Reiki in Cancer Care

Reiki Healing CancerMy client is a formidable person, a high-powered executive who went full out to address a rare cancer that required surgery, chemo, and radiation. A friend recommended adding Reiki healing.

The executive burned through several top oncologists before finding a good fit with a doctor who is smart, well informed, and humane.

Half-way through an arduous conventional regime, at a routine check-in point, the oncologist — who had not seen his patient in a while — was surprised by how well this patient looked. So surprised that he checked to make sure his patient was, in fact, receiving the treatment they had agreed upon.

After confirming that the treatment was all in order, the oncologist said, “You’re amazing. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“I learned to practice Reiki on myself,” my client confided.

To which the enlightened oncologist replied, “Whatever makes you happy.”

Reiki and oncology

My client was surprised by the doctor’s uncharacteristic dismissiveness. I wasn’t.

Although Reiki is offered in many top cancer centers — Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City, Dana Farber/Harvard in Boston, and M. D. Anderson in Houston, to name a few — who knows the context in which the oncologist might have already heard of Reiki? (Even practitioners have come across some Reiki presentations that make our eyes roll.)

Or perhaps the oncologist had never heard of Reiki and was embarrassed to be caught uninformed.

We’ll never know.

I suggested my client hand the oncologist a peer-reviewed medical paper I wrote that gives doctors the information they need to support patients who receive Reiki treatment, in language meaningful to medical professionals.

Click here to find “Reiki for Support of Cancer Patients.” Since most Reiki research is poor quality and will not impress a physician, I carefully vetted the research to present only the best science. Feel free to print out the paper for your own use, or direct others to the link. Please do not post the article directly on your website, as that is a copyright infringement.


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18 thoughts on “Reiki in Cancer Care”

  1. Hi Paula, Thanks, that actually makes a lot of sense.

    The “safeguards” from the attunement are mentioned in a book I’m reading. I might have misunderstood the author. Just goes to show that experience is probably a better teacher than books are =)

    I’ve been practicing energy healing for about 3 years now and managing my own energy was one of the most important lessons when I started out. I was curious about how Reiki approaches the topic, and based on your comments I suppose the same energy principles apply.

    Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.


  2. I have often trained family members, and sometimes an entire family, to practice Reiki on themselves and, if they like, on one another. I always stress that Reiki practice is first for self-care, and that it helps the patient when the people around him/her take care of themselves.

    I feel it is important for the family to have comprehensive training in which there is considerable in-class practice time, rather than just passing initiations and sending them off. Sometimes I have offered a special family class; other times, family members have attended one of my group classes.

    It is also important for each family member to feel free to join the class, or not. It would be counter-productive for anyone to feel pressured to learn a practice that didn’t appeal to him or her.

    1. Hi Pamela, I think that’s really valuable, especially the focus on self care.

      Especially when it is a long drawn out process, the whole family has to look after its individual needs (we’re no help to others when we’re burned out).

      Also agree with it being best to get practice rather than just rushing off. How does energy management work when it comes to Reiki? What I’ve heard is that the attunement has safeguards that keep the practitioner from depleting their own energy (as opposed to the energy healing I do now, where we need lots of practice channeling to maintain our own energy).

      I’m glad to have found your blog.



      Ps … The last point goes without saying 🙂

      1. Geena, I don’t know about the initiations having the kind of safeguards you mentioned. I just don’t know how that would work, and I think it is speculative at best. Much opinion is passed around about Reiki practice as if it were fact.

        I tell my students, “Reiki practice is safe, but is the practitioner safe?” We need to be responsible for our boundaries at all times, no matter what we are doing. If we stay with the parameters of Reiki practice — meaning we dispassionately place our Reiki hands without attachment to the outcome or to any recognition — then we are safe.

        Practitioners who place hands with an (often unrecognized) agenda, who overstep the practice and drop their boundaries will have to deal with the consequences of that.

        Reiki practice does not relieve us of the need to hold our boundaries, but practice over time makes it easier to do so. This is why I encourage students to have considerable experience in both daily self-practice and practice on others before becoming professionals, and to become professionals before becoming Reiki masters. Safety and self-care first.

        Toward a More Plausible Reiki Model might be helpful.

  3. Hi Pamela,

    I’m an energy healer myself, an only recently attuned to Reiki. I think Reiki is fantastic, especially because it can help the family as well as the patient.

    What would you think of family members training in Reiki 1 so that they can give each other healing? I am loving this “Hands On, Reiki On” side to it.

    Thanks for this great article.

