Dear Dr. Poussaint:

I have read your column for some time now and I respect you and your professional opinion.

I am 40 years old and for the past four years have not felt emotionally secure. I am married and have three children.

My concern at this time is my deep interest in astrology and palmistry. I am afraid it is getting to the point where I am looking for direction and security within these sciences. I respect myself and have been feeling horrified at what may or may not happen to me because of my involvement in these readings or interpretations.

Have any studies been made in this country that give credence to palmistry?

Please advise me of any doctors or groups that deal with persons like myself who are deeply involved with these sciences and feeling helplessly involved in predetermined destiny.

I have already seen a psychiatrist but he has been no help. A. P. T. Dear A. P. T.:

You are one of many thousands of people in the world who believe in and practice astrology, palmistry and other forms of fortune telling.

For centuries men and women have divined the heavens, the palm and the scalp in search of making more order out of the universe so that they could guide their lives and even predict future events. These practices differ from religions in that they suggest a scientific basis for their validity.

Astrology, for example, is based on the theory that heavenly bodies -- the moon, sun, planets and stars -- and their movements effect human affairs and shape the course of life's events. Zodiac signs are even said to describe specific personality traits and individual characteristics.

Thus far, exploration of the validity of astrology has suggested that it has little scientific merit and cannot be proven to influence human affairs. However, this does not negate the fact that individuals do gain support from it.

Astrology, because it can give order in a world filled with chaos, acts as a significant crutch and emotional support for many. You indicate that you have been feeling insecure and looking for answers -- perhaps quick ones -- in astrology and palmistry.

Palmistry, like astrology, is a belief system that can help you to feel temporarily more secure. However, it does not have a rational foundation that can be proven by current means and does not really solve your problems.

If you are seriously seeking help and are having family problems you should obtain professional help. It is unfortunate that your first attempt to find a psychiatrist was an unsuccessful one.

I hope you will have a better experience the next time. However, you must be free, open and willing to explore your problems without invoking the divinations of astrology and palmistry as a defense against looking at your personal problems.

You should focus more on your marriage and your relationship with your spouse. Are you happy? Are there conflicts and/or stresses? Ask yourself similar questions about your interactions with your children.

One last word of caution: If the "readings" or "interpretations" are urging you to carry out acts that are destructive or extremely out of character for you, do not act on them. It appears that you do not feel enough in control and therefore you are vulnerable to far-out suggestions. Do seek help before you make any major decisions.

Perhaps as you gain more emotional strength your interest in astrology and palmistry will naturally wane. Dr. Poussaint