For professional massage therapists, learning and practicing energy work can enhance the massage sessions you already provide, and give you additional offerings to benefit your clients.

Reiki, in particular, is a form of energy work that is both popular as a wellness practice and rapidly gaining acceptance in integrative health settings, such as hospitals that offer integrative therapies.

You’ve probably learned a bit about Reiki and other types of energy work in massage therapy school; here’s a helpful guide to what Reiki is, its history, its symbols, its potential benefits, Reiki research, what you need in order to practice Reiki legally, and how you can learn it and incorporate it into your massage therapy practice.

What Is Reiki?

Reiki, which originated in Japan, is a form of energy work administered with very light or no touching of the body; the word Reiki comes from the Japanese words “rei” (life force) and ki (energy).

Reiki is based on the idea that a life force energy flows through us, and that fluctuations in this energy affect our physical health, according to the International Center for Reiki Training (ICRT).

In a typical Reiki healing session, the client remains fully clothed and either lies down on a massage table or sits comfortably in a chair. As in a massage session, a serene, peaceful environment is created for the session, often with quiet music.

The Reiki practitioner, employing either very light hands-on touch or holding his or her hands close to the client’s body, then moves the hands systematically through different positions, with the intention of discharging negative energy and replacing it with positive energy.

The Reiki practitioner may spend more time in certain areas, depending on the clients’ needs or goals for the session.

Because Reiki derives its benefits from an energy that is universally accessible to anyone, anywhere, proponents of Reiki may also offer what are called distant sessions, in which the receiver is not physically in the practitioner’s presence.

Recipients of Reiki say receiving it feels “like a wonderful glowing radiance,” according to the ICRT. Proponents of Reiki say sessions can be helpful in improving the condition of those suffering from a variety of physical issues, from chronic, serious illnesses such as cancer to more minor conditions like insomnia.

“Professional massage therapists are naturally in tune with the human body and its energy, blockages and flow. Adding an energy healing technique such as Reiki is a perfect complement to expand their offerings,” reiki expert Linda LaFlamme told MASSAGE Magazine via email.

“Becoming trained and certified in Reiki and a registered Reiki professional can help expand a massage business and will expand the therapist’s range of offerings,” she added.

William Rand, a senior Reiki master and teacher and president of the Center for Reiki Research, told MASSAGE Magazine that the healthy touch of massage therapy and the energy of Reiki healing complement each other well, and that about 10 percent of students in his Reiki trainings are professional massage therapists.

“You can actually ... be giving Reiki at the same time you’re doing a massage,” he said.

A Brief History of Reiki

According to Rand’s book, Reiki: The Healing Touch, Reiki began in Japan, where it was practiced in several different styles; however, Mikao Usui is regarded as the founder of the typical style of Reiki with which most people are familiar, now known as Usui Reiki.

In Tokyo in 1922, he established a school of Reiki, to which many people came seeking guidance as well as help with their ailments.

Mikao Usui also developed teaching methods with which to pass along his knowledge, and taught more than 2,000 students before his death in 1926.

A succession of several students in turn led his organization after he died. Hawayo Takata is the woman credited with bringing the practice of Reiki to the U.S. in 1937, and she developed and adapted it in a number of ways for American Reiki practitioners.

The Reiki healing method by which a student of Reiki is initially introduced to the energy by a Reiki master is called an attunement.

The history of a person’s Reiki instruction, because it is passed down from teacher to student and then to that student’s students, is referred to as a practitioner’s lineage.

The Different Kinds of Reiki

There are several different kinds of Reiki—and every practitioner brings his or her own style to bear on what he or she was taught—but there are two main types most commonly used in the U.S.: Usui and Karuna.

Usui Reiki, the style which is most familiar in the West, began in Japan with Mikao Usui and eventually came to the U.S. with Hawayo Takata in 1937. It is typically used to promote relaxation, stress reduction and balance, which can in turn promote healing.

Karuna Reiki was developed with the intention of relieving suffering; the word karuna is Sanskrit for “any action that is taken to diminish the suffering of others” and can also be translated as “compassionate action,” according to the International Center for Reiki Training.

Karuna Reiki was developed by William Lee Rand, from the Usui Reiki in which he was originally trained. (Rand and the ICRT introduced another variety, Holy Fire Reiki, in 2014.)

Reiki Symbols and What They Mean

You’ve probably learned a bit about Reiki and other types of energy work in massage therapy school; here’s a helpful guide to what Reiki is, its history, its symbols, its potential benefits, Reiki research, what you need in order to practice Reiki massage legally, and how you can learn it and incorporate it into your massage therapy practice.

Usui and Karuna Reiki both use a number of special symbols to help practitioners access and channel the energy on which the practice of Reiki is based; these are introduced to the Reiki student during his or her attunement, when the student learns to associate each symbol with the specific type of energy it represents.

By recalling a symbol, the practitioner can also tap into that energy when needed during a session.

The Reiki symbols themselves are derived from the Japanese kanji system of writing, and also Sanskrit in some cases, according to the ICRT.

