What Is a Medium? How They Communicate With the Dead

Updated April 26, 2021
Two women sitting opposite one another during a session with a medium

Mediums can communicate with spirits. These spirits may be earthbound, commonly referred to as ghosts, they may be the spirits of people who have died and crossed to the other side. It may even be animals or paranormal creatures. Many people turn to psychic mediums to communicate with their loved ones who have died.

What Is a Medium?

If you've ever watched the movie The Sixth Sense, then you probably think about mediums in terms of "I see dead people." And while that is sometimes true about mediums, it doesn't offer the full picture. Some mediums never see a dead person, but they can still sense or communicate with spirits in other ways. A medium is someone who senses spirits using one or more of the various psychic abilities. Spirits can include the souls of people who have died, but some mediums can also communicate with the spirits of animals and with other paranormal entities, such as elementals or spirit guides.

Mediums Are Intermediaries

Mediums don't create or generate the communications themselves. Rather, they serve as a receiver who experiences messages from spirits and passes them on to people who are still alive. This exchange of information often takes place during a reading, when the person seeking contact with a spirit sits with the medium. The medium receives information via their various psychic senses from the spirits and then communicates it with the person or people wishing to receive contact.

Things Mediums Can Do

A medium is like a radio receiver in human form, someone who is able in some capacity to use their psychic abilities to connect with spirits of people and animals that have died. Mediums can or may be able to:

  • Receive information, often shared through the use of symbols, from the spirit of a dead person or animal who wishes to reach out with their loved ones who are still alive
  • Share the information they receive as accurately as possible with the person seeking contact
  • Attempt to initiate contact with the spirits of people who have died
  • Talk back to the spirits with whom they are communicating and ask clarifying questions
  • Share the information exactly as it is received with the living person

Things They May Be Able to Do

The things a medium may be able to do depend on the abilities of the medium, as well as how adept at communication the spirit is and how open to receiving that information the client is. Therefore, mediums may, in certain circumstances, be able to:

  • Assist law enforcement in solving crimes, especially missing persons cases
  • Communicate with the spirits of pets who have died
  • Help people find lost or missing objects
  • Discern how someone died
  • Communicate with ghosts that haunt a specific location and understand who the ghosts were in life and why they remain
  • Help earthbound spirits cross over to the other side
  • Relay information from spirits with a high degree of accuracy

What Mediums Can't Do

Mediums are living, breathing human beings. Therefore, they are subject to the same rules as every other living person. Because of that, some of the things a medium can do are limited. Things mediums cannot do include:

  • Be 100% accurate in the information they receive and share
  • Know the exact meaning of everything a spirit communicates
  • Banish spirits
  • Tell you when you are going to die
  • Predict the future with 100% accuracy
  • Summon demons
  • Force a spirit to communicate with or through them

How Mediums Communicate With the Dead

Mediums communicate with the dead using one of the various types of psychic abilities. They may receive communication in any of the following ways:

  • Seeing flashes of images in their mind (clairvoyance)
  • Having visions (clairvoyance)
  • Hearing spoken words or sounds or hearing them in their mind (clairaudience)
  • Having information suddenly appear in their mind (claircognizance)
  • Receiving information or visitations in dreams or during astral travel
  • Experiencing physical sensations in their bodies (physical empathy)
  • Experiencing the emotions of dead people as their own (empathy/empathic)
  • Noticing aromas (clairolfactance)
  • Noticing taste (clairgustance)
  • Feeling touches, taps, pulls, or pushes (clairsentience)
  • Performing automatic writing
  • Through channeling where the dead person speaks through the medium (like Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost)
  • Using a communication device such as a spirit board (Ouija type board), table tilting, scrying, or tarot cards

Some mediums are able to tap into all of these sources of information from people who have died, while others may only be able to work with one or a few of the various types of communication.

A medium connecting with an elderly lady

The Nature of Spirit Communication

Being a medium isn't like having a telephone to the dead. Very seldom are messages from spirits so clear that it's like having a face-to-face conversation, although with particularly strong or powerful spirits, it can be that clear for at least a short period. Instead, much of the information mediums receive comes in quick flashes of sensory data or images, or the medium may receive unclear or symbolic communication that requires interpretation. Over time, mediums who receive symbolic communication learn to understand and interpret what the symbols they experience mean, which helps them to provide clearer readings. Some examples of symbols:

  • A medium may smell roses, which could be his or her symbol for love.
  • He or she may taste blood, which might be a symbol for a violent death.
  • He may feel dizzy, which could indicate a head injury or a stroke.
  • She may experience pressure in her ears, indicating the presence of a spirit who wishes to communicate.
  • He might see flashes of images from the dead person's life, such as a car, a house, a yard, etc., to communicate information about the spirit's life on earth.

Specific Examples of Medium Communication

When acting as a psychic medium, working mediums have encountered some of the following methods of communication. The examples below reflect the author's personal experiences as a working psychic medium.

