The Reiki Police

Reiki CredibilityA discussion of Reiki credibility needs to address three important questions:

  • Who decides what is credible?
  • What are the standards by which credibility is measured?
  • How can Reiki practitioners establish credibility?

The first question is easy to answer. We each decide for ourselves what is credible. That is our personal responsibility. Credibility is an individual assessment.

We are all the Reiki police.

Each one of us is the guardian of our practice. How well are we doing our job? What are the standards by which we gauge credibility?

Standards for Reiki Credibility

Consider one of the most common statements about Reiki practice: Reiki does no harm.

Now put yourself in the position of someone completely new to Reiki, someone googling around to decide if Reiki is worth pursuing. Madame Newbie finds the statement “Reiki does no harm” presented on a website with no explanation, as if it were a commonly recognized fact.

And maybe it is, in Reiki circles.

But Madame Newbie doesn’t live in a Reiki circle. She’s exploring new territory. She wants credible information so she can decide for herself if Reiki practice is safe and worth her time and money, and if a particular Reiki practitioner is reliable and trustworthy. She won’t accept something as true just because a Reiki enthusiast says it is so.

Madame Newbie becomes even more skeptical if a Reiki website expects her to accept Reiki on its terms instead of her own. If we’re lucky, Madame Newbie will move on to another, more credible Reiki website.

But she might just give up on Reiki before she finds one.

A credible presenter is sensitive to Madame Newbie’s need to think it through for herself. Today even doctors have to share their reasoning with patients, and doctors have worked hard to establish credibility.

What credibility do Reiki practitioners have? Only what we create.

How Can We Establish Credibility?

We establish credibility when we treat people with respect, and feed critical thinkers the unembellished information their inquiring minds need to make informed decisions.

When we overlook people’s need for reasonable information, we are asking them to believe us. Not so credible.

People who already like and trust us will be inclined to accept what we say, especially if they share our worldview, but that’s based on emotional persuasion, not credibility, and it doesn’t carry over to the mainstream public.

How might we present the statement “Reiki does no harm” credibly?

Let’s look at what Madame Newbie would consider to be the facts. Reiki practice involves light touch or non-touch. It does not involve any manipulation of tissue, nor the ingestion of any substance.

We can reasonably say something along these lines:

Reiki treatment is non-invasive and considered safe because Reiki is practiced through light touch, and no substance is ingested. Reiki treatment can also be offered without any contact.

3 Elements of Credible Communication

In person, our respectful, calm demeanor and thoughtfulness help establish credibility. Online and in the media, we establish credibility primarily through carefully chosen words and images.

Here are three elements of credible communication:

  • Appreciating the reader’s need for unbiased information
  • Giving information that is either documented or self-evident (such as, light touch/non-touch is non-invasive)
  • Clearly separating personal experience and perspective from “facts.”

Credibility is different than agreement. We can agree with something said about Reiki — for example, Reiki does no harm — and find the statement not credible when presented on its own, without support.

When we as Reiki practitioners hold ourselves to high standards of credibility, we pave the way for agreement. When people agree with the information we offer, and feel comfortable with the way we offer it, why wouldn’t they take the next step to experience Reiki for themselves?


Are there Reiki statements you need help communicating credibly? Please scroll down and share as a comment below.

Want to learn to communicate Reiki more credibly? The TALKING REIKI: Communication series is designed to improve your effectiveness and comfort when talking about Reiki, and you can access the recordings online anytime you want, as many times as you want. Click here to  learn more.

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Related Reading:
Mainstreaming Reiki: Acquiring the Power to Help
Recipe for Reiki Credibility
Reiki Flakey
Choosing Your Reiki Words

23 thoughts on “The Reiki Police”

  1. So, as a brand spanking newbie, what statements would be appropriate to make regarding Reiki while maintaining credibility, to someone who has never received a Reiki treatment and is unfamiliar with its benefits?

    Thank you for offering clarification?


    1. If someone asks, why not simply say you are brand new to the practice and don’t feel qualified to speak authoritatively, and refer them to a resource such as this article for more information?

      If you feel like it, you can breifly mention a couple of benefits that you personally are noticing.

