Spiritual healing therapies have been around since olden times. A therapy known as Reiki may have originated in the region of Tibet more than 2500 years ago, but Mikao Usui, a Japanese Buddhist, is credited with rediscovering the root method of Reiki. Reiki is a form of healing that utilizes life force energy that is transferred to others through the use of a practitioner’s palms, otherwise known as palm healing. By transferring this life force energy into others, it is thought to bring equilibrium back to those plagued by a variety of injuries and illnesses.

The International Association of Reiki Professionals (IARP) states that Reiki is a subtle and effective form of energy work, using spiritually guided life force energy. Over the years, hospitals, hospices, and many private practice organizations have started to offer Reiki as a treatment option. Those who have undergone treatment have reported relief of their symptoms from many physical and mental health issues.

More Than One Reiki Style?

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As with most techniques, individuals expand upon certain aspects to better fit them for their own use, such as in martial arts, fencing, and other taught methodologies. Reiki is no different; in fact, there are 2 main classifications for Reiki: Western and traditional Japanese styles. Within these 2 main classifications, there are also many subtypes with subtle differences between them.

The most traditional Japanese version of Reiki is the Usui Reiki Ryōhō Gakkai. This is the specific system founded by Mikao Usui; but with each succession of masters, deviations to the fundamentals and techniques of the Gakkai method were made. One such master, Hawayo Takata, took her teachings to Hawaii and later the mainland US. Her practicing form of Reiki became known as the Western method, or Usui Reiki Shiki Ryōhō.

The main differences between the 2 styles are the placement of one’s hands on the subject. Trained individuals in the traditional Japanese form of Reiki use their intuition to determine hand placement. They essentially “feel” where the troubled areas of the patient are, similar to using a dowsing rod. Once the area is found, they begin the process of energy healing. Typically, this form of Reiki is used on specific areas requiring treatment. The Western style of Reiki uses predetermined hand patterns and placement, with more of an emphasis on providing a fuller and more attuned experience, healing the whole body, rather than individual areas.

What to Expect

There are no typical Reiki sessions. Each Reiki session can be as short or as long as necessary and can be done in most settings in order to facilitate healing. Reiki can be performed by anyone who has undergone proper training, ranging from a professional practitioner to a health care provider. When looking for a Reiki practitioner, due diligence is necessary. As in traditional health care, the quality of services provided can vary between practitioners. In addition, some insurance providers may cover Reiki sessions.

Does It Work?

Some say that the individual receiving Reiki treatment needs to be a strong believer for it to help alleviate symptoms. If Reiki doesn’t work, it would then fall on the individual for being a skeptic. Others state that Reiki is useful when used in conjunction with traditional forms of treatment. Reiki offers a sense of comfort for patients and could be a boon to their overall well-being. For the scientifically minded individual who is very skeptical, it would seem that Reiki is just another fraudulent practice to essentially scam others out of money.

A study was performed in 2011 by American nurses to determine whether Reiki therapy increases patient comfort and well-being. The patients involved in the study were receiving chemotherapy treatment and were placed into 3 groups: standard care, sham Reiki placebo treatment, and actual Reiki treatment. The standard group consisted of patients remaining in the chemotherapy infusion clinic for several hours and receiving IV medications while sitting in a chair. No other activities took place during the infusion, although some chose to read, listen to music, or watch television.

The sham Reiki group received a 20-minute fake Reiki session. The administration of the sham Reiki was performed by an individual who did not believe in bio-field energy and essentially performed hand gestures similar to Reiki as treatment to the group following strict operational measures. The last group of chemotherapy patients received treatment from an experienced and trained Reiki therapist. The therapist delivered the healing energy to the patient as in most bio-field therapies. Consisting of a 20-minute session similar to the sham Reiki session, the therapist treated the patients’ body, emotions, mind, and spirit using true Reiki hand gestures and movements.

The study found that there was no difference or improvement for patients in the standard care group with respect to their well-being and comfort. Both the sham Reiki and actual Reiki also showed no signs of influencing the physical well-being of the patients in each of their respective groups, but the study did show that they statistically significantly raised the patients’ level of mental well-being and comfort. The influence of the placebo effect on the sham Reiki group was not ruled out, as the patients may have felt better due to simply receiving more attention than the standard group.

The findings show that whereas Reiki did improve a patient’s mental well-being, it was not any different from results in the group receiving the fake Reiki treatment. What this study shows is that providing patients with attention, comfort, and care is a driving force in their mental and spiritual well-being. If Reiki were not marketed or sold as a cure for ailments but as a means to unwinding, similar to a day at the spa, perhaps it wouldn’t receive the criticism and skepticism it does today. It’s important to note that those who seek Reiki treatment should never forego traditional medical care. 


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