Reiki, Empathy, and Proof

Yesterday, an article was published in the Boston Globe called, “Easing a Patient’s Pain – Even Without Proof it Works.” The article discusses the use of acupuncture, massage, reflexology, and Reiki at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It reports that, “The hospital soon will start a nearly $2 million project to convert the first floor of one of its buildings into a new

complementary therapies at Dana-Farber
Photo by Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

center for ‘integrative therapies,’’ which eventually could double the number of patients it can accommodate. More than 3,000 patients scheduled appointments for acupuncture and massage last year, a 25 percent jump over 2014.”

This is indeed excellent news for patients at Dana-Farber and for the promotion and acceptance of these complementary therapies. The article says it’s an “unusual” move but actually this is not so unusual as in 2008 over 800 U.S. hospitals, or around 37%, offered Reiki according to the American Hospital Association and that number continues to grow.

The article also points out that Reiki was rejected by MD Anderson because there is no definitive proof – it’s just a placebo that’s as effective as speaking to an “empathic person” according to Lorenzo Cohen, director of integrative medicine at MD Anderson. I find this a fascinating statement because in the U.S. we spend large amounts of money on talking to empathic people called psychologists and social workers. If Reiki is as effective as psychotherapy, doesn’t that elevate its status?

Also, the “just a placebo” line has been used so many times. We all know that placebos can be very effective. Yes, we don’t know the biomechanical mechanism involved in Reiki but that’s because we don’t really know how energy interacts in our biomechanical selves and we don’t really know how the mind/body/spirit interact. However, we do know that people who experience Reiki leave a session more relaxed, with less pain, and that they often experience accelerated healing.

As Lissa Rankin, M.D., writes in Mind over Medicine, “What I found is that nearly every clinical trial demonstrates a placebo effect, but some health conditions appear to be more placebo-responsive than others. Placebos seem to be most effective when given to patients with immune-systems conditions . . . mental-health condition . . . nervous-system disorders . . . cardiac symptoms . . . , and most effectively, pain disorders.” She goes on to point out that the placebo effect is not found in clinical trials for cancer, heart attacks, stroke, liver failure, and kidney disease because that would be unethical as a sole treatment.

Dr. Rankin goes on to discuss complementary healing methods and writes, “I’d like to make the argument that perhaps nontraditional healing modalities work not so much because of the modality being practiced as because of the potent combination of positive belief in the healing method, the nurturing care offered by the practitioner, and the relaxation responses these treatments induce.” (page 54)

Indeed, positive belief can be a very powerful prescription and I applaud the important step that the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is taking to assist their patients in mind, body, and spirit.

I look forward to the day when we fully embrace the role of the mind and the spirit in healing our bodies.


No Guarantees

Twisting staircase, no guaranteesLet’s get straight to the punch line for this post: With Reiki, as with life, there are no guarantees. I wish there were, but there are not.

I’m writing this because as a Reiki Master I often have the following exchange with potential clients.

Client: “Will Reiki help with my . . . [fill in any physical or mental health ailment]?”

Janice: “Reiki will provide a state of deep relaxation where your body, mind, and spirit can reach their full potential for healing.”

Client: “Is there a guarantee this will heal me?”

Janice: “There are no guarantees. However, it will help you achieve a state of deep relaxation where your highest healing good can be achieved. When we’re relaxed our body heals faster, our minds are clearer and more creative, and we can relate with each other more authentically.”

Client: “What percentage chance is there that Reiki will heal my . . . “

Janice: “Reiki is a healing practice. I don’t have a number to quantify it.”

Client: “I’ll try something else with a guarantee.”

What is the something else with a guarantee? Does the medication you take come with a guarantee that it will heal you? Do you know how it heals you? Is it possible that it is your mind and your body’s natural abilities that are healing you?

Dr. Andrew Weil’s book, “Spontaneous Healing,” addresses this exact phenomena where a patient’s body is healed without conventional medicine’s intervention, even in the case of severe and prolonged illness. He writes:

“I regard the placebo response as a pure example of healing elicited by the mind; far from being a nuisance, it is, potentially, the greatest therapeutic ally doctors can find in their efforts to mitigate disease . . . Unfortunately, this view of placebo medicine is very much out of fashion today. . . . If a drug begins to work in too many different conditions, most doctors lose interest in it, because they think lack of specificity means lack of an underlying mechanism. In other words the drug could be — perish the thought! — merely a placebo.”

So, Reiki . . . maybe it’s a placebo, maybe its effectiveness really is all in your mind, and, definitely, there are no guarantees that it will work. Why, then, should you spend your time and money on a Reiki treatment? Here are a few compelling anecdotes:

  • A seven-year-old girl fractured her humerus and required surgery to insert three pins. The post-surgery recovery time was slated at 6-weeks, minimum. The girl received daily Reiki treatments and recovered in half that time – 3 weeks.
  • A 45-year-old man had knee surgery. He asked his wife, a level 2 Reiki practitioner, for treatments on his knee. At his 6-week follow-up visit the orthopedic surgeon was shocked by the speed of his healing. He called in his colleague to show him the progress of healing and recovery that the man had achieved which was what they normally see at 12 weeks or more post-operatively in people 10-15 years younger than the man.
  • A 60-year-old woman, grieving the death of her husband and living with the side effects of chemotherapy treatment for her breast cancer, received a Reiki session once a week for six weeks. After two treatments she reported an improvement in the quality of her sleep and increased energy. After three treatments she reported that the neuropathy in her hands and feet had stopped. After six treatments, she said, “I have my life back.”

Won’t you give Reiki a try? Yes, there are no guarantees, but there is a good chance you’ll feel great and facilitate your body’s natural healing abilities.

Wishing you abundant wellness!

How does Reiki work?

There is a certain amount of mystery around how Reiki works.  As Reiki Practitioners and Masters, we believe in universal life-force energy — the energy that is in us and all around us.  The energy that is universal and infinite. We believe that this energy is channeled through us and offered from our hands to another being who takes that energy and uses it for his/her highest healing good on a physical/mental/emotional or spiritual level.  However, for many people, that might be too much to wrap their minds around.  It may be too abstract and esoteric.  We can still have a discussion about Reiki and still reach area of agreement about how Reiki works.

Here are some possible areas of common ground:

  1. Reiki brings on the relaxation response. When the body is relaxed, it enters a place where healing can occur.  When the mind relaxes, it sees possibilities and ways of being that it can’t see when it is experiencing stress.  Relaxation heals.  Reiki heals.
  2. Touch heals.  Just the act of being touched in a kind and selfless way is healing.  At the very least, Reiki works through the power of touch.
  3. Reiki is a placebo.  It brings on the placebo effect in the same way that many medications do. We believe that it is going to work and therefore it does.  (See, for instance, the work of Ted J. Kaptchuk.)
  4. Through the experience of Reiki, one “knows” how it works. To know Reiki, is to have experienced it.  It is difficult to explain at times, however, the experience of it is unmistakable.

How do you think Reiki works?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Wishing you abundant health!

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