3 Ways Shameless Reiki Misinformation Hurts People & How You Can Help Counter It

Not a week goes by without me hearing of someone who’s been hurt by Reiki misinformation or a clumsy Reiki practitioner.

I say “clumsy” because while they do happen, I rarely hear apparently deliberate attempts to hurt someone via Reiki practice. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible — how can balance be harmful? — but when someone nefarious calls their manipulative behavior “Reiki,” which they can legally do, it’s deeply problematic. It shifts the attention away from the predator and directs it to Reiki misinformation, which of course is presented as fact. There’s no way to know how many people who could have been helped by Reiki practice come across that story and decide Reiki is disreputable and not for them.

Let’s put that problem aside for the moment and look at 2 much more common ways Reiki misinformation is shared, and the negative consequences that no one takes responsibility for.

The garden variety misunderstanding-leading-to-misinformation about Reiki practice is so abundant, it’s easier to find than credible, documented information. Such Reiki misinformation alarms people who might benefit from Reiki practice, leading them to decline Reiki support. An example is false contraindications, such as being told not to receive Reiki treatment during surgery.

Such Reiki misinformation persists even though the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states “Reiki hasn’t been shown to have any harmful affects.”

There’s a third way Reiki misinformation is shared that causes the receiver unnecessary pain. Have you ever heard a Reiki practitioner blithely passing an occult message or disturbing comment to a client or acquaintance? I’ve heard of it happening over cocktails, as if it were party banter.

Time to pause for a common sense moment. Why would anyone mix cocktails with psychic messages? Isn’t it all too possible it might be the alcohol speaking, and not an angel or deceased loved one? And psychic readings have nothing to do with Reiki practice, at least not traditionally.

The Reiki practitioner might have been well intentioned, or might have been showing off their psychic prowess. Regardless, when you volunteer unsolicited occult messages, or share what you imagine to be an insight, people get hurt, no matter how good your intentions are. At the very least, the receiver feels violated. That sense of violation can reverberate through past trauma.

And that experience of violation gets attached to Reiki practice. The people who get hurt don’t realize it was the practitioner’s misstep. Instead, they associate it with Reiki practice, across the board. Which of course leads to more pain, and more Reiki misunderstanding.

Regulation is not the remedy for this, but I can think of a few things that could make a difference. If you have more ideas, please share in a respectful comment below.

Increase awareness of the diversity of Reiki practice

Neither conventional medicine nor holistic health providers nor the mainstream public realizes there are no standards for Reiki practice or education. Many who consider themselves to be Reiki masters have less experience and training than my First Degree students. People can watch a video and start charging for Reiki services. That’s how Reiki misinformation begets more Reiki misinformation.

And that’s how people get hurt, because practicing Reiki professionally requires ethics, skill in maintaining a therapeutic relationship, and the ability to hold healthy boundaries.

Emphasize (daily) Reiki self practice

Many people only know Reiki as a treatment you do to others, not as self care. Yet Hawayo Takata famously said, “First yourself.” Takata learned Reiki practice in Japan and brought the practice to Hawaii in the late 1930s with the support of her Reiki master Chujiro Hayashi, who was trained by Reiki founder Mikao Usui.

Recognize Reiki as a spiritual practice

Mikao Usui saw Reiki as a spiritual practice. It became energy medicine in the Americanization of the practice. That’s understandable, because Japanese language and culture include concepts which are not part of the English language. Much Reiki misinformation stems back to what was lost in translation, and American’s lack of spiritual practice savvy. European-based American culture doesn’t have a tradition of spiritual practice (as distinct from religion).

Recognizing Reiki as a spiritual practice might help people appreciate the need for daily self practice in the same way daily meditation is valued.

Reiki misinformation hurts now and in the future

Reiki misinformation hurts in the immediate situation, and keeps hurting.

If someone asks about Reiki, and receives misinformation — such as a false warning against combining Reiki practice and surgery — they might be scared away from something that could help them feel better and heal better.

