Dear Virginia, I have been seeing a psychic for some time now – not very often, about once every three months or so. The last time I went, she told me that I should give up my boyfriend. I had confided in her that my boyfriend and I weren't getting on very well, but I was hoping we could resolve things. Now her warnings have made me feel hopeless about the whole relationship. Should I listen to her? Yours sincerely, Phoebe

It's not that psychics themselves are dangerous; it's that one's own reaction to a psychic's predictions or advice can be dangerous. I think you're a classic example of the truth of this, in that you are actually thinking of doing something as drastic as dropping your boyfriend just because some mad old bat who knows nothing of you – or him – advises you to do so.

What do we get out of reading our stars, doing the Tarot or listening to a psychic's babble? At best, we get self-knowledge. I remember once, with a friend, getting our Tarot cards read. "Isn't it odd," I said at the end of the session, "how my reading was crystal clear and made perfect sense and yours was just a load of old waffle?" "On the contrary," she replied. "It was yours that was the load of waffle. My reading was full of insight and I feel much better for it."

What had happened, I realised, was that I had found, through listening to a variety of muddled words and descriptions of feelings, a resonance with how I was actually feeling myself. The Tarot reading was a medium that enabled me to access my deepest subconscious thoughts. It would have meant something only to me, not to anyone else. And if a psychic's reading is full of a lot of contradictions and gibberish, then I rate it as good. It is up to the client to pick bits out of it that mean something to her. The psychic may have no clue about what she's actually conveying.

Had your psychic maundered on about "boyfriend... leaving... staying... future... with... without..." and you'd picked up that she'd advised you to leave, then I think you'd be sensible to listen to your inner voice.

But it is those psychics who say that you'll meet a tall, dark stranger, or that soon you'll be travelling a lot – or, like Phoebe's, who actually ask her to do something specific – who are the ones to be wary of. They're just dangerous.

We all know what effect a sugar pill, or placebo, can have on our health. The doctor hands it to us saying that it'll do us good, we believe him, and we are miraculously cured. It's the same with witch doctors. They can put spells even on apparent unbelievers who can easily start feeling pretty queasy in the night, if not worse. There is a part of most of us, inside ourselves, that doesn't appear to obey the rational world at all. It is a bizarre piece of animal matter that responds in all kinds of different ways to how we imagine our real selves would react. It is this part of you, Phoebe, that the psychic has spoken to about giving up your boyfriend. And it is not necessarily true at all.

Would you allow me to turn into your psychic, just this once? Listen to my voice, close your eyes and relax, hear what I am going to say... Give up this psychic. She is doing you harm and twisting your mind. You can be free of her. Just let her go.

Better now? There are good psychics and bad psychics, and this one is an irresponsible charlatan. If you want to give up your boyfriend, fine. But whatever you do, don't do it on the advice of a psychic.

Readers say:

Listen to yourself, not her

Should you listen to the psychic? No. But you should take account of the fact that the psychic has been listening to you, and picking up on your unhappiness. So you do need to look at your relationship with the boyfriend, and identify what the problems are and how to fix them if they are fixable. If the problems cannot be resolved, then you (and only you) can make a decision to give up the relationship. I suggest you try to talk to your boyfriend to explain why you are unhappy and see if you can work the issues out together. If that is not possible, talk to a friend who knows you well and has seen you with your boyfriend. Cynically, it occurs to me that if you follow the psychic's advice, you may make yourself more unhappy and see her more often – and keep paying!

Jane Wolstenholme, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Break her mental hold on you

You have uncovered the trick used by all "psychics"; they find out a piece of personal information, and then appear to pull new things out of the air. This trickster has had the nerve to advise you as well. By all means ponder the state of your relationship, but discount any of the feelings engendered by this person. She now has a strong mental hold, but in reality is unlikely to know what is in your best interests. Liberate yourself from her first, then look afresh.

Cole Davis, London NW2

A load of rubbish

Stop going to the psychic. She is feeding you a load of rubbish to make money out of you. If she was really psychic, she would be predicting lottery numbers and leading the high life on a luxurious yacht in the Caribbean.

Ian Laird, Birkenhead, Merseyside

Who's in control here?

It is time for you to decide who is in control of your future. Is it a psychic – whom you consult "about once every three months" – or is it a new, positive Phoebe, who is able to make her own way in this life without relying on others to do her thinking for her, a Phoebe with the self-esteem to live her life as she wants?

What do you want from the relationship with your boyfriend? Write down privately the pros and cons of being with him and being without him. You've said that you are not getting on well at present – why is that?

If communication is not all it might be (wild stab in the dark!) sit down and discuss what can be done, together. It may be time to move on, but it is your judgement that counts.

You wouldn't ask a Relate counsellor to read your horoscope. Don't let a psychic advise you on your choice of partner.

John Bird, Crawley, West Sussex

Try counselling

You say you are hoping to resolve things with your boyfriend, which suggests you feel the relationship is worth working on. By allowing someone else to make your decisions you are handing over control. This alone would give rise to feelings of hopelessness. Rather than relying on consulting a psychic every three months, you may benefit from consulting a counsellor.

Just as professional counsellors have a code of ethics, psychics have a code of practice that precludes manipulating clients over important personal decisions. I feel her behaviour is wholly inappropriate; only you can make the right choice based on your own feelings.

Julia Meanwell, Burton Upon Trent, Staffordshire