to give away their services for free, as well. Many doctors and therapists chose to work in a free or reduced clinic with sliding scale of $25+ per appointment. And many do, especially during the years when they are pursuing additional training in school or residency.

Many shamans and mediums do this, as well, and likewise, it’s more common during their apprenticeship and shadowing years.

Just because some therapists work for free or reduced fees, does not mean that everyone should or that everyone can. Just because some doctors choose to offer their gifts (which they honed-in and improved during training) to particular community, does not mean all can.

Burnout, physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress, is a rampant problem for therapists and doctors that work at free or low cost clinics.

Working long hours with little pay causes physiological stress, in addition to the stress of going home each day to an apartment with no food to eat, with lights just shut off, and uncertainty if you’ll be able to pay your rent or personal phone bill.

When you burnout, you are unable to perform at your highest level - if at all. Some people walk away from their path altogether, simply due to the high-stress of continually giving too much and receiving too little.

Burnout is also rampant in the community of spiritual therapists and spiritual doctors who work for low wages and have to take considerably more clients to get paid a living wage. When a medium or a shaman is continually paid very little for their services, and must work longer and longer hours to pay the bills, burnout can and does happen. And people quit.

This terrible cycle perpetuated in both western and spiritual worlds, by the expectation that if someone really cared - they wouldn’t charge at all. They’d do ‘it’ for free. That a shaman or a medium, if they truly care, should not and cannot charge a livable wage.

Being empathically gifted is a requirement of being a therapist. But just having this gift alone doesn’t make someone a competent, professional, or trained counselor, not by a long shot.

Likewise, being spiritually gifted is a requirement of being a medium or a shaman, but again, just having this gift alone doesn’t even come close to being a skilled, trained professional and the best at what you do.

Why then, is is acceptable for a therapist or doctor to charge more money for this expertise and experience, but not for a medium or a shaman?

This is a double standard we need to illuminate and talk about. This is the stigma.

If a medical doctor or therapist charges more, the assumption is a higher cost and quality of experience

If a spiritual doctor or therapist charges more, the assumption is greed.

So exists this great divide.

Illuminating the double standard that exists between medical doctors and healers and spiritual doctors and healers. It's time to level the playing field and erase the stigma. 

Why is it like this?

The problem arose several hundred years ago with the advent and popularization of modern medical procedures.

At the time, spiritual healers, herbalists, and mediums were widely in practice and accepting clients from all walks of life, albeit mostly in secret due to the previous shunning by the various religious organizations, but in practice nonetheless to heal emotionally and spiritually their clients, healing in most cases physical illness, to boot.

Then, arrived modern medical practices and practitioners.

They began to shun, shame and ostracize the spiritual healers and therapists.

Spiritual and herbal healing was cast aside in favor of treatments involving mercury, bloodletting, and ether, as the wave of the future - treatments now known to kill people.

With the arrival of modern medicine, in came big money to promote these practices. Only the people who could afford modern medical care were those who could get it. There was no medical insurance to cover the poor or the wealthy.  Meanwhile, shamans and mediums were still treating those who could not pay. For free, out of the kindness of their hearts, while people were dying in troves of blood loss, mercury poisoning and ether overdose, shamans were still trying, often getting sick themselves to do so. (For a modern day example, we can look to Ebola clinics in West Africa and the spiritual healers trying to help those who cannot go to a clinic for whatever reason).*

Overtime, with the cost of modern procedures rising, and only the elite being able to pay, these practices began to be culturally portrayed as more effective and ‘more civilized’ than the spiritual and herbal practices.

So began the stigma.

The Stigma: 

Spiritual world doctors and therapists (shamans and mediums) are for the poor people, and physical world doctors and therapists are for the rich.

It has been this way for over 300 years.

Shamans and mediums are no less skilled at what they do. Nor do they require less training to be good at what they do. Or less professionalism to provide a high level experience.

It’s just different.

Shamans and mediums heal the spiritual. As spiritual doctors and spiritual therapists, they work to heal emotional, spiritual, energetic and relational pains and traumas. When this happens, lives can dramatically turn around and physical ailments often disappear.

The Truth:

There are healers and therapists that serve all income levels in both the spiritual and the physical communities. 

Each modality - physical or spiritual healing - is of equal merit, yet meeting different needs for those they serve.  Neither is less or more civilized or meant to serve lower or higher income communities. And even though shamans and mediums are gifted, they are no less gifted than the doctor is at his or her healing work.

A gift is a gift. Medical or Spiritual.

Honing a gift and turning it into a professional skill to provide upscale, profound results takes time, training, and experience - all of which often cost money.

All practitioners, no matter the specialty, also have rent, utilities, and bills to pay in order to provide the best experience to their client that they can.

We accept the rates of quality doctors and therapists who work in the physical world.

Now is the time to level the playing field for all the doctors and therapists who work with the spiritual world.

If a shaman, a medium or an intuitive healer costs a certain rate, please take a moment and consider what may be going into your service.

It’s likely a whole lot more than you think.

With Love,


*In my attempt to find an unbiased article that discusses the role of traditional healers in the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa, I was unable to find a single article that did not blame, demonize, or shame the traditional healer in some way. No article was linked for this reason.

LAST UPDATED: March 22, 2015

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