To this envious outsider’s eye, the United Kingdom has long enjoyed a rather enlightened perspective on what is now called integrative health care. Homeopaths were trained and then practiced side-by-side with conventional physicians, and traditional herbalism was valued.
Recently, however, something sinister is afoot. A crackdown on homeopathy has closed all but one homeopathic hospital. And more trouble is brewing for practitioners of other complementary healing approaches, including Reiki.
Recently, Reiki master Maggie Bevington of Newcastle approached me for help defending her UK-based Reiki website against complaints made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Maggie was eager to address the complaints in a timely fashion in order to avoid a formal investigation.
Maggie believes the complaints originated with the Nightingale Collaboration, which she characterizes as “one amongst an increasing number of sceptic groups and individuals who purport to protect the public from ‘charlatans and quacks’ such as ourselves, who they believe make unsubstantiated and misleading claims about healing abilities of Reiki.”
The ASA required Maggie to remove from her website all claims that Reiki treats any condition or affects the physical body, as well as all references to healing, treatment, and benefits. Specifically, she was instructed to strike the following passage from her website:
“Reiki is believed to have many beneficial effects by:
Treating the symptoms and causes of illness
Strengthening the immune system
Restoring balance e.g. hormones
Inducing a sense of relaxation and calmness
Promoting creativity and intuition.”
Since Maggie has satisfactorily resolved the challenge to her website, I invited her to share her thoughts about how best to respond to such adversity. Although she is speaking particularly about complaints to the ASA, her perspective is useful to when addressing a wide range of complaints. Here’s what Maggie suggests:
“I recommend anyone who receives a complaint to not take it personally, and to view it as a challenge rather than as an attack. Some therapists in the UK are feeling anxious and even talking of closing down websites or packing in being a therapist altogether, but I believe that we need to develop resilience to such challenges and keep our intention high.
“This is an opportunity to be clear about our own information and intention, and to demonstrate a professional and reasoned attitude to both complainants and the ASA. I have endeavoured to make a positive connection with the lady from the ASA by friendly but professional communications, with occasional humour to lighten things. I have ensured that I haven’t reacted back with criticisms or insults – which would have been very easy to get ‘stuck’ in – which I certainly indulged in at first. I expressed my concern about skeptic groups in effect dictating the work of the ASA because of personal beliefs rather than in the best interest of the general public.
“I made several amendments on each response, to both demonstrate a willingness to comply with CAP law but also to retain the right to provide useful information about Reiki to current and prospective clients.
“It is possible to play the game and remove taboo words, not list conditions, and be more creative with language. Although it is a breach of CAP law to refer to or imply that Reiki has any direct effect on the physical body, we can refer to the use of Reiki treatment for emotional and spiritual healing! They have obviously never heard of the science of psychoneuroimmunology.
“The ASA have stated that they are willing to discuss our concerns so I therefore urge any research fellows and professional bodies out there in our Reiki community gather together good quality research on Reiki to submit for evaluation.”
I commend Maggie for her professionalism in addressing this situation and encourage Reiki practitioners to follow her lead. The pressure is growing for Reiki practitioners to develop skillful ways of communicating our practice.
We can help shape future conversations about complementary healing practices if we see the writing on the wall and take action to upgrade our communication skills now. There may still be times when we need to conform to outside regulations, but if we contemplate and choose our words carefully, we can each find a way to communicate that is true to our own experience.
Has anyone else faced a similar challenge? If so, please scroll down to the comment section and tell us who presented the challenge, how you responded, and what the outcome has been.
The Reiki and Medicine Intensive and the Introduction to Medical Reiki webinar recording teach you how to communicate Reiki in clear, neutral language, without making claims. This is useful to any Reiki practitioner, and especially valuable to Reiki professionals, whether or not you aim for healthcare collaboration.
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