Usui Reiki uses these symbols:

  • Power (Choku Rei);

  • Mental/Emotional Harmony (Sei Hei Ki);

  • Distance/Connection (Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen);

  • Reiki Master (Dai Ko Myo);

  • Completion (Raku).

Karuna Reiki uses these symbols:

  • Om/Aum (the sound of eternal oneness, typically associated with meditation);

  • Zonar (karmic issues);

  • Halu (a deeper form of Zonar);

  • Harth (heart issues);

  • Rama (male/female energy);

  • Gnosa (mind/higher self);

  • Kriya (healing);

  • Iava (personal power);

  • Shanti (peace).


What Are Some Reiki Benefits?

“Some of the many benefits of Reiki may include stress reduction, comfort and sheer relaxation,” said LaFlamme. “Many clients report a feeling of enhanced well-being, peace and of feeling grounded after a session or series of sessions.”

In addition to the benefits to the client who receives Reiki, giving a Reiki session can benefit the practitioner as well. Because Reiki is believed to balance life energy, being an active participant in that process helps both you and your client.

“A Reiki practitioner also receives some of the healing benefits of Reiki while giving Reiki, as an added wonderful bonus,” LaFlamme said. “Professional massage therapists [who perform Reiki massage] give so much of themselves in their beneficial and loving practices.

“Offering Reiki to clients ... is a refilling of the well while providing value at the same time,” she continued. “Everyone benefits, sometimes in profound ways.”

Whether you offer just Reiki or decide to work as a Reiki massage therapist, both you and your clients will reap rewards from this energy work.

What Does Science Say About Reiki?

Rand said no “solid evidence” for Reiki’s effectiveness yet exists, though practitioners and clients often cite anecdotal evidence to back up Reiki’s various benefits.

“In terms of the energy itself, it seems to beyond scientific measurement,” Rand said, “but the results can be measured, and there’s extensive research on that.”

He described one study in which 45 participants with health issues were divided into three groups: the first received no intervention; the second received what he called “sham Reiki,” in which a person posing as a Reiki practitioner went through the motions of providing Reiki; and the third received authentic Reiki from a trained practitioner.

(The sham Reiki group was used to control for the placebo effect, in which people experience benefits purely because they believe an intervention will be effective.)

During the study, standard care and sham Reiki “had some effect, but it was very marginal,” Rand said. In the Reiki group, the subjects experienced significant decreases in heart rate and diastolic blood pressure, according to the study’s abstract.

Write-ups of this study, along with a number of others, are available to read on Rand’s research website. While research into this modality is challenging for many reasons, Rand recognizes the importance of achieving scientific validation of Reiki’s benefits through formal research.

“We want to do a large-scale study with 300 patients ... that science [would] consider as an adequate, large-scale study,” he said.

Is Reiki Right for You?

To be an effective, sought-after Reiki practitioner, “being honest and having a sincere desire to help others” is essential, Rand said.

He also notes that good organization and business skills are important, just as they are in massage therapy, especially if you are a sole practitioner who is self-employed.

While Reiki is not a religious belief system and does not require any particular faith, by its nature it often touches the spiritual side of both practitioners and clients. For that reason, Rand said, a certain openness of mind and heart is critical to being a practitioner of this modality.

“You have to at least be open to that, the spiritual ideas—that there are energies available that you can tap into,” he said.

What You Need to Get Started Practicing Reiki

Getting started with Reiki is fairly simple; Rand notes you can begin using it almost immediately after your first class.

“You don’t have to study for a long time to learn Reiki; you receive what's called an attunement,” he said. The attunement gives you the ability to use the technique on yourself and others, though you should be honest about your skill level and not offer it professionally until you receive further training.

“You can take a class in a weekend and actually doing Reiki on yourself and others that is effective,” Rand said.

“It’s not based on skill so much as it’s simply the energy that you receive during the attunement; there is some skill involved, of course, and that comes with experience, but immediately, as soon as you have taken the class and you put your hands on someone, the energy starts flowing.”

Because Reiki is simple to learn and begin using, practitioners often begin offering it even with only level one certification, which typically involves a one- or two-day class. Rand recommends waiting until you’ve achieved at least level two before you begin using it professionally.

“I would say at level two, you could start a business and start giving sessions, and you would be effective and your sessions would be worthwhile,” he said.

Some people then learn beyond level two to the advanced and master levels and, if they want to teach, can train to become Licensed Reiki Master Teachers (LRMT), a credential offered by ICRT. According to the ICRT’s website, that credential takes three or four years and about 1,000 hours of study to achieve.

Do You Need a Credential to Practice Reiki?

Whether or not you need a Reiki credential depends on where you live.

“Most of the states in the U.S. do not require one to be licensed to do Reiki,” said Rand. Because Reiki does not require the practitioner to manipulate tissue, it typically does not fall under the definition of massage.

Among states that do require licensure or impose other restrictions on Reiki practice, the rules vary widely. Laws about the practice of Reiki usually exist under the umbrella of massage therapy.

That means you’ll probably be able to get information on regulations concerning its practice by contacting your state’s massage therapy board or other governing body in charge of massage therapy licensure.

