Reiki Healing Crisis

Reiki HealingA Reiki practitioner and physician asked “how to deal with the emotional and physical healing crisis/cleansing effect.” She was concerned that “it can be very severe and even potentially dangerous in some vulnerable individuals.”

It is surprising how often this question comes up. Surprising because in decades of professional Reiki practice, I have not once seen a severe healing crisis.

But since questions about healing crises come up so often, let’s take a thorough look. Here is Part One.

Reiki healing process

When I offer Reiki treatment, that’s precisely what I do—offer. I’m not imposing anything beyond the light touch of my Reiki hands. Reiki practice is mere presence effect than active intervention, human-being more than human-doing.

As my hands linger in the placement sequence, my client’s system responds to Reiki practice from within. Her system begins to reorganize itself toward greater harmony, coherence, and balance.

In this way, Reiki treatment is quite unlike the oppositional medical approach to cure. Whereas conventional medicine uses drugs and/or procedures to oppose what’s happening in the body in an attempt to correct a specific problem, the benefits of Reiki healing emerge organically from the system’s enhanced state of balance.

Medicine recognizes and values the balanced state in which the parasympathetic nervous system is dominant. That’s the state in which the body is able to rest, digest and restore. It’s the state in which we were made to live, with only occasional forays into the sympathetic stress response, as needed to save our lives.

As a Reiki practitioner, I have no control over the process through which my client’s system moves toward balance. That’s a spontaneous healing response from deep with the client that I can neither speed up nor slow down. Moving my hands through the placement protocol may effect my client’s experience of the treatment, if she is awake enough to notice, but since her healing response comes from deep within her own system, it doesn’t significantly effect her overall healing process.

The experience of the Reiki treatment itself is generally comfortable and deeply relaxing. Snoring is often heard.

Reiki healing: it ain’t over till it’s over

The client’s healing response continues long after the Reiki treatment has ended. How long? We never know. The process is too complex and there are too many variables.

To help my clients recognize what’s happening as their body’s self-healing mechanisms go about doing what they do best, I ask them to notice anything that feels different in the days ahead—quality of sleep, choice of food, mental clarity, emotional balance, how they feel upon awakening, how they interact with others, any way in which it feels more enjoyable to simply be themselves.

I encourage clients to do whatever they feel the need to do in terms of their medical care, and to otherwise follow the body’s lead, going to bed early if they feel tired. The less we burden the body with unnecessary activity and over-eating, the more resources it has for healing.

After the first session, I discuss with my client how she would like to continue. Some return for treatment on four consecutive days. Others choose to start with twice a week or three treatments in two weeks, tapering from there as needed. Some sign up for my next First degree Reiki training.

Traditional Four Reiki Treatment Series

Clients who feel an imperative often choose the traditional four treatments in four days to give a solid foundation to their healing process. On the third day or evening of the series, clients sometimes feel a bit out of sorts. Symptomatic discomfort may return, and a sense of being unsettled. Sometimes the third treatment doesn’t feel as restful as the others.

Discomfort resolves in the fourth treatment, and the client finishes the series feeling renewed and hopeful that she can continue to heal.

Was that third-day discomfort a healing crisis? Is there a point at which discomfort might be a sign of danger? Good questions. In the next post, we’ll take a look at them, and at what a healing crisis is. To be continued…

Other articles in the healing crisis series:
Healing Crisis and Natural Medicine
Alternative, Conventional and Traditional Medicine
Healing Crisis and Cure

Vintage image from TammyTutterow.


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29 thoughts on “Reiki Healing Crisis”

  1. Hi Pamela, I have a question for you, after my 1st reiki attunment, at night I can hear someone snoring besides me, surely its not me. Can this be an effect of Reiki?

    1. Mo, just to clarify, when you ask, “can this be an effect of Reiki,” I understand that you are asking if this can be an effect of your Reiki practice, which I understand to have a balancing effect on one’s system.

      How can anyone know the answer to this question? There are too many variables. Even if I knew what kind of training you had and how you practice, I still couldn’t tell you.

      But I do know that people often snore when receiving a treatment, sometimes so loudly that they awaken themselves. 🙂

      I encourage you not to fixate on the snoring, but rather look to the benefits that your daily self-practice is bringing to your life, small simple things like greater steadiness and peace of mind, for example.

