In the eight years since Long Island Medium premiered on TLC, Theresa Caputo has yet to lose her charm; her hair still reaches for the heavens, her acrylic nails would suit the likes of Maleficent, and her laugh is infectious as ever. Just about everything else in the New York mom’s life, however, has changed dramatically.
Caputo is a self-proclaimed medium, a form of psychic who, rather than seeing into the future, receives and interprets messages from the dead. She does this by channeling “Spirit” – her term for the departed souls who communicate with her to share messages from the afterlife.
What started as a word-of-mouth business operated out of her own home, inviting people in to channel messages from their loved ones, has catapulted Caputo far beyond the confines of reality TV fame since the premiere of Long Island Medium in 2011. All these years later, her intimate practice of connecting people with their departed loved ones has been broadcast into the homes of millions of Americans, sold out concert halls in national tours, and provided stories to fill three bestselling books. The waitlist for a reading with Caputo stretches years in length, and now celebrities are seeking her services, too, among them Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Jesse James Decker, and Kelsey Grammar.
With her success, Caputo hasn’t been shy in inviting the public into her personal life, either. The latest season of Long Island Medium, which premiered last week, will feature her daughter’s wedding and Caputo’s life post-divorce from her husband of 28 years, Larry, who’s been on every season of the show thus far.
“As hard as it is to change and move forward or to depart from certain things, everyone’s in a really good place,” Theresa said in a recent interview with The Wrap.
How did the Long Island Medium get to the good place she’s in now? Let’s take a look back to the start of her career, one that’s been five decades in the making.
Theresa meets Spirit
The 53-year-old medium has been developing her spiritual gift since the ripe age of four, when she first discovered something about herself was very different from everyone else. She says she sensed and saw spirits around her all the time as a child, which caused her a great deal of anxiety. After years in therapy with no results, Caputo’s mother took her to visit Pat Longo, a Long Island-based spiritual healer and family friend from Caputo’s hometown of Hicksville.
“She was afraid of everything. She couldn’t drive in the backseat of a car, couldn’t go into an elevator, or airplane, wouldn’t eat in restaurants,” Longo told Newsday.
“After just one session, she told me that I was suppressing Spirit’s energy, which caused a lot of my anxiety, and helped me learn to channel Spirit through my chakras and release it with my words,” Caputo explains in her website bio. “I began to heal and come into my own.”
Caputo then began offering her medium services out of her own home. A friend later introduced her to former MTV producer Jonathan Partridge, who would go on to create Long Island Medium. It wasn’t until Caputo read him that he was truly convinced.
“I do believe in mediums and I believe that our loved ones are still with us when they die. Sure, there are a few ‘bad apples’ out there, but Theresa has a gift and is the real deal,” Partridge explained to the Sorry I’ve Been So Busy podcast. “The validations in her readings are so specific that they must be coming from spirit and there’s no way you can make this stuff up.”
Facing backlash and nonbelievers
Not everyone is so convinced. Critics have taken stabs at Caputo for using tricks like “cold reads,” picking up on obvious clues and taking high probability guesses, then using responses or nonverbal cues to come to conclusions. Others allege she uses the trick of “hot reading,” researching the people she channels for beforehand.
Inside Edition attended one of her shows in 2012, writing: “On TV, she’s almost always dead right, but at her live shows, we watched her strike out time and again.”
In a deep-dive into psychics on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver called out Caputo, Tyler Henry and other famous mediums for doing work he calls harmful.
“At best, it’s reckless for people to take a stab at ventriloquizing the dead,” Oliver said. “When psychic abilities are presented as authentic, it emboldens a vast underworld of unscrupulous vultures more than happy to make money.”
Partridge, creator of Long Island Medium, and TLC president Howard Lee have both insisted Caputo isn’t prepared with information on the individuals she reads ahead of time, with Partridge telling Newsday, “There is no way I would let that happen — ever, ever, ever.”
Balancing her faith
Whether or not you believe in Caputo’s spiritual abilities is only one debate to be had. She also faces harsh criticism from another group of people: the Catholic church. Caputo is a lifelong Catholic with a strong belief in God. She still attends Holy Family Church in her hometown of Hicksville on Long Island.
The Bible makes several references to mediums and psychics, and one commonly pointed to by Christians is in Leviticus 19:31: “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them.”
Some critiques of the Long Island Medium insist she’s a con-artist, while others question if she’s channeling something evil. Janet Denison, a Christian pastor and author, writes diplomatically on her website, “Only God knows her motivations and only God knows whether her powers are pretended or the product of something darker.”
Caputo says she’s “not out to convince anyone” that what she does is real or valid.
“I share my own community with Spirit and what I’ve learned,” she said. “It took a long time to incorporate my gift with my faith, but as long as we believe in something — whether someone is Jewish, Catholic, Buddhist — it doesn’t matter, as long as we believe in something. What I’ve learned is that when someone loses someone, sometimes they lose their faith in God, or in the afterlife, and what Spirit does is to restore that faith.”
Caputo’s faith is directly incorporated into her medium practice. She prefaces all her readings by assuring that she only channels “souls that walk in God’s white light,” and wouldn’t attempt to contact anything else. That doesn’t always prevent something from coming through, though.
In the fourth season of Long Island Medium during a private reading with a mother and daughter, Theresa channeled their deceased daughter/sister, as well as her estranged husband who had murdered her and then taken his own life. Caputo said she couldn’t see him, but could “sense and feel” his negative energy without having direct contact with him.
Like her fellow Catholics who don’t agree with her work, Caputo told The Advocate in 2017 that she, too, used to experience dissonance balancing her faith with her ability to channel messages from the dead.
“I come from a very strong faith family and a very spiritual family,” she explained. “In my late 20s, I was told I had this amazing gift and it took me five years to really embrace that. Because of my faith, it took me a long time to incorporate that, and then I struggled with ‘now what?’”
Now, she says she considers it a gift from God.
“I consider this is my journey, Theresa Caputo’s journey here in the physical world, to be able to do God’s work, to deliver messages to help people heal and grow and embrace life again.”
Caputo and her family
Looking to the future
Caputo has come a long way since she first discovered her medium abilities as a young twentysomething. At 53, her life’s work is now deeply intertwined with the lives of the people she reads, and stretches far beyond the confines of her kitchen table.
Something that once caused her debilitating anxiety as a child has now brought her great success: 14 highly rated seasons on television, sold out tours, bestselling books, a jewelry line and ad campaigns. You don’t need to be a psychic to predict that Long Island Medium isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon: the show or the medium herself. Speaking on the new season, Caputo told The Wrap she has “no plans to change anything in her life.”
“People ask me all the time, ‘Is this a burden?’ It’s the hardest thing to do, to go on this emotional rollercoaster, feeling someone’s pain, sorrow, loss and grief — and then in the next moment their loved ones are giving them the gift of laughter and peace,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade what I do for the world.”
In the face of a changing family and ever-changing career, Caputo is finding her own peace in leading others to theirs.
Long Island Medium airs Friday nights at 9 p.m. ET on TLC.