  2. Peter, I think we can still build credibility and at the same time acknowledge our different opinions. We become less credible when we state our personal opinion as truth.

    The fact is that we all do not know for sure what is happening during a Reiki treatment. At least I don’t. What we can agree on is that it feels good!:)

    In my opinion it is best to focus explaining the benefits of Reiki treatment versus trying to explain how Reiki works. When I get the question how does Reiki work, I answer it with Science does not yet know. I use terms like: In my opinion, it has been my experience that etc. I will also acknowledge that different Reiki practitioners have different opinions.

    We loose credibility with Reiki newbies and especially medical professionals, if we state something as the truth but cannot back it up with evidence.

    In my opinion Reiki stands for Spirit. I do not see it as universal life force energy. Energy can be measured, Spirit is without limits. We all have that spiritual essence that is without limitations. Reiki practice puts us in touch with that inner space of stillness where healing can take place. As Reiki practitioners and because of our Reiki self-care, we are able to hold a space of peace and quiet for our clients. This is my personal model for Reiki.

  3. Christine, I see what you are saying and I see the merit in Pam’s alternative Reiki model. So I have no problem with the content.
    This thread arose from the how to build credibility post. Do you think it is possible to build credibility when there are different ideas of how it works?
    Whatever idea a person comes across when they first hear about Reiki may have an imprinting effect, to get them to change their ideas is much more difficult, especially when it comes from what could be seen as an authoritative source like this college. As a guess the College reflects the views of 95% or more Reiki practitioner.

    My question is, can one qualify the applicability of each model in such a way that one does not replace the other but complements it instead? If that is possible then one can work towards consistency and build a more integrated and credible system.

    I think that this has to be the best way forward but that may also mean that when one comes across explanations like the College’s one may need to at least mention that there are other possible explanations and not leave people under the impression that this is THE explanation.

  4. I assume you disagree with the text below as quoted from the article about the Ursuline College?

    Reiki is a natural healing technique that uses gentle hand placements to transmit energy, Nancy Herrick explained. She is director of the Reiki Clinic at Ursuline College.

    “All living things are made of life force energy and it flows in and out of us. When our energy is low, we’re more likely to feel stressed or ill. Reiki restores this flow of energy.”

    1. Dear Peter, Science does not yet know what the mechanism of action is with Reiki. We all have our different opinions. Many Reiki practitioners see Reiki practice as transmitting energy from the practioner to the client. I used to see it the same way because this is how I was taught and I chose to believe it.

      Pamela is encouraging us to step outside of the “Reiki box” and question some of our beliefs. I took Pamela’s Medical Reiki class last May and it was the beginning of completely changing the way I think about Reiki and how I communicate it to Reiki newbies. What we as Reiki practitioners have in common is that we all know how wonderful Reiki practice is. I feel that Reiki is much needed in our hospitals and the mainstream. I do a lot of volunteer work at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and it has been my experience that most people are not comfortable with the idea of another person channelling energy towards them. So what is at stake here? Do we continue to insist on our own personal models, and have people run in all directions when we begin to talk about Reiki?

      What has helped me is consistent Reiki self-treatment while questioning some of my beliefs. I am much more successful now in helping Reiki newbies open up to this wonderful system of self-healing. Best wishes to you!:)

  5. Dear Pamela, grateful to meet you again for this Q/A which is quite fascinating. And grateful for the efforts put forward for ‘credible reiki’. In spite of the fact the word ‘police’ in the title could be mis-interpreted as a ‘control’ statement which does not apply to reiki healing, i find this Q/A very instructive and as usual your intentions highly invaluable.

    THe comment I’d like to make today is about the ‘healing’ and ‘energy work’ analogy or differences as you stated it. In the decade of years of practice I came to explain healing (in particular to those new comers to Reiki) as a natural re-balancing process of the energy flow within the body/mind/universe connection is eventually a process involving energy, with energy being defined as circulation of bio-electricity within the body at first, connecting to the mind and eventually reaching the etheric body and beyond connection with the cosmic consciousness of the quantum field.