And they’ll likely share that Reiki misinformation with friends, who will in turn share that Reiki misinformation, meaning more people will suffer unnecessarily in the future.

Correcting Reiki misinformation

The Reiki community needs to make it easier for people to find credible Reiki information by getting more of it to the mainstream public. If you’re a Reiki professional, please take a good look at the information you share on your website.

When you come across Reiki misinformation, either in the media or from a friend, address it appropriately and respectfully. For example, if a friend shares Reiki misinformation, you might say, “Yes, I used to think that too, and then I found out that’s not reliable.”

When someone asks you about Reiki, share credible information and avoid spreading Reiki myths. Hear what they’re really asking, and help them understand what Reiki practice is and whether it can help them.

I’m careful to offer only documented Reiki information and thoughtful perspective, drawn from my many decades of daily self practice and professional Reiki practice. My goal is that the links shared in this article will help you prepare yourself so you can support public awareness of Reiki practice, help people who are wondering if Reiki practice can help them, and respectfully counter Reiki misinformation with credible Reiki information.

If you’re a Reiki professional, please look at the resources available in my Reiki Professional Academy.

Mainstreaming Reiki is for home and professional practitioners.

WRITE REIKI is also for home or professional practitioners.

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16 thoughts on “3 Ways Shameless Reiki Misinformation Hurts People & How You Can Help Counter It”

  1. Pamela:
    Thank you so much for your perspective, it has given me some things to consider about my own practice and I deeply appreciate it.

    1. And I deeply appreciate your openness and consideration. That’s how we grow as practitioners, and as people. Thank you!

  2. When I started out with Reiki 20 years ago, the psychic messages seemed to be part of the package. It was quite wondrous to me at first. Then I started noticing some things.

    – For especially strong intuitions, that the client validated, these would linger with me for days, sometimes. Hard to shake off.
    – I found myself listing so many perceptions at the end of a session that the client couldn’t possibly take it all in — regardless if I voiced them positively and was careful not to create fear as I perceived it.
    – As I began to teach, I started to hear stories of other practitioners and teachers, similar to what Pamela describes here. They were dismaying. Imagine being told, for example, “your chakras are spinning backwards.” That only created helplessness and dependency. Worse, having a practitioner blurt out a traumatic experience that had not yet surfaced in the client’s own conscious memory. As a trauma survivor myself, that scenario is horrifying to me.
    – So, I started to modify my approach. In the first phase, I would ask before the start of the session, if the client wanted me to be intuitive or not. In the second phase, I would tell them I don’t do intuition – that, rather, it’s their own knowing about themself that makes the difference. That is pretty much where I am at now, with very few exceptions.
    – I found a couple of books on ethics around this kind of work. The client, when fully relaxed and in touch with their body, is in a very suggestible state. The practitioner thus has to be very mindful of his own ego, and guard against imposing his ideas and beliefs on the client. There are many ethical pitfalls to consider and avoid.
    – Finally, when I was in self-inquiry about my use of intuition, I tried not saying anything out loud. I noticed that very often, as the thought flew across my mind, the client would respond as if I had said out loud, for example, “breathe a little deeper now.” This led me to question, from where does this intuition arise, in the context of the Reiki session? When I let it just arise, then fly away without attaching to it with words, I noticed that clients started to be able to go deeper within themselves, gain more space — and I no longer felt the experience lingering in me afterwards. I just let them go, when they went out the door. That felt right and good.

    While it’s futile to pretend that intuitive experiences will never happen, and that they’re often amazing and gratifying, too many practitioners get stuck in that phase, and miss the really sweet experience of letting it all go.

    1. Thank you so much Jeffrey. I really appreciate you sharing how your practice has evolved as I am in this space currently, sitting and reflecting on my own practice.

    2. Nicely said. I thank you for sharing this. After retiring from a hospital practice where I had to chart symptoms before and after treatment, this letting go process has been so freeing for me. I do let my intuition guide my hands, but the “insights” often require a judgement or ego. I hope it is OK if I share some of your words with my students. Thank you Jan Koehler, LMT.

