During the rite, the personalities and memories of the previous hosts are telepathically transferred from the host to the bodies of voluntary friends by a Guardian. The former hosts' personalities assert themselves and the new host can converse and interact with them; this allows the new host to "meet" the other hosts who had been, until then, only memories and emotions. The objective is to allow the new host to understand more completely how the past hosts influence the new hosts. It is up to the volunteer friends to decide when to release the consciousnesses back to the original Trill.
Zhian'tara is considered so important a ceremony that the Symbiosis Commission requires it be performed and will go to some lengths to see it done.