The states of Florida and Texas, for example, require a person to have a massage therapy license in order to perform Reiki.

States such as Colorado and California do not require a license, but do require giving clients certain disclosures about the service you provide.

In states such as Mississippi, you can perform Reiki without a massage therapy license as long as you do not touch or manipulate tissue, or perform it while doing a tissue-manipulating modality such as massage.

In addition to becoming familiar with your state’s requirements for Reiki practice, it is also a good idea to inquire about any local ordinances that might apply.

“When starting a Reiki practice one should become familiar with local, city, and state or province laws, if any, regarding the practice of Reiki,” said LaFlamme.

You’ve probably learned a bit about Reiki and other types of energy work in massage therapy school; here’s a helpful guide to what Reiki is, its history, its symbols, its potential benefits, Reiki research, what you need in order to practice Reiki massage legally, and how you can learn it and incorporate it into your massage therapy practice.

How Much Does Reiki Certification Cost?

The costs of Reiki training and certification vary widely, Rand said, and those variations may or may not reflect the quality of the education provided.

For example, he said when he first started looking into training beyond level one, in the 1980s, a few programs cost $10,000; while another, the one he eventually took, only cost $500. (That $500 in the 1980s equates to about $2500 today, he said.)

Because of the wide variation in costs and curriculum quality, Rand recommends researching what content is included in the course, as well as several other factors, before deciding on a program.

“I would look at their background ... the lineage of the teacher,” he said. How long has that person been teaching?

“Get a feel for their level of spiritual development,” he continued. Talk to the teacher, and others who have taken the program if possible. If it seems like the instruction being provided is “ego-based,” Rand said, keep looking.

“Does it sound like they want people to come to them because they project themselves as being the center of Reiki ... better than anyone?” he said.

This kind of attitude runs counter to a core principle of Reiki, that the life energy being worked with is universally available and that anyone is qualified to learn to channel and use it.

Finally, trust yourself.

“I tell people to follow their own inner guidance, their intuition, in terms of [choosing] a teacher to study with,” Rand added.

Do I Need Reiki Insurance?

Reiki liability insurance is essential. No matter how careful you are, accidents happen; and getting sued can easily bankrupt your business.

Many entities offer Reiki insurance, including Massage Magazine Insurance Plus.

When shopping for Reiki insurance, it’s important to look for a plan that offers professional liability coverage (for claims of malpractice); general liability coverage (for accidents, such as when someone trips and falls); and product coverage (for damages resulting from products used during sessions).

Some Reiki insurance policies may also offer benefits such as rental damage coverage, identity protection, or reimbursement for stolen equipment.

You should also know the coverage limits of your policy, and whether it is occurrence-form or claims-made.

In occurrence-form coverage, an incident is covered as long as you were covered on the date the incident occurred; in claims-made, you must be covered at the time the claim is filed, regardless of when the incident took place.


What to Charge for a Reiki Session

How much should you charge clients for a Reiki session? Rand recommends using your rate for a massage as your reference point, while taking into account such factors as where you live and what your competitors charge.

“Look around in your area and see how much people are charging for a massage session and charge a similar amount,” he said, noting that could mean anywhere from $35 to $150, depending on your location.

If you offer Reiki in conjunction with massage, or blended into a Reiki massage therapy session, you can also think about pricing it as an add-on, or charging a higher rate for the combined session.

Adding Reiki to Your Massage Practice

“Reiki can provide added value and an added dimension to existing massage sessions or as a standalone service,” said LaFlamme.

You probably already discuss with clients some of the positive effects regular massage therapy can have on their well-being. Energy work such as Reiki also has a place in a person’s wellness routine, alongside other healthy habits.

“Reiki is one part of a general wellness program that may include diet, exercise and self-care,” LaFlamme said. “Receiving regular massage and Reiki sessions can benefit the body, calm the mind and soothe the soul.”

Apart from the benefits it offers clients, Reiki sessions also offer the practitioner a chance to provide a valuable service that isn’t as physically taxing as massage therapy, at a comparable price per session.

“Reiki is done with a gentle, static touch, which provides a break for the professional therapist in contrast to techniques that require greater pressure,” LaFlamme said.

Careers in Reiki

Many practitioners offer Reiki sessions in private practice, and are either in business for themselves or working in a multidisciplinary setting with other providers, such as massage therapists, chiropractors, reflexologists, or practitioners of other types of energy work.

Due to the increasingly wide acceptance of integrative therapies as an adjunct to traditional medical care, many hospitals and other health care facilities now need Reiki practitioners, as well.

Once you have enough experience and training, you may also choose to teach Reiki.

Ready to Learn Reiki?

If you are interested in adding Reiki to your service offerings, consider taking a level one course. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) lists many Reiki continuing education courses.

About the Author

Allison M. Payne is a freelance writer and editor who lives in central Florida. She has written many articles for MASSAGE Magazine and, including April’s cover story, “Massage for Children: These Global Ambassadors Are Changing Kids’ Lives Through Touch” and “Massage Franchises Respond to Misconduct Allegations with New Safety Policies.”

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