Sensory Input to Signal Their Presence

Often when a spirit is present and wants to communicate, they first signal this through sensory input with no apparent physical source. Some of these include:

  • Ear pressure (the feeling you need to pop your ears)
  • Ear ringing
  • Smelling ozone
  • Seeing hazy auras that look a little like a circle of heat waves (similar to a migraine aura)
  • Seeing bright colors in their field of vision
  • Hearing a word, phrase, or sound repeated over and over, such as a childhood nickname, the sound of a bell ringing
  • The feeling of touches from an unseen hand, such as a brush on the cheek or a tugging of hair

Providing Identifying Information to the Client

Once the spirit has captured the medium's attention, the medium may receive identifying information from the spirit. This can take many forms but may include:

  • Getting a sense of whether the spirit is male or female and the general relationship to the client
  • Hearing names or phonetic sounds that help identify the spirit's name
  • Noticing the presence of other important identifying information such as numbers representing age, an occupation, or some other aspect of the spirit's living form that would have been deeply significant in their life
  • Connecting to memories specific to that spirit and the client, such as seeing snapshots from a family vacation or an image of the house or city where they lived
  • Feeling physical sensations associated with the way the spirit died, such as feeling chest pain from a spirit who died of a heart attack or dizziness and head pain from a spirit that passed from a stroke

Sharing Messages From Spirit

As the session progresses, the spirit may have specific messages they wish to communicate through the medium with their living loved one. These may include:

  • Messages of love
  • Forgiveness or asking for forgiveness
  • Expressing regret
  • Imparting important information about something they left unresolved in life
  • Offering warnings about health issues
  • Letting the client know they were there for a major life event such as a graduation, birth of a child, or marriage
  • Simply letting their loved ones know they are always with them and watching over them

Types of Mediums

Not all mediums work in the same way, but there are some general types of mediums you may encounter.

Direct Voice Medium

A direct voice medium is one who facilitates spirit communication by allowing a spirit to use their energy (but not their vocal cords) to speak. In a direct voice medium session, sitters will hear a disembodied voice speaking to them. The disembodied voice comes from a spirit who has tapped into the medium's energy in order to speak or make other sounds.

Mental Medium

A mental medium communicates with spirits using telepathy. This is the most like having a normal conversation with someone living, only instead of using their ears and mouth, communication enters through their minds via telepathic input from the spirit. They then speak this information aloud to the client.

Trance Medium

These mediums use meditative practices to enter a partial or full trance state where they can tune in to what the spirits wish to communicate. The medium retains awareness of their surroundings and what is happening, but the spirit communicates with them in their trance state so the medium can communicate with the client. In trance medium sessions, the medium tends to dip in and out of a trance - they go in when paying attention to the spirit and come out when communicating what the spirit has told them.

Physical Medium

A physical medium is someone who allows spirits to use their energy to manifest physical phenomena, such as knocks, bangs, ectoplasm, apports (items that seemingly appear out of thin air), or even partial or full apparitions of the spirits. In this case, the medium does not create the phenomena, but rather powers and facilitates it for the spirits wishing to communicate.


A channeling medium steps out so the spirit can step in. While some channeling mediums remain aware of what is occurring, others are unaware. Instead, they allow a spirit to take them over in order to communicate with the client. The extent to which the spirit "takes over" and the medium remains aware depends entirely on the medium and the spirit. However, with a channeling medium, you will notice changes in the medium's behaviors when a spirit steps in. For example, their voice, speech patterns, or gestures may change.

Emotional reaction during medium session

What to Expect From a Medium

Mediums are humans, and therefore they are not 100% accurate. Still, even with that, mediums can be quite accurate depending on how well they do at imparting and interpreting the information they receive. The best mediums are those who are able to set their egos aside and avoid interpretation, conveying the message to their clients exactly as they receive it and allowing their clients to interpret the information. Psychic mediums may offer several different types of services, so seeking information from a meeting may come in the following forms.

Gallery Readings

Gallery readings are like a psychic medium show. The medium is on stage in a room full of people, and they receive information from spirits that arrive with the audience. They then pick up impressions, relate them to the crowd, and provide public readings for the members of the audience. If you attend a gallery reading, you may not receive a message from a loved one due to the sheer number of people present.

Group Readings

Group readings are typically small, private events (such as a party) where the mediums read for a small group of people. These work similar to gallery readings, but in a smaller group setting. Because there are fewer people, there's less likelihood of interference in the messages, so these readings may be more personal and accurate, and you are more likely to receive messages than in a larger setting.

Private Readings

Private readings are usually scheduled by appointment for one or two people. In general, these readings tend to be very personal and specific to the people there. The readings can be in person, on the phone, or via a computer or app program such as Skype or Zoom.

Pet Readings

Some mediums specialize in animal communication and are able to communicate with your pets who have died. However, even psychic mediums who don't bill themselves as pet psychics sometimes receive communication from animals.

Home or Space Readings

Some psychic mediums come into homes, businesses, or spaces where people suspect they have a ghost, spirit, or haunting. In these cases, the mediums psychically read the situation and communicate with any spirits who are present. They may be able to help resolve issues so the spirits can finally cross over, but that isn't always the case. In some cases, they can communicate and help you get a better understanding of what is happening in their space and/or broker an agreement between you and the spirit so that the activity is less disruptive in your life.

Mediums Receive Messages From Spirit

Psychic mediums are normal people with an extraordinary gift. They receive messages from spirit and serve as conduits to provide messages of love, guidance, and comfort to the living who remain in the wake of the death of a loved one.

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What Is a Medium? How They Communicate With the Dead