  2. hi peter – like a few words with you:
    few really understand the meaning of illness
    all see it as a negative thing – and are willing to pay a Dr. Fix-it to get rit of it – and are willing to pay what ever it takes if they had the cash. Many who have payed there tax or insurance police think they have the right to be cured –
    Any illness is however a opportunity for changes as so are all crises.
    We look at our body as a care we have to fix or get some new spare parts.
    The fact is that all illness are the symptoms of the regenerative Ki – at work with in the body and mind. If we are not willing to go in to that process of in-comfort, pain and suffering – we might end up cripple our self or even go through death to get it “fixed”.
    If I brake a arm I a expert of joining the bones know what to do – after that I cane begin to use the regenerative nature of Ki -. to make the bones grow together in a strong way.
    But id you ask any ill-person this question:” Why did you choose to fall and brake your arm?” They properly would not comprehend the meaning or evan think your were a little odd. But actually all the illness we get – is some thing we our self have asked for – to help us back to bringing our mind and body in harmony with Life.
    It os from Yin and Yang that Ki emanates.
    However we will never come to a spiritual understanding of cause and effect of deseces and illness if we do not try to understand the great principal of the concept Karma.
    All ill illness forces us to take a brake – to reconsider – to contemplate our life – it is a golden opportunity to well come this dis comfort or pain – even if Death is the final solution to your need for future progress.
    So what cane we do?
    A mystic christian prayer was “Help us to accept what we can not changes and give us power to changes what we cane changes.
    The Oath of Aristoleles ask the following “To heal, To relieve, To comfort.

    Concerning it Reiki should never be promoted as a alternative or substitute to modern surgery or medicine.

  3. Mary, healing crisis is a natural medicine term (used often in homeopathy, for example) that has specific definition, which I don’t want to go into here because I address it in the next installment of this series. But suffice it to say that the definition of the term as it is used in natural medicine is different than the definition of the two words that are part of the term.

    It is also important to draw a distinction between an adverse reaction and a healing crisis. They are two distinct types of events. The pain and discomfort of an adverse reaction is not necessarily part of a curative process, whereas a healing crisis is by definition part of a short term curative process.

    However, these are definitions only; what you are addressing is real life pain. I would like to say clearly that I did not mean to diminish in any way what you experienced, and apologize wholeheartedly if I appeared to be doing so.

    In health care, pain is what the person says it is; there is no judgment regarding someone else’s pain. I have worked with many people who were addressing chronic pain and I agree that it is a very serious issue, and especially complicated when no medical diagnosis is forthcoming.

    Thank you for staying in the conversation, and particularly for your final comments about maintaining “focus on healing however it presents itself.” This is the opportunity that we each have, regardless the diagnosis or definition.

  4. I find it an interesting concept that when a healing crisis occurs, however extremely unusual the response may be, it appears almost automatically the assumption becomes that isn’t what happened or let’s call it something else when, in fact, despite its rarity, it truly could be a healing crisis. The response just doesn’t fit into a neat little predetermined and explainable box. This unknowingness and inability to explain the process then seems to negate the term.

    The first dictionary definition for the word crisis “is a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.” In terms of my own healing crisis that definition is, indeed, precise. The attunement was the exact moment, “the turning point” for when the severe headache and other more general detox symptoms began as my system started reorganizing itself. It would not make any sense to decide some temporary adverse reactions were the direct result of the initiation, yet separate the headache out as something uniquely different simply because of its severity or duration. It all occurred concurrently. It all is a healing response merely different manifestations. I choose to view the crisis reaction, despite the incredible pain, as a move in a positive direction.

    The first dictionary definition for the word pain is “physical suffering or distress, as due to injury, illness, etc.” Clearly my experience, as atypical as it may be, was clearly NOT due to injury or illness. So, changing the wording from a healing crisis to healing pain would be inaccurate. There are many more variables involved during an attunement and healing response however joyful, painful, etc. they may or may not be. Each person’s experience is unique. The attunement remains my turning point as described above in crisis.

    The fact that the word “healing” precedes the word crisis seems to be overlooked. It truly is about our own healing whether we can perceive it consciously or happen to like it at the moment or not. Let’s keep the focus on healing however it presents itself.

  5. One of the big problems with Reiki, and one of Pam’s posts points to that, is the one-dimensionality of so many practitioners. What I mean by this is that they have little or no idea about other methods, let alone when they would be appropriate and could or should be suggested to a client.

    Reiki Ueber-alles (above everything else) seems to be the motto. I once had a conversation with a person who suggested that a family member who ripped his finger off while jumping over a fence should have been treated with Reiki ONLY as this would provide all that is needed, no medical intervention necessary.

    1. Peter, the term “healing crisis” has been around natural medicine a long time. I agree that it is often misused, and there is not a lot of understanding about what it really is, which is why I started this conversation.

      The mind has a natural tendency toward one-dimensional thinking. That’s part of the human condition. Instead of bemoaning what others do, let’s each keep our attention on how we as individuals can reach beyond the one-dimensional thinking ourselves.

  6. If the symptoms are severe then let’s call it healing pain, but not crisis. When there is inflammation and pain somewhere because the immune system jumped into action one does not call it a crisis. A crisis is something to be avoided, healing even if painful, to be welcomed.