    ‘Energy work’ as explained in some of the above comments seem to be understood /presented as an ‘application from the outside” and hence not comparable to reiki treatment which is indeed not an application of energy but a way to trigger re-balancing of energy flows within the body through hands-on positions. In my view reiki is a form of healing which works with energy field which as a matter of fact are also measurable.

    I sincerely believe, Reiki belongs to the category of energy healing therapies.
    Love & laughter to you and yours.

    1. HM, I’m not concerned that anyone who reads the post would misunderstand, and a surprising use of words is part of a good headline, which is what gets people to read a post.

      The thing about “energy work” is that it is work. It is a deliberate and active intervention into someone’s biofield, following a treatment plan. Reiki is a practice that reminds the system of its own higher order. Although the biofield is affected, it is not energy work. The physical body is also affected by Reiki practice–for example, hearing borborigme as the digestive system activates from within–but Reiki is not “body work.”

      When it comes to credibility, sincerity is only part of the matter. Removing belief and relying on objective description is equally important. It is not credible to expect other people to believe what we believe just because we believe it.

  6. I would like to challenge the belief that we need an attunement in order to practice Reiki. Pamela, you say that the healing comes from within the person receiving treatment. Why would we need an attunement if the healing comes from within?
    In my opinion drawing symbols into someone else’s aura is an energetic intervention.

    We are all equipped to use human touch for comfort, relaxation and stress reduction. Reiki classes teach us how to become aware of that potential already within us. The origins of Reiki practice are very simple. The Reiki Sourcebook by Frans and Bronwen Stiene states that Mikao Usui did not use a physical ritual in order to “attune” his students. He would just sit opposite from his students and create/ hold a space of peace and quiet before instructing them. I believe that the attunement procedure with symbols that is commonly used comes from Hayashi and Takata. I have been teaching Reiki since 2006 and stopped using attunements in my classes 2 years ago. I encourage my students to practice self-treatment daily. In my classes we also treat each other and the Reiki treatments of my “non-attuned students” feel the same.

    For me personally, Reiki practice is a touch of human warmth and care. It has been my experience that this is an explanation medical professionals can attach to. It will be hard to get Reiki practice into our hospitals and the mainstream, if we don’t find our way back to the simplicity of this wonderful system of self-healing.

    Thank you, Pamela, for providing a space for continued learning for all of us!

    1. Christine, we don’t need an initiation to heal, we need an initiation to practice; initiations empower a student to practice a particular practice. That’s not a belief, it’s a traditional mechanism through which a spiritual lineage is shared, and one that Usui chose to honor and adopt in his practice.

      There may, however, be beliefs about aspects of how the initiation needs to be accomplished. It seems to me, for example, that the ritual is only the tip of the initiation iceberg, that initiation is a process even more than it is an event, one that is passed through every aspect of training.

  7. Hi, Actually my statements are what I have experienced. I have experienced Reiki energy at work. I quote from William Lee Rand… “The word Reiki is made of two Japanese words – Rei which means “God’s Wisdom or the Higher Power” and Ki which is “life force energy”. So Reiki is actually “spiritually guided life force energy.” and I quote further:
    “Reiki is not taught in the usual sense, but is transferred to the student during a Reiki class. This ability is passed on during an “attunement” given by a Reiki master and allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of “life force energy” to improve one’s health and enhance the quality of life.”

    What about these words suggests Reiki is not an energy? May I further suggest that your claims to the contrary… are also your beliefs and certainly not shared by many other Reiki Masters.

    1. Sid, I’m sure that your statements are based on your experience, but have you contemplated your experiences and done research into the history of the practice, or have you simply accepted what you were told? And how long have you been practicing daily self-treatment?

      Please read about the weaknesses of suggesting the Japanese language can be reduced to English phrases in this post Reiki Is Not a Word. You might also be interested in Toward a More Plausible Reiki Model.

      My perspective is based on my experience, but not that alone. It is also based on a foundation of extensive practice of other non-dual spiritual practices (25 years before learning Reiki in 1986); interviews with Japanese practitioners, non-practitioners, and historians; and intensive self-inquiry into the reality of my own experiences.

