Evaluating Reiki Research

If you’re a Reiki practitioner wanting to champion Reiki in health care, chances are you’re looking for studies that prove Reiki.

Let me save you some time: there are no such studies.

Nor is it necessary to prove Reiki in order to communicate the value of Reiki treatment in health care.

When speaking about Reiki treatment to a physician, it’s enough to (calmly) let her know that Reiki treatment is safe, and widely used in clinical settings (i.e. places where patients are given treatment, such as hospitals and cancer care centers).

Don’t reinvent the research wheel

More time-saving news: you don’t have to start from scratch if you want to communicate to physicians that Reiki treatment is safe, and how Reiki treatment can support their patients.

Use medical papers I’ve written.

The first three papers are all that you need. The first is the only Reiki study published in a conventional peer-reviewed medical journal, in this case the esteemed Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The Reiki review article overviews the science, practice, history and theory.

“Reiki for Support for Cancer Patients” discusses research and tells specifically how Reiki practice can help anyone who is addressing cancer. The paper focuses on the human experience rather than disease pathology (Reiki practice balances the patient overall rather than addressing disease directly). That means the information and perspective this paper offers can be easily customized to fit any disease population (i.e. people addressing any medical diagnosis).

Do a little internet research to learn the particular challenges faced by people addressing the disease of interest. There will be much overlap here — for example, anxiety is common among people with any serious medical diagnosis — but you want to find out what in particular concerns this group of people.

The “Reiki Vibrational Healing” interview speaks to physicians, in language comfortable to them, about the clinical advantages Reiki treatment offers, without making claims.

No groundbreaking Reiki research has been published since those articles, so using them alone is sufficient. No one in medicine expects you to be a physician or a scientist. They just want you to be level-headed, avoid making claims, and point them in the direction of the science.

Staying research credible

Unless you are research-savvy, if you reach beyond the safety zone of those three papers, you risk putting your credibility in question.

When I write a Reiki research review, I carefully assess the merit of each study I include. Vetting studies is my job as an expert. It is not my job to publicize every study that’s been published on Reiki, no matter how poorly designed it is.

Not all authors and editors are as discerning in their choice of research, and some truly shoddy studies have been published in the less rigorous journals. Using poorly designed Reiki studies to buoy the credibility of Reiki treatment to scientists is a strategy bound to backfire. So while the lay Reiki community might get excited to know how many Reiki papers have been published, a medical professional can quickly see that most studies are deeply flawed. Then the person you’re trying to impress realizes you don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s likely the end of the conversation.

Related reading:
Reiki Is Not a Word
The Science of Biofields

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Have you been waiting for online training to help you bring Reiki into hospitals and other health care settings? Wait no more. The Introduction to Medical Reiki recorded training will give you skills and strategies to get you started in health care. Let’s get Reiki practice where it is needed, and raise the professionalism of our practice. Click here to learn more.


13 thoughts on “Evaluating Reiki Research”

  1. Greetings Pamela and others,
    I am currently a BA psychology student that has a strong drive towards doing clinical research in the field of alternative medicine. I am an advocate of using one’s own motivation and search for knowledge when it comes to all aspects of life whether it be making choices about ones mental and physical well being and in this case in academic research.

    We live in a post modern world where a distinct power knowledge base is prevalent in mostly all of our social systems including medicine and clinical psychology. This leaves those of us who are trained to help others to be situated in the position of the dominate force of knowledge leaving other types of knowledge, such as our clients or other non academic professionals, to being subjugated .

    I found the suggestion that you provide here for those seeking Reiki research to cease their inquisitiveness and to only use the studies you advocate as completely unhelpful to the spirit of those who seek to learn using their own power knowledge. It also enforces a dominate role whether aware or not of yours being the privileged and the all knowing. So I am curious to know what motivates you to make such a suggestion?

    Also when you mention that “if you reach beyond the safety zone of those three papers, you risk putting your credibility in question” . I am sorry but to a person like myself who has been in the academic arena as well as the reiki setting this is quite baffling! It becomes further more confusing because on one hand you advocate research professionals to have a reiki background, but then you also suggest to the reiki professional not do any research , but only read the ones that you provide.

    So I am curious to know what are you trying to say exactly?

    My journey with Reiki has always been one based on self experience. Including being plagued with both my own ego selfishness and desire to be the ultimate healer of others but also it has been one that has been joyful and humble . This humility has helped me realize that I can never control or tell others what to do and how to think about life, and especially about research and least of all reiki. I can only provide suggestions based on how I was trained as an academic and Reiki professional ad my personal experience. I choose to see the strengths in the clients and students I come across and I then advocate that they follow their heart wherever it may go.

    1. Nicole, you completely misrepresented what I have said.

      Nowhere have I suggested that anyone cease being inquisitive. On the contrary, I encourage practitioners to question everything.

      Research is done according to a particular set of rules, and non-researchers don’t know those rules. We don’t need more Reiki research; we need more well designed, accurately reported, peer-reviewed Reiki research.

      I don’t tell Reiki practitioners not to do research, but I do stress that they cannot do meaningful research on their own. They need to be part of a team that includes professional researchers.

      One of the points that I make repeatedly in medical presentations, classes, and writing is the need to include a seasoned Reiki master in the research team. Contrary to what you claim, I do not advocate that researchers have a Reiki background. Researchers are experts in research, Reiki masters are (hopefully) experts in Reiki, and physicians/nurses are experts in patient care. We need to work together with mutual respect.

