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Reiki: Ancent healing art for today’s new healthcare vision


Perhaps you’ve heard of a complementary therapy called Reiki, or maybe you’ve experienced it yourself. Reiki is one of the fastest-growing energy healing practices, used by millions of people to improve their health and quality of life. Although not formally recognized as a treatment or regulated as a practice, it’s becoming increasingly available in healthcare settings.

Patients and their families may ask you what Reiki is. And as a nurse, you may get the opportunity to learn, practice, and share Reiki as a complementary modality in a healthcare setting. This article explains the basics of Reiki so you can give patients accurate information

Universal life energy

Reiki (pronounced ray-kee) is a Japanese term meaning universal (rei) energy (ki). It’s not a religious belief and doesn’t require the practitioner or recipient to adhere to any particular spiritual or faith system. According to the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Reiki is a form of energy medicine.

Modern-day Reiki originated with Mikao Usui, a Japanese physician and scholar who initiated the practice of hands-on healing in the early 1900s and attracted a group of devoted students. After his death, one of his students expanded on his work, becoming a Reiki advocate in Japan and bringing the practice to America.

Reiki practitioners believe energy is present in the universe and that their training allows them to tune into the energy frequency and “channel” it to themselves or others. In their view, a person can absorb and direct the healing energy to the appropriate location.

While traditional medicine focuses on eliminating or changing a disease process through such modalities as drugs, surgery, or radiation, Reiki seeks to provide a direct connection between the positive healing energy thought to exist in the environment and the recipient’s energy. Reiki allows energy to work with the body’s innate intelligence to improve energy flow and balance.

Reiki can be used on both healthy and ill persons. Many practitioners use it on themselves to strengthen and enhance their energy. (See What the literature shows by clicking on the PDF icon above.)

An emerging role in health care

Reiki has become recognized as a valuable source of pain management and symptom relief in hospice and palliative care. Some mainstream medical organizations include it as a component of wellness or pain management. Reiki also can be used during invasive procedures, chemotherapy, or even surgery.

Certain hospital oncology departments and cancer wellness centers are informing clients about Reiki, and many even include Reiki practitioners as part of their teams. (See Reiki resources by clicking on the PDF icon above.)

Dr. Susan Pocotte, a nurse researcher studying the use of Reiki in rehabilitation settings, notes that the “holistic approach to nursing is congruous with integrating Reiki into nursing care…. Hospitals and clinics use three different methods of Reiki delivery: licensed professionals such as nurses, nonlicensed Reiki practitioners, and education programs to train patients, family members, and caregivers in first-degree Reiki.”

A Reiki session

Before administering Reiki, the practitioner identifies the recipient’s areas of concern. After explaining the sensations that may arise, the practitioner gently places the hands on or slightly above the recipient and allows Reiki energy to move through the practitioner to the recipient. Then he or she typically moves the hands to different areas of the recipient’s body, holding them over each area for 2 to 5 minutes.

Recipients have reported sensations of warmth, tingling, sleepiness, relaxation, invigoration, peace, and joy during Reiki sessions. Practitioners also experience sensations, such as awareness of energy as a light buzzing, as well as warmth or coolness, energy blockages or slowing, and heaviness in parts of the recipient’s body.

Frequency and duration of Reiki treatments vary with the recipient’s response and the practitioner’s recommendation. A “full-body” treatment can last 45 minutes to an hour. Reiki can be adjusted to fit nearly any setting, and sessions are tailored to the client’s needs. Charges vary, but usually are equivalent to what you’d expect to pay for a professional massage.

Learning how to practice Reiki

If you’re interested in becoming a Reiki practitioner, you may want to undergo training with a Reiki Master—someone who has taught Reiki and has been authorized by his or her own teacher to train others. Expert practitioners have integrated their knowledge through repeated practice and can provide more effective experiences for clients.

Reiki has been taught successfully to thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds. Training programs vary in length, approach, and cost.

At this time, no national standards for Reiki training exist. Training is advertised in some local health publications or through healthcare systems and community colleges. The American Cancer Society, American Holistic Nurses Association, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute also can provide information.

Reiki levels

Reiki training has three levels.

  • Level 1 provides a foundation of knowledge about the practice, its origins, the nature of Reiki energy, and how it can promote healing.
  • Level 2 provides instruction on using Reiki for distance healing, energy exercises to strengthen Reiki practice, and use of Reiki-specific symbols in healing.
  • Level 3 prepares the practitioner to use additional Reiki tools to facilitate healing and teach Reiki to others.

Reiki training costs range from a nominal fee to several hundred dollars. Although no standard training hours are required, most organizations that provide thorough training offer programs that last 10 to 20 hours for the first two levels and another 10 to 20 hours for the third level.

Putting Reiki in perspective

Reiki is an individual experience. Someone who doesn’t believe the treatment will help isn’t likely to experience a benefit. A major tenet of Reiki is that it can’t cause harm because it’s applied using light touch without manipulation or pressure. It’s safe for people who have pain, limited mobility, or extreme weakness.

However, Reiki is strictly a complementary practice and should never to be offered or promoted as the sole treatment for any health condition. A responsible Reiki practitioner never suggests someone use Reiki instead of obtaining care from qualified healthcare providers.

Visit www.AmericanNurseToday.com/archives.aspx for a list of selected references.

A trained Reiki master, Sheila Burke is the dean of the School of Nursing at Kaplan University in Chicago, Illinois.


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