  3. Marcia Stoeckel

    Thank you Pamela Miles for such a thought-provoking article. I have been taught that Reiki goes where it is most needed and always with permission, working on the root cause of an issue. In this way, consent is inherent in its very practice. Reiki can do no harm, but of course people can. How can I be sure I’m “safe” for my clients?

    Consent for Reiki given by me is assured when a new client signs the intake forms before our session, which include a code of ethics. I do better with structure and prefer expectations to be clearly communicated, so I know that I’m abiding by my agreement. It’s as much for my sense of professionalism as it is for their peace of mind.

    I always begin sessions with a conversation so the client and I can get on the same page. If they have come to me because they have something “heavy” going on, I like to find out what support they have in place in their life (such as a licensed therapist). I have a list of referrals on hand should they require additional types of support in the days and weeks that follow our work together. That way, I feel safe proceeding since as Reiki Masters and practitioners, we don’t diagnose or replace medical treatment.

    Part of the conversation is also to clarify what they want out of the session. I work in Los Angeles, and this can run the gamut. Some clients want straight Reiki, some want a hybrid session with more “bells and whistles.” I’m referring to add-ons here, such as aromatherapy, sound healing, work with crystals etc. This stuff is not Reiki, for lack of a better word I call these sessions Reiki Plus.

    I do my best to accommodate each client. Sometimes they want something I don’t do, more along the lines of mediumship. It doesn’t bother me at all that they would ask, I just don’t do it. I have a lot of limits in my life. Either way, before we start, I ask them if they are ready to invite the Reiki in, as a way of maintaining safe boundaries. The session starts when they’re ready.

    All of this is pretty straightforward, but human growth and expansion is rarely linear and sessions can get emotional. Clients release blocks in any number of ways, I’m continually humbled to witness their healing and transformation.

    After the session I leave time for “processing” which can be silent or spoken. Oftentimes, clients fall asleep during Reiki and feel nothing. But there are those sensitive folks who experience as much on their end as I do giving the session. In those instances, they may ask me, “I felt blah blah when you were working in this area, what did you get?” I might say “I experienced blah blah, does that resonate with you?” Sometimes I don’t feel anything other than heat from my hands.

    I can’t imagine dumping negative nonsense on them in that vulnerable state. It would be like sending them straight to jury duty after receiving a treatment! It is sad that unsuspecting clients are misled and frightened. Conversations like this are a step in the right direction.
    If Reiki has taught me anything, it is that there is always a way forward.

    Reiki is a practice and a joyous lifestyle. Part of my commitment is to my own healing and that includes continuing to learn and living a clean life so that I am available as a clear channel for Reiki to work through. I can’t do it alone, so I really appreciate well-written articles like this one that keep me in conversation with other ethical Reiki Masters and practitioners. I look forward to reading more, learning more and evolving alongside all of you.

  4. Thank you Pamela for this article. It’s been helpful in re-confirming for me, why I choose to share Reiki with my clients in the way that I do and how I teach my Reiki students. It’s been interesting at times, as psychic messages are often combined with Reiki among other aspects by some practitioners. When I’ve advised clients who come to see me, especially those who have experienced Reiki before, they are often surprised that I don’t give psychic messages. I tend to give them four reasons, 1. traditionally this was not part of Reiki 2. I see a lot of vulnerable people and it would be unethical of me to step into a psychological space with clients 3. this is about their own experience with Reiki and not my interpretation of their experience for them 4. I practice how I teach. It would be unethical for me to teach my students that psychic messages were part of giving someone a Reiki treatment. Otherwise, I’d have a whole lot of students out there, thinking they can deliver psychic messages to people. This can be hurtful and dangerous. At times I’ve seen clients who have, although well intentioned from the Reiki practitioner, been hurt from receiving these psychic messages. Conversely, some