Among college students with high levels of anxiety, depression or both, six 30-minute sessions of noncontact reiki resulted in a progressive improvement of the students’ overall mood, according to a recent study. This improvement in mood was significant five weeks after the reiki sessions had ended.

The study, “A Randomized Controlled Single-Blind Trial of the Efficacy of Reiki at Benefitting Mood and Well-Being,” involved 40 college freshmen. Twenty of these students had high depression, anxiety or both, according to the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, but none were being medicated for these conditions. The other 20 students had low anxiety and depression scores on the same scale.

Half the students with high anxiety, depression or both were randomly assigned to receive noncontact reiki, and the other half of these “high-mood” students were assigned to a control group. The same random assignments occurred in the “low-mood” group, with half the students receiving noncontact reiki and the other half in a control group. The subjects were informed that they may or may not receive noncontact reiki, and they were blinded to their group assignment.

Assessment questionnaires were administered before the intervention began, one week after the intervention ended and again five weeks later. These questionnaires included self-reported measures of mood, illness symptoms and sleep.

For the intervention, all students in both the reiki and control groups attended six half-hour sessions within two to eight weeks, with one participant taking 14 weeks to attend all six sessions. The differing intervention periods were due to the students’ varying schedules and availability.

During each session, students in both the reiki and control groups took part in a 25-minute guided meditation. Each student listened to the same guided meditation recording on headphones in a dimly lit room, while reclining in a comfortable chair with a foot rest.

While the guided meditation took place, the reiki practitioner sat roughly a meter behind the subject. For those in the control group, she simply sat there and did not use any reiki techniques.

For those in the reiki group, she used a combination of noncontact reiki techniques. Her emphasis was on ascension reiki, with the use of different reiki symbols and techniques depending on the individual student. The practitioner’s palms were positioned approximately three to 30 inches above each subject’s head or behind each subject’s back during the reiki sessions.

“In addition to facilitating the blinding of participants to whether reiki was being sent, the guided relaxation provided a control for the relaxation component of reiki,” state the study’s authors. “The conditions in the room and the interaction between the [reiki practitioner] and participants were kept as constant as possible.”

All subjects wore blindfolds during these sessions as well, so they would not be able to see shadows from the reiki practitioner’s hands.

Results of the research showed that the students with high levels of anxiety, depression or both demonstrated a greater overall improvement in mood and stress levels, with no similar benefits found in the “high-mood” control group. These significant improvements were still in effect five weeks after the final reiki session.

Authors: Deborah Bowden, Lorna Goddard and John Gruzelier.

Sources: Psychology Department, Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London, United Kingdom. Originally published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2011).