Regulation of Reiki Practice

NJLawEach state has its own laws governing health care, and Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) is a trusted resource for information about the regulation of Reiki practice throughout the United States (see below).

The legality of Reiki practice in New Jersey seemed clear enough.

A notice posted by ABMP on July 10, 2013 referenced the minutes of the September 26, 2012 meeting of the New Jersey Massage Board, which state, “Therefore, the Board has clarified that if you practice only Reiki, you do not need to obtain a NJ massage license.”

But just to be sure, Jean Robinson, ABMP’s government relations director, attended the Board’s March 2013 meeting and confirmed that information.

Then something changed.

ABMP recently alerted their members to a new post on the NJ Consumer Affairs website indicating the New Jersey Massage Board is reconsidering its decision. The board might announce a new decision at their next meeting on September 25.

What can a Reiki practitioner do?

Is there anything New Jersey Reiki practitioners can do to influence that decision? It’s possible, but you need to understand the process and be skillful in your communication. As Jean Robinson wrote in an email,

“…this really isn’t a popularity contest with the most votes winning. It will only be helpful if they hear why reiki doesn’t fit within the scope definition in law. People who contact the board should say something like this: I did not apply for a massage and bodywork license because I am a reiki practitioner. It has now been brought to my attention that the board is revisiting it’s September 2012 decision to exempt reiki practitioners from state licensing. I am writing to encourage the board to adhere to the original decision to exempt reiki. Then explain in a few sentences why reiki doesn’t fit within the massage and bodywork definition in the law.”

Legal definition of massage and bodywork in NJ

To make it easier for you, Jean sent me the definition of massage and bodywork in NJ law:

“Massage and bodywork therapies” or “massage and bodywork” means systems of activity of structured touch which include, but are not limited to, holding, applying pressure, positioning and mobilizing soft tissue of the body by manual technique and use of visual, kinesthetic, auditory and palpating skills to assess the body for purposes of applying therapeutic massage and bodywork principles. Such application may include, but is not limited to, the use of therapies such as heliotherapy or hydrotherapy, the use of moist hot and cold external applications, explaining and describing myofascial movement, self-care and stress management as it relates to massage and bodywork therapies. Massage and bodywork therapy practices are designed to affect the soft tissue of the body for the purpose of promoting and maintaining the health and well-being of the client. Massage and bodywork therapies do not include the diagnosis of illness, disease, impairment or disability.”

Why Reiki is not bodywork

There are several points to make when articulating why Reiki practice is not bodywork.

Reiki practice does not include “holding, applying pressure, positioning and mobilizing soft tissue” nor is Reiki practice “designed to affect the soft tissue of the body.”

Rather, Reiki practice involves very light, non-manipulative touch, or no touch at all, with the Reiki practitioner’s hands hovering over the body.

Rather than being “designed to affect the soft tissue of the body,” Reiki practice gently encourages the receiver’s own self-healing response (an internal shift into parasympathetic nervous system dominance).

How Does Reiki Help? may be useful to you in writing your careful note to the Massage Board. You can reach the Board via the NJ Consumer Affairs Contact Form.

Is Reiki regulated in your state?

The colors on this ABMP map indicate whether and how each state regulates massage and bodywork.

Clicking on a state gives the contact information for the local regulating body. When massage and bodywork are regulated, Reiki practice may be mentioned specifically, and exempted from that regulation, so be sure to read your state regulations carefully or contact the local official.

For example, clicking Massachusetts opens a window where you can access the Board of Registration of Massage Therapy page on the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation website. Search Reiki on that site to find an entry on Exempted Individuals written by the Division of Professional Licensure that lists Reiki practitioners as exempt from state regulation. The article mentions that local boards of health might regulate Reiki.

It is your responsibility as a Reiki practitoner to know the regulations governing Reiki practice in your area. ABMP has made it easy for you to do the research to know what is happening in your state, and as the Massachusetts example shows, perhaps your municipality. The situation in New Jersey is a reminder that the health care field is rapidly changing and we need to stay current.

ABMP is your advocate

ABMP is a watchdog for all bodywork and massage professionals. The organization counts 280 specialties among their members, including Reiki (even though Reiki doesn’t fit the legal definition of massage and bodywork). ABMP offers members community and many other benefits, including keeping you informed of legalities that affect your practice. I encourage you to consider joining.

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MAINSTREAMING REIKI: Is Reiki Safe? webinar recordings are now available.  The increasing attention given to Reiki practice by local regulators makes it more important than ever that Reiki practitioners can address the issue of safety credibly, without resorting to beliefs.
Part 1: Is the Client Safe?
Part 2: Is the Practitioner Safe?

Let’s stay in touch! Please signup for my email list and be confident I’ll never share your information.