  7. Pamela, do you think a physical ritual is necessary in order to practice Reiki? All the attunements that I have received caused a healing crisis. Fortunately, not in the form that Mary describes, but I did have anxiety and panic attacks. It all went away after I focused on Reiki self-treatment and stopped getting attunements and Reiki treatments from other practitioners.

    It seems to me that Reiki treatment is all about “being”, and the common Reiki attunement is very much about “doing”. I have heard that Mikao Usui never used a physical ritual but rather meditated with his students, or used Reiju which is very similar to a seated Reiki treatment.

    I am exchanging treatments with other practitioners again but I am very selective. Like you said, I also would not want treatment from a practitioner who does not self-treat.

    I would never let anyone do an attunement on me again. My healing path since then has been very gentle and self-directed. The attunements always felt like someone was trying to put me on the fast-track.

    1. Christine, a physical ritual is not necessary to give an initiation.

      My understanding of giving an initiation is not that I am “doing” something to the student. I’m simply empowering the student to practice Reiki.

      Unfortunately, we really don’t know what Reiki masters are doing when they are giving initiations, so you are wise to trust your instincts.

  8. I had a profound healing crisis when attuned to level one by a long time and well respected Traditional Usui Reiki Master who was NOT mixing in any other healing modalities. I got a severe migraine (among other detox clearings), a type of pain I had NEVER had before the attunement. The pain far exceeded “discomfort” or any of the less intense words to describe the reaction. ER visits were necessary, etc. I continued with the daily self-treatments hoping that would alleviate the excruciating pain, unfortunately, it has not. This very same headache that arrived with my attunement has remained with me every single day since that day 18 months ago, the severity of it only fluctuates. I have been through a multitude of various western medicine doctors and practitioners to see if there could possibly be any other explanation, absolutely none has been found. So, although a healing crisis may be rare, they are in my experience absolutely real and the term is completely accurate.
    I am currently working with a Homeopath and other alternative healing modalities to see if relief can be found there.

    The good news in all of this is, I still believe in the healing nature of Reiki and a about year later received my level 2 attunement with no further healing crisis, although the head pain from level 1 remains.

    1. Mary, I am so sorry to read that you have had such a difficult time, but what you describe doesn’t sound like a healing crisis, which is a temporary exacerbation of symptoms as part of a curative process.

      If you don’t mind, I am interested to know more details (when exactly it happened, such as was it during, before, or after which of the four First degree initiations, does having a little sweet affect it, etc.) and I’m happy to continue this off the blog if you would prefer.

      Since this adverse reaction traces to a spiritual initiation, you will most likely find healing from someone who practices a form of subtle spiritual healing rather than other modalities.

      1. It appeared after the 4th one. I felt great after the other 3. I understand the temporary exacerbation of symptoms and initially assumed the migraine was part of that reaction and would disappear as well. However, after approximately a day, the other flu like symptoms completely disappeared leaving only the unending severe head pain.
        Sweets do not affect in any manner. I spent a year in a neurology “head ache clinic” and tracked every other possible trigger or extenuating circumstance. There were none. It began with the attunement and was intertwined in the original healing reaction.

        I believe Reiki to be spiritual healing. So, what do you mean that I would likely find healing from someone who practices a subtle form of spiritual healing? What other forms are you suggesting as possibilities? It seems appropriate to me that since Reiki initiated it, it could also be precisely the spiritual healing needed and, hence, why I also still practice self-treatments and utilize Reiki treatments from other healers.

      2. Sorry for the confusion, Mary. I didn’t mean to imply that Reiki treatment couldn’t help this, but rather that it’s not the only spiritual healing practice that might be beneficial.

        I’m not recommending one modality in particular, but rather suggesting that you look for an experienced spiritual healing practitioner. It’s more about the level of the practitioner than the modality.

        You might look for a Tibetan lama who does healing, or an Ayurvedic physician who was trained in India. These traditions see the bodymindspirit as truly one but they can also identify the precise level at which an imbalance occurs, and from which it can be healed. I am not surprised that conventional medicine cannot diagnose this. The Ayurvedic model has six levels of pathogenesis; conventional medicine with its reliance on technology can only look at the final, grossest level.

        Essential oils can be useful, but only if you have extremely high quality meditative oils. Floracopeia is the only source I recommend.

        Meanwhile, yes, of course continue your daily self-treatment, and practice mindfully as much as you are able. Clues may be revealed from within as you practice.

  9. It looks to me that some healers just like to be melodramatic.

    Why use the word crisis in conjunction with healing? We don’t label side effects of medication as some form of crisis. Why should we do so with other types of healing? It is absurd to do so.

    Healing discomfort or adjustment is far more appropriate. Any change, whether good or bad, induces some stress and if it is unfamiliar it may be experienced as discomfort.

