Letao Wang has spent more than 10 years dispensing advice on love, money and careers to hundreds of people in Hong Kong from all walks of life. What’s different in today’s Covid-19 climate, he says, is an overwhelming lack of hope among his clients. Wang is one of the city’s most in-demand psychic readers, although he prefers the label spiritual counsellor – just don’t refer to him as a fortune-teller, like a lot of the media in Hong Kong have. “People feel stuck,” says Wang, the founder of The Kingdom Healer, which specialises in tarot, astrology and numerology. “Before the strict quarantine restrictions, Hongkongers were big travellers,” he says. “It kept us mentally sane, a little escape from our dramas and a time to recharge. “But that’s not happening now, and it’s taking a toll on people’s mental health , which is such a big issue not just in Hong Kong but globally,” says Wang, who incorporates mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy into his sessions. He holds a degree in counselling from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Cognitive behavioural therapy, a deceptively simple mental health tool “Some clients have broken off long-distance romantic relationships because they can’t travel freely and easily between places like Shanghai, Taiwan or Thailand.” Many clients, he says, are former pilots, including one who is jobless after working with Dragonair, which was a Hong Kong-based airline, for more than 20 years. “People can’t see an end to this pandemic so what they are really looking for is hope.” It’s these feelings of lost hope that motivate people to seek out spiritual guidance, says Cecilia Chan Lai-wan, a University of Hong Kong (HKU) professor emeritus and former chair professor in health and social work at HKU. And that guidance, she says, is needed more than ever as the pandemic spreads fear and uncertainty. “When life is out of control, like it is for many during this pandemic, there’s a natural search for existential meaning,” says Chan. ‘A lot of stress and uncertainty’: Covid rules, tests worry Hong Kong staff Young people, she says, are also more likely to seek spiritual guidance through means such as fortune-telling, astrology, face or palm reading, energy healing and gong baths . Technology also makes it easier for millennials and Gen Zers to connect with spiritual practitioners via platforms such as YouTube and Instagram. Hong Kong IT worker Clara Ho first visited a psychic in 2019 after feeling anxious about her career. “I believe in a higher power, so I went in with an open mind.” What she came out with, she says, was a desire to focus on spiritual growth and not just career growth. “The sessions gave me the push I needed, the reassurance that everything was going to be OK,” says Ho, who has returned a few times since. The readings, she says, have inspired her to embrace reiki and Tibetan singing bowls , spiritual tools that have helped her cope during the pandemic. Why young Hongkongers are seeking solace in superstition Hong Kong-based Parisian Vanessa L, who works as a director for a French firm, visits a psychic about twice a year for tarot card readings. “It gives me guidance, a tool to help me know what I want in life,” she says. “But at the end of the day I create my own life path.” “Some friends think I’m singing and dancing naked on a rooftop with feathers and amulets in my hands,” she laughs. “But more people are seeking spiritual guidance, including politicians and CEOs.” Chan says it’s common for big businesses in the region to seek advice from feng shui masters on how to improve their performance. In Hong Kong, ahead of the Lunar New Year, fortune-tellers busily prepare their predictions . The West has also been known to indulge in some high-level spiritual tactics. During the Cold War, the US government investigated mind reading as a potential weapon to fight the Soviet Union. Declassified documents also revealed that Britain’s Ministry of Defence looked into whether psychics could be used to track down the Saudi Arabian terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. While some consider consulting a psychic as no different than visiting a therapist – or following a religion – others are more critical of those who profit in the spiritual world. Tyler Henry, who gained success in the US with the television show Hollywood Medium With Tyler Henry and whose new series, Life After Death , drops on Netflix this Friday, has come under fire for his lack of training in counselling. March 11th I’ll see you for a 9-episode series on @Netflix ! So thrilled to be able to share some of my most validating readings and a dramatic family mystery of my own. Trailer coming soon! pic.twitter.com/92JEdviohT — Tyler Henry (@tyhenrymedium) February 11, 2022 Chan says stricter monitoring of the New Age movement is needed to protect people “from abuse and harassment” and masters who use the money from their work for criminal activities. “I’ve seen friends with psychic abilities help people in distress by giving meaning to their mishaps and proposing viable solutions. It can be a source of support,” she says. But with so many free or private services online and offline, Chan says it’s difficult to know what’s credible, and what’s not. “Since there is no registration, there is no monitoring.” Why have Hong Kong artists become fans of feng shui and star signs? British psychic and medium Julie Cook’s global audience includes clients in Hong Kong. “I used to visit Hong Kong twice a year, but obviously I haven’t for the last two, which is awful. I really miss Hong Kong,” she says via Zoom from London. Her clients include doctors, lawyers, those from the entertainment world and “ordinary people you meet on the street”. She says scepticism is healthy. “It’s a good thing to be a bit sceptical,” says Cook, whose work mainly centres around tarot cards and numerology. “You don’t want to be the kind of person who just believes in everything.” After more than 30 years in the field, Cook has recently noticed one big shift. More men are booking sessions. “People are definitely looking for something else, for a more spiritual dimension to their lives.” Like what you read? Follow SCMP Lifestyle on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram . You can also sign up for our eNewsletter here .