Mrs. Rita's Spiritual Awakening Center owner lays out her cards

For owner and psychic Nancy Nickels, clairvoyance is a family heirloom

For Nancy Nickels, owner of Mrs. Rita’s Spiritual Awakening Center, intuition runs deeper than just the lines in a palm. 

Mrs. Rita’s Spiritual Awakening Center, which is located on University Drive and Mill Avenue, gained popularity after it was famously referenced in a 1992 song written by the Gin Blossoms. Nickels said that she was too young to remember the event, but the song's reference to her grandmother, for whom the shop and song is named, is the store's claim to fame. 

Nickels said that her grandmother inspired her mom and her, and that though she was occasionally viewed as “weird” at a young age because of she comes from a family of psychics, her childhood was completely normal and there was no pressure for her to join the profession. 

“Honestly, I’ve known since I was 8 years old that this was what I wanted to do,” Nickels said. “It became so natural and it was always exciting, I couldn't wait to learn more and see more. When something’s in you, it's in you.” 

Two of her own children have taken a clairvoyant path as well. 

Nickels said that in her experience, a large number of people who come in for a reading want to know about either their love life or career, but interests often differ based on age. 

Located in the heart of Tempe, Mrs. Rita's Spiritual Awakening Center is within walking distance of ASU. This has lead some students, including Hannah Dragon, a freshman earth and space exploration major, to get a reading. 

"She was really clear and concise in her reading, I got the impression that she's genuinely doing this because she wants to help people," Dragon said. "She didn't try to assume anything about my life, which I really liked. She just went off of the cards. It felt like a very kind and respectful place to be." 

For Nickels, offering accurate and honest feedback to clients is something that she values greatly. 

"Everybody has a different scenario, and I hear their issues, their problems, fears and anxieties," Nickels said. "Ultimately, I want to give them a focus of how to accomplish their goals." 

She said that younger clients often want to know about their love lives but then focus on their career once they approach college-age. From there, however, the focus shifts to love again. 

Robert Bradley, a professor in both the Department of Psychology and the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, said that the shift in interest from romance to career comes with a rise in independence. 

“There is a large cultural focus, especially at a young age, to focus on relationships,” Bradley said. “But then, as you become independent from your family, you start to get involved in building your career.”

Bradley said that once a career has been established, people tend to amplify the value of intimate relationships once again.

According to a survey done by the Pew Research Center, 43% of U.S. adults who identify as religious and spiritual believe in psychics, a higher percentage than those who believe in reincarnation and astrology.

Despite growing up surrounded by other psychics, Nickels said that giving a reading to personal friends or family is a conflict of interest. 

“Here's the problem: When you’re not objective, you won’t know whether your feeling is true or not,” she said. “It’s easier to read a stranger than someone you love, someone you care about or yourself.” 

Nickels said that while developing intuition takes time, she believes it’s something that everyone has. 

“My feeling and my truth is that everybody has intuition when they’re born,” Nickels said. “When you’re young, you have a much more open mind, but if it isn’t nurtured, you don’t really get to that level." 

Nickels said that people have come to her with questions about anything from anxiety to romance, but the readings that stick out to her most are the overall positive ones. 

Mary Davis, a professor in the Department of Psychology, said that psychics can provide a cure to something people often struggle with: uncertainty. 

“Uncertainty is stressful,” Davis said. “The more we can do to reduce uncertainty, the less stressed we are.” 

She said that going to a psychic for answers is a very human response to stressors. 

“Some part of us wants to control everything we can to control and predict our lives, and when people see it as a strategy to get comfort, that’s very human," Davis said.

Editor's note: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article stated that the song "Mrs. Rita" by the Gin Blossoms was released in 2010. The song was originally released in 1992. The article has been updated to reflect this change.

Reach the reporter at and follow @ReinhartKatelyn on Twitter.

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