    1. Peter, thank you for your comment. I agree that some healers tend toward drama. That’s actually part of the next installment on healing crises.

      I like your idea about using terms such as healing discomfort or adjustment. They are definitely more along the lines of what I’ve seen with Reiki treatment.

  10. When I first received Reiki treatments and started my Reiki training, I often experienced being “pushed”. There were many healing crisis that I thought were necessary in order for me to heal.

    It all changed when I began to self-treat daily. I have not had a healing crisis since. I still have ups and downs but I feel very much in control of my well-being, and what I allow to happen.

    1. Thank you, Christine. You have underlined several important points: the difference that daily self-treatment makes, how pushing the system can increase discomfort, and the possible impact of client and practitioner expectations.

      Any process of healing is complex and nuanced. It may be impossible to isolate all the variables, but we can do our best to keep it simple.

  11. This also rings true to me, in my experience. Well put. I will pass this on to my Students.

    I believe the ‘healing crisis’ is something that was ‘brought’ to Reiki from other modalities. Some Reiki Practitioners, in my experience, aren’t always aware of when they are mixing modalities in a Reiki session, so that if/when a client has a ‘healing crisis’ it is not due to the Reiki.

    I have personally suffered through such a ‘crisis’ and was clear at the time that Reiki wasn’t the only ‘thing’ being ‘shared’, even after I asked that only Reiki be given. I also don’t believe the Practitioner deliberately stepped away from Reiki during the session, she just wasn’t as familiar with Reiki as she was with other modalities that she practiced and so it was easy for her to slip into something other than Reiki. It was not ‘fun’ afterward, to say the least!

    Another instance of Reiki teaching me, through experience, more than I could ever learn in a class. This is why a daily Reiki practice is so essential. Learn what Reiki is, so that you will know what it isn’t.

    1. Although some practitioners intentionally mix it up, I agree with you, Reiki Ree, that many slide without awareness between various modalities that they have some training in. For this reason, I ask my students to practice Reiki separately from other practices they have for a long enough period of time to they are able to appreciate what Reiki practice alone can bring.

      Although I personally don’t mix practices, I don’t think it is wrong to do so, but there are problems when practitioners mix without awareness, not only the danger of pushing the process, but also that clients don’t get a chance to choose.

      I would never choose to receive a Reiki treatment from someone who did not practice daily self-treatment. Our daily practice is healing and humbling. Daily self-treatment teaches us so much about what it takes to heal, and helps us understand how much our clients need us simply to be with them and tend to them with kindness and without trying to fix them.

  12. Pamela, thank you for this wonderful post. I agree that Reiki is all about “being” rather than “doing”, whether we self-treat or treat others.

    A few years ago I was pregnant with my 5th child. It was my first pregnancy as a Reiki practitioner and I was looking forward to having a pregnancy with daily Reiki treatment at my side. At week 12 after a Reiki self-treatment, I miscarried. It was my first miscarriage. After getting over the initial shock, I felt very much at peace. Knowing deep within that all was well.

    This experience taught me to be careful in how I communicate Reiki to my clients. I let them know that Reiki is all about non-doing, offering a calming touch, and allowing the person’s system to move towards balance.

    I am not directing any energy and I have no influence over how the healing is taking place.

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Christine. It’s always inspiring to hear from someone who has mined a painful experience to find the gems of healing and understanding that lie deep within. I salute you.

    1. Thank you again, Pamela, for your insight. I love the choice of words “human-being more than human-doing”. I sometimes wrestle with that distinction. Doing is held in such high regard in our culture. Reiki is a practice that so clearly depends on being with what is and not attaching expectation to results so it really keeps me humble and present because each opportunity I have had to share the practice is so unique. I am grateful to have a way to keep simply being.

      1. What you say is so very true, Doris, that each opportunity to share Reiki practice is unique, and good for you for your commitment to keeping your practice simple and pushing back against the tendency to do.

  13. Kathi, I have heard the words “care” and “comfort” frequently after offering a Reiki treatment. This is a key benefit that Reiki treatment offers conventional health care institutions, that patients feel comforted and cared for in even the most high tech medical situation.

    Vanessa, thank you for your kind words. I am always gratified to know that practitioners find this work supportive.

  14. Thank you Pamela for all the information that you share.

    I have been a Usi and Karuna Reiki Master for a number of years. I try to walk my talk in terms of my own life and helping others in their empowerment. I find your website inspiring and accessible on a number of levels. So please carry on with the good work.

    There is need to get reiki healing out there on a personal and institutional level.

  15. This sounds and “feels” right and true Pamela. When I received my first Reiki treatment the only thing that came to mind initially was “CARE” and in the days after “COMFORT”. I wonder if it is because we begin going with the flow instead of trying to make our own?

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