The use of reiki—an energy work technique—by an increasing number of hospitals and other medical facilities throughout the U.S.—is an indication of growing understanding and acceptance of this complementary therapy.

At Columbia University Medical Center, in New York, New York, reiki is available for children with cancer. At Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, Arizona, reiki is available for patients and their families, as well as staff. And the website of the MetroHealth Medical Center, in Cleveland, Ohio, indicates that reiki “has been useful in helping relieve pain in patients with cancer, fibromyalgia, and other medical problems.”

In his book Reiki: The Healing Touch, William Lee Rand wrote that Hawayo Takata brought reiki from Japan to the West in 1937. In this country, she continued to practice and teach the modality until her death in 1980. Although its history remains somewhat obscure, reiki has been growing in popularity.

The International Center for Reiki Training defines reiki as a “Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing.” A reiki practitioner seeks to channel energy into a client in order to restore that person’s balance, health and well-being.


Who Uses Reiki?

The 2007 National Health Interview Survey indicated that 1.2 million adults and 161,000 children received one or more sessions of energy healing, such as reiki, during the previous year (, found under Technical Notes). Additionally, a September 2008 article on the American Hospital Association’s website reports that 15 percent of American hospitals—more than 800—offered reiki as part of their hospital services. 

Several research studies support the value of reiki’s therapeutic use, including a 2013 study in the American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Care, which showed reiki improved common cancer-related symptoms.


How May Reiki Help?

Loralee Dubeau, an Usui and Karuna reiki master teacher from Charlton, Massachusetts, said, “We are made of energy and replacing energy is how we get balanced.” That is exactly what reiki does, she added.

“There is a universal life energy that comes from outside of you, but there’s also a life force within that continually flows through us,” Dubeau said, explaining that the practitioner passes attunements to the receiver. “This is a way of transferring the universal energy of reiki from one person to another.”

Traditional reiki is performed hands-on; it can also be effective with the practitioner’s hands held very close to the body without touching the body, but hands-on work comforts the client more, said Dubeau.

For maximum results, both the reiki sender and receiver must be open to the modality. “For the sender, how fine-tuned you are makes a difference. It’s like pouring water through a funnel. If the funnel is clear, more energy will flow through,” Dubeau said. “You have to give with love, honor and respect and allow reiki to do what it needs to do.”

In the right frame of mind, the sender will remain balanced, energized and relaxed at the same time. Dubeau said, “If a person comes away exhausted, she is doing something wrong.”

Clients, too, must be open-minded and receptive. “The whole idea of any energy healing is that you need to be open to receive,” Dubeau says. If the client is open to it, there are several benefits that may be derived, including relaxation, pain and stress relief, and improved sleep. “There is no claim that it will do all these things, but it has the ability to do them,” she noted.


Balancing Benefits

In addition to physical benefits, receiving reiki may also help an individual gain important personal insights. For instance, a person may be better able to cope with grief or make a wiser decision regarding a job situation or relationship after a reiki session.

“The results are different for every person,” Dubeau said.

Additionally, it’s not necessary for the receiver to be in the same room—or even the same state—as the sender, according to Dubeau. When distant clients request reiki, Dubeau asks them to identify a time in their day when they have settled down. “They receive better when in a calmer state,” she said.


Adding Reiki to Your Skills

Reiki practitioners receive a certificate after completing each of four levels of study; licensing regulations vary. “It depends on whether you’ll be practicing on clients and charging for it. Nurses and massage therapists already have some type of license, so reiki can fall under that,” Dubeau said. “A reiki teacher usually knows about the local licensing requirements.”  


About the Author

Phyllis Hanlon has written nonfiction articles and book reviews as well as human-interest stories, profiles and award-winning essays. Her specialty areas include health and medicine, religion, education and business. She regularly delights in the joys of massage. She wrote “Go Natural: Choose Products That Are Healthy for Clients, Therapists & Earth” for MASSAGE Magazine’s October 2015 issue.