      Since I was already aware of the difference between qi and prana when I first experienced Reiki in 1986, I was less prone to jump aboard the “Reiki energy coming through” model. Also, in nearly 25 years of Reiki practice, I have never come across a distinct Reiki subtle energy. Rather, it is my understanding that the term “Reiki energy” was meant from the beginning to refer to the full complement of subtle energies, of which qi and prana are but two distinct, separate forms.

      Initiations enable us to practice.

      I realize it may seem shocking to challenge ourselves and our beliefs in this way, but If we don’t question our understanding and what we are taught, how can we grow as practitioners? Why allow our understanding to be predetermined by a belief system? Where is the freedom in that?

  8. Pam, my understanding is definitely blurred at the moment. :) Are you saying that in your understanding Reiki works more along the principles of lets say “Reconnective Healing” which aims to increase or align the client’s vibrations with a higher order field? IMO this is actually a better model than the one based on “blasting energy into the client via the practitioner” which raises all kind of other issues. However, I think that many, if not most, practitioners think in terms of an energy transfer model and not in terms of an energy alignment one.

    1. Peter, I’m not saying either of those. Reiki is a spiritual practice that has therapeutic applications. Perhaps you’ll take a look at Toward a More Plausible Reiki Model.

      I don’t know what most Reiki practitioners think or know (that’s why I started the Campaign for Credible Reiki with questions, to find out where are the common knowledge gaps). But I agree that the common understanding of Reiki is limited in that it stops at the level of subtle energy and is therefore dualist, whereas Reiki practice arose from the non-dual perspective. Without acknowledging Reiki as all-pervasive consciousness, we miss the deepest essence of the practice, and we are stuck with the kind of invasive model you articulate.

      That said, there are certainly Reiki practitioners who are more invasive than others, but it’s not the practice itself that’s invasive, it’s what the practitioners do with their own energy fields. What I have found in interviewing Reiki practitioners of various practice styles over the years is that practitioners who have been practicing daily self-treatment for a while (let’s say 8-10 years) often use dualistic language, but when I keep questioning them to contemplate their experiences, they realize their words don’t match their understanding, and their understanding is different than what they were taught.

      The practice itself will transform us, if we are patient and invest the time in daily practice, but we are not going to notice the changes in ourselves and our understanding unless we observe and contemplate our practice and our lives. I encourage my students to Practice, Observe, Contemplate, Repeat. Endlessly.

  9. Sid, when you give a doctor permission to cut you open does the cutting open cease to be invasive? Not imo, the body has its own mind, if I may coin a phrase.
    Likewise, anybody who enters, manipulates, or influences one’s energy field is invasive on an energetic level. If you really think about this then there is no escape from being ‘invaded’ even in ordinary life. The difference is that Reki (and other energy work) practitioners do this deliberately, consciously and with a specific aim in mind, to heal.

    As to the point of ‘spiritual practice’ and ‘energy work’ I would say say that the first might refer to what Reiki as a system is, and the second as to how Reiki works.

    1. Peter, Reiki practice is significantly different than energy work. When practicing Reiki, we are passively offering the system the Reiki connection, whereas energy work follows the diagnostic/intervention model of medicine.

      When practicing Reiki, the healing response comes from within, whereas energy work or energy medicine is more as you have described it, a deliberate intervention. This distinction can appear to be blurred a little bit in Japanese practice only because westerners don’t recognize the degree of inner alignment that is assumed as a basis for practice.

  10. I am confused, Peter, do you practice Reiki? How can a Reiki treatment be called invasive when the client has to allow the energy to work on them to receive anything at all? Invasive means to intrude or encroach upon something.. only Reiki practitioners who send Reiki to people who have not given their informed consent can attempt to do this.

    Pamela, You say “I do not agree with your statement ‘Reiki is an energy based healing modality,’” Reiki IS energy based! If it was a spiritual practice alone then one would just have to embrace it to become Reiki. ATTUNEMENT indicates that an altering of frequency is involved and we know that our energy fields are raised to that of the Reiki energy.