  4. Im from Portugal and I´ve just started practicing Reiki.
    In Portugal we are just in de middle of a Reiki boom: everybody is talking about Reiki and everybody is a master. All this boom is taking the Reiki credibility away.
    I woul like you to give me a short, credible and humble anser/way of aproaching people witch are coming to me and asking what is Reiki (I listen all the time people saying “I don`t believe that kind of spiritual things”).

    1. Sandra, I usually tell people that, “reiki is a gentle touch practice that is deeply relaxing, commonly reported benefits include better sleep, stress relief, a sense of peace, balance…etc.” I stay away from communicating reiki as energy, or trying to explain how it works. If people ask, I will say that “science does not yet know how reiki works”.

      I may also name some of the hospitals that are already using reiki treatment despite the lack of scientific evidence.

      Best wishes to you!

    2. Hello Sandra,

      I arrived home late last night from teaching Medical Reiki classes in Dublin, Ireland and Lisbon and Porto, Portugal, where I met many Reiki practitioners who are committed to a credible practice and presentation for the mainstream public and health care.

      Rather than giving you a formula to use when responding, I would like to point out several resources that can help you respond in a way that is credible, relevant to the person inquiring, and true to your understanding. I hope you will take the time to digest the perspective and come to a place of greater clarity and confidence.

      The two resources I suggest are the Communicating Reiki category on the blog and the TALKING REIKI: Communication recorded webinar series.

  5. I am a Reiki Grand Master in India.I have so many doubts In Reiki because every different Reiki Master says different methods and diff.symbols in attunement methods and healings. I request your consequent help regarding my doubts.Will you grant it and favour me?

    1. If someone who considers himself/herself to be a grand master is distracted by the diversity in Reiki training, imagine what it is like for conventional healthcare professionals.

      This is why I wrote my book REIKI: A Comprehensive Guide, and continue to write this blog, maintain the Reiki, Medicine and Self-Care page, and offer webinars and trainings: to establish a credible presence for Reiki practice not only for the mainstream public and conventional medicine, but also for practitioners such as yourself. I understand that quality resources are needed and I am giving it my all. 🙂

      That said, it is up to each practitioner to make use of these resources as he/she embarks on this path of practice. It doesn’t matter what title one uses; what matters is that one practices self-treatment every single day, and contemplates the Reiki Precepts and one’s experiences.

      The truth of Reiki practice is in our own hands. It is for each of us to travel this path of practice to find it for ourselves.

  6. Pamela, you are saying that most “Reiki research is poor quality and will not impress physicians”.

    Your cancer paper is excellent and I posted a link on my website. Are there any other papers/studies that you would recommend sharing with physicians? For example, how convincing is the Reiki study about Heart Rate Variability?

    Also, what needs to be put into place in order to have a convincing Reiki study? How many Reiki practitioners and recipients do you need for a convincing study, and how often would they receive treatment?

    Thank you for your reply. I really appreciate the continuing education that we all receive from your blog.

    1. What you share depends on the situation. The Yale heart rate variability study was published in a prestigious conventional medical journal and is, to my knowledge, the first Reiki study to be so published, so that’s impressive. 🙂

      The studies referenced in the first three papers on this page have been vetted.

      I encourage you not to think in terms of convincing, but rather in terms of credibility. Credible studies are well designed, appropriate for the specific situation and population, and clearly documented. It takes a team and a controlled clinical environment to do good research. Practices are taken more seriously by academic medicine as results are replicated in a number of credible studies.

      It is crucial that we respect the medical mind. When physicians see credible documentation, they make their own decisions. No Reiki practitioner is going to convince a doctor or anything except the Reiki practitioner’s lack of credibility.

      The strategy I’ve always used is simply to give doctors the information they need and trust them to recognize what is valuable for their patients.

  7. Pamela, I have yet to meet ANY of the oncologists in the cancer department! I think that’s an excellent idea, and will suggest it to Kelly (the director of the IT center). Your idea also gave me the idea of suggesting Kelly have the nursing staff read it, perhaps in preparation of a presentation I could do specifically for them.

  8. Thank you, Pamela! In my work as a reiki volunteer at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, CT I frequently offer 20 minute sessions to patients with cancer, particularly when I’m on the Hospice Unit . The staff at Middlesex is generally very supportive of integrating reiki into traditional treatment modalities; however, I’ve printed out your paper to pass on to those who are interested. So good of you to share this work.

  9. Thank you, Pamela. I’m going to share this with the supervisor of the Integrative Therapy clinic where I practice reiki with Cancer patients. Perhaps she and I can have a discussion how it might be used most effectively. Do you have any suggestions regarding that?

    1. Why not circulate the paper to the oncologists in the department? If possible, print it out and put it on their desks, as they are more likely to read it. Perhaps send a follow-up email with the link to the paper online.

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