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8 thoughts on “Regulation of Reiki Practice”

  1. This is interesting and informative as always Pamela. Here in Canada we have the Canadian Reiki Association which one must be a member of if one wishes to get a holistic practitioner’s license from the City of Toronto where I live. My understanding of the latter at least is that this has less to do with regulating Reiki and more with cutting down/eliminating “body rub parlours” which are often a front for prostitution etc. The CRA doesn’t regulate so much as provide educational and ethical guidelines and a complaints process for the public and I have no argument with that at all. According my understanding of their guidelines though and those of the City, if I want to provide counseling or coaching as part of the Reiki treatment program, I need to be certified/licensed by a relevant professional body. I get that, on one hand, but struggle with it on the other, since there is much wisdom that comes from simply having a spiritual practice and incorporating the precepts into one’s life.

    All of that being said, there are many, many, many Reiki practitioners and teachers in the City who choose not to register with the CRA or pay for a holistic practitioner’s license and simply practice out of their home. I suppose if someone complained, say, about traffic or parking issues, the city could still send a bylaw officer to investigate.

    Janet

  2. Pamela, thank you for bringing Reiki to the mainstream, and for taking the time to write this post. This is a great discussion. We would like to add to it by providing information about what we have learned so far being on the ground in New Jersey and attending subsequent NJ Massage & Bodywork Therapy Board meetings:

    1. To our understanding, there is no official exemption for Reiki or any other light-touch energy therapy (although, NJSA 45:11-68 c. states that “the law does not prohibit any person in engaging in the manipulation of the soft-tissue of the human body contained on hands, feet, or ears…”). Hands-off Reiki does not require a license to practice at this time. As you referenced in the blog, according to the September 2012 minutes, if one solely practices Reiki, a license is not required. However, during the July 24, 2013 Board meeting, the Board distributed to the attendees a document that stated, “A person who provides an energy therapy that involves touching a client in any way is engaged in massage and bodywork therapy and must obtain a license from the Board.” Consequently, we do not know the future status of hands-on Reiki.

    2. Our experience shows us that public awareness is very important in making change. We created a petition in order to build awareness amongst practitioners affected by the legislation and the public they serve. As a result of the petition, we were added to the July 24, 2013 Board meeting agenda as a discussion item. In turn, the Board is now continuing to analyze the issue for all energy and light-touch practitioners, not only Reiki. We feel it is important to continue building a grassroots effort to change and/or clarify the Board’s position. If anyone would like to sign the petition, go to: http://chn.ge/1aXBuoO.

    3. In addition to signing and commenting on the petition, we encourage all light-touch practitioners to attend the next NJ Board meeting which is scheduled for September 25, 2013, 9am at 124 Halsey Street, 6th Floor, Newark, NJ 07102. As you gently stated, in approaching the Board and state legislators, it is essential to be professional and succinct in both verbal and written communication. In order to continue building awareness, we also encourage practitioners of energy and light-touch therapies to write letters. Practitioners who choose to write letters, might find these two customizable letters useful; one for Laura Anderson, Executive Director of the Board of Massage Therapy and Bodywork: http://naturalhealingalliance.org/files/letter_Anderson.doc, and one for Governor Christie: http://naturalhealingalliance.org/files/letter_Christie.doc. Both letters cite the law and regulations.

  3. I am an LMT and reiki master in florida. Reiki and energy work has been regulated under the board of massage since the 1990’s, there are definitely good arguments for and against this regulation. However, even if you do not have a “license to touch”( nursing, lmt, pt, ot) you can still provide Reiki on others freely as long as you are not charging for it. Anyone can teach or learn Reiki with no problem as well.

  4. Thanks for this article Pamela. I will be doing just as you said when I attend the meeting on September 25th. You’re absolutely right when you say the only way is to show them Reiki is not massage.

    1. Thank you, Heidi, but I just want to clarify that I did not suggest that anyone show the Board that Reiki is not massage. I don’t know how you would do that without their consent.

      I actually didn’t even mean to suggest that people write. My thinking was that some people would see the comment form anyway and possibly write a comment, and that it would be helpful for them to understand what is at play here. It is not, as Jean Robinson said, a popularity contest, with the most comments winning.

      Whenever one addresses government officials, it’s wise to be circumspect, the way one would be when giving testimony in court. it’s important to be respectful of the official’s authority, to be brief, and to stay strictly to the relevant points.

      In my experience, Reiki practitioners often give more information that is needed, and wind up having the opposite impact to what they expected.

  5. Thank you for this posting, Pamela. It is of huge important for all of us. All Reiki professionals must educate themselves and all Reiki Teachers must educate their own students about the state by state, or city by city regulations adhering to Reiki business practices. We ignore this component of our businesses at our own peril.

    1. Thank you, Pamela. I have been a member of ABMP for almost 4 years. They offer great customer service. Unfortunately, they do not insure Reiki Level I and II Practitioners, only Reiki Masters.

      1. Thank you for mentioning that, Christine. I will ask what their reasoning is. There may be an assumption — as many people have — that one has to be a Reiki master to be a professional. In my lineage (old-fashioned Takata), practitioners offer a lot of treatment to others and become professionals before they qualify to train as a Reiki master.

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