    You also say “the healing comes from within the person receiving treatment” They allow Reiki energy to merge and alter their energy, however Reiki energy is not theirs so it is from outside of them and thus heals them. The power of belief helps people to heal, it is most important to well being but Reiki is apart from that and boosts that process, but it is not of the client it comes from the spirit world.

    1. Sid, what you say in your second two paragraphs above is based completely in your beliefs rather than in fact; information based on belief is not credible. Reiki practitioners who want to build credibility need to avoid stating their personal beliefs as fact. For example, you wrote “Reiki is an energy based healing modality,” but it is apparent from Usui’s own words that he saw it as a spiritual practice. Is he not the final authority on his own practice?

      You wrote, “If it was a spiritual practice alone then one would just have to embrace it to become Reiki,” yet embracing Reiki as a spiritual practice means practicing it regularly, and that’s exactly how we develop, and the only way we develop once we have the initiations.

      Not sure what you mean by “become Reiki” because my perspective is that we already are Reiki, and it is our understanding and identification that matures with practice.

      I disagree that there is any separate reality such as Reiki energy. The term “Reiki energy” could be used to encompass all subtle energies.

      Your entire last paragraph is your belief, and only your belief. None of it can be documented. Are you able to speak about Reiki practice without stating your beliefs about the practice as if they were facts? This is to my mind one of the most important standards of credibility.

  11. That Reiki does no harm does sound self-evident to me and I don’t think it would be difficult to convince another person of this. What would be harder to explain is how Reiki is effective. There, we could talk about self-healing, and how Reiki stimulates the body’s own capacity to regulate and heal itself. That’s how I explain it these days anyway, in part educated by these pages.

    1. Aiyana, but isn’t it your experience of Reiki that makes it self-evident to you that Reiki does no harm? People who don’t know what Reiki practice is or involves don’t have the benefit of that experience. The statement sounds incredulous–how can anything do no harm? Remember the public is coming from a conventional perspective in which everything is a two-edged sword. They need information to understand that Reiki practice is not part of that dualistic perspective, but rather is balancing to the individual.

  12. This article also shows the cherry-picking method which I find to be quite prevalent, for example with regards to its non-invasiveness.
    It is non-invasive in physical terms but Reiki is not a physical healing method, is it?

    Reiki is an energy based healing modality. Most practitioners would say that it consists of channeling energy into a client via the practitioner. On an energetic level Reiki is therefore a fully invasive practice and not a non-invasive one.

    Isn’t it dishonest to say it it non-invasive, knowing that the listener will apply it to a certain level of working, when we know that we are working on an altogether different level?

    1. Peter, thank you for providing such a clear example of how Reiki practitioners can get caught up in nit-picking or fantasy and lose sight of the public’s perspective.

      Reiki practice is non-invasive. The word non-invasive means that the body is not damaged, that the natural boundary of the skin is not compromised. Invasive procedures compromise the integrity of the physical body; Reiki practice does not do that in any way.

      You can of course expand the definition of non-invasive in any way you wish, and I personally think that is an important inquiry. That type of self-awareness and inquiry could help Reiki practitioners back off the temptation toward any forcible, if subtle, entry, which is are really techniques of shamanism or energy medicine, rather than Reiki practice, and do not belong in a Reiki session.

      However, that line of inquiry is not relevant to the topic at hand, which is very straightforward and not at all esoteric. How does the public define non-invasive? That’s what we need to honor when communicating with the public. Conventional medicine often has to hurt in order to help, and often involves serious consideration of the risk/reward ratio; none of that is part of Reiki practice.

      I do not agree with your statement “Reiki is an energy based healing modality,” nor do I agree that we are “working” on people. Reiki is a spiritual healing practice. We offer the Reiki connection to ourselves and to those with whom we practice. What is unique to Reiki practice is that the healing comes from within the person receiving treatment. Yes, there is always something healing about appropriate touch–a stack of good research studies documents this–but this happens with any appropriate touch. What is different about a Reiki practitioner is that his system is simultaneously engaged in its own balancing process, which seems to enhance whatever it is that typically happens through even non-Reiki touch.

      I admire your discerning intellect, Peter. Have you ever thought of directing it toward finding common ground among practitioners? If you did, your perspective could become a rallying point in the community.

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