      As an unlicensed health care provider who has been collaborating in conventional medicine for two decades, I am well aware of the academic knowledge power base to which you refer. I had to earn the respect of the medical professionals who hold that power. That is precisely why I offer a very conservative strategy to practitioners who are interested in integrating Reiki practice into that power base.

      I have repeatedly seen practitioners use this simple, conservative strategy to make meaningful connections in health care many times over the years. Once they are working partners in health care and have created relationships and won respect and credibility, they are in a position to collaborate in research.

      I’m not telling practitioners what to do; I’m offering the benefit of my 20 years of experience. If it’s of interest, give it a try.

      I’m curious about the extent of your training and experience in medical research. It seems that if you were a professional researcher, you would not have misread my suggestion that non-researchers stay within a safety zone that helps them create common ground with licensed health care providers. Anyone experienced in research understands how easily a non-scientist can get in over her head discussing research and wind up turning away precisely the people she is trying to connect with.

  2. Congratulations, Jessica! Sounds like a wonderful opportunity.

    Regarding tips, there are so many resources on my website. Please take the time to discover what’s here. I would also be happy to schedule an individual phone mentoring session with you if you don’t have time to explore on your own and you need to cut to the chase. We can zero in on what would make the most difference for you right where you are now.

  3. I am a reiki practitioner, and newly licensed RN. The hospital I was fortunate enough to find a job at, had been looking at new self-care modalities for it’s nurses (a wonderful hospital that cares about its nurses– I’m a lucky employee), and they were thrilled when they found out I am a reiki practitioner, and have been for years. I was only too pleased when they asked me to help design and implement a procedure to use reiki as self-care for our nurses. the project begins in a week, and I am working on getting as much backing (articles, research, etc.) as I can to not only begin to implement this for our nurses, but also for our patients. one step at a time, of course, but now is the time to plant the ideas that if this works for our nurses, it can help our patients as well. Pamela and Sharon, your websites, articles, and books have been wonderful, and your work to get reiki implemented in hospitals is inspiring. I hope I can be as successful as both of you have been.
    Any tips on methods that work, and pitfalls to watch out for would be very much appreciated!

  4. Pamela, please keep us posted on the NIH NCCAM workshop-what is being discussed and how can it help us Reiki practitioners? I belong to Michigan Holistic Nurses Assoc-it is always our goal to get bonified material out to the public and support one another. We love it when research shows what we all already know. Thanks much for your efforts.

  5. There is so much territory to be traversed between practitioners and research. I write this while attending an NIH NCCAM Research Workshop. These are people who really care about this field.

  6. Pamela, You are right on-the Reiki practitioner for the post traumatic stress disorder study at U.of M. was my Reiki 2 student and a physical therapy instructor at the unversity. She had little treatment experience. She herself was frustrated because the client reported feeling better but it did not fit in the study boundaries-study is about a year old. I am an RN, Reiki Master and part of advancing this modality wherever I can. My book is,” Healing with Hands, Miracles, Inspiration and Science,” subtitled Reiki and related energy therapies. please go to my website http://www.sharonbaker.net and take a look -like you I am out there promoting energy therapies around Michigan and wherever asked to go . This type of study is inaccurate and useless for energy advancement.

  7. Sharon, you are absolutely correct about this. Thank you for sharing this example.

    Research is limited in that a study only records the data that were deemed relevant when the study was designed. Why a change in vital signs would be deemed relevant to the improvement of a complex and chronic condition is hard to imagine.

    So much time and resources are wasted because Reiki studies are designed without including a seasoned Reiki practitioner in the research team. The Reiki practitioner (if there even is one involved at the design level) is often someone who has access, typically a full-time health care professional who happens to have Reiki training and some Reiki experience, who may be a wonderful Reiki clinician but who lacks the depth of understanding to be able to guide research.

    I would love to know more about this study as I am going to the NCCAM conference on researching non-pharmacologic interventions and it is a good example of meaningless research.

  8. A friend of mine was part of a Univ of Michigan study to evaluate the effects of Reiki for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The study only looked at blood pressure, pulse and respiration before and after Reiki. The vital signs did not change much so Reiki was deemed ineffective. The subject claimed to feel better in many ways after the treatment but there was no other measurement in the study! These crude study methods need to be modified-it gives a false or narrow outcome.

  9. Thanks for the materials on Reiki in health care. Earlier in the day, I had emailed a friend of mine who has experience in writing grants and proposals for the Not for Profit sector and asked for advice on how to present Reiki to local hospitals. In other words, finding your blog today was very timely. I am going to read through your material in the next few days.

    I also think that your demonstration on the Dr. Oz show will greatly advance Reiki awareness. The public is ready for a re-birth of energy healing, the re-discovering of our own innate empowerment to heal ourselves.

    Thank you,


  10. I was completely ignorant about Reiki until I recently read Pamela’s book, Reiki: A comprehensive guide, after seeing her on the Dr. Oz Show. Although I had been a alternative medicine and natural healing enthusiast for quite some time and a believer of unseen things, I used to think Reiki is something spooky. Having grown up in Japan, I had associated the word “Rei” with “ghost” as many people in Japan do. So I used to think in my head “Hmm…ghost energy…” But thanks to Pamela I now have a better understanding of Reiki and can’t wait to try it out!

  11. I am a Reiki Master Healer Teacher. I agree with what you have said. There is too much added on to Reiki. Reiki is simple and pure and that is all one needs to know.

  12. Thanks for this excellent, level-headed article. If there’s one thing Reiki needs in the west, it’s less fluff and more sense. I totally agree that poorly-designed studies do nothing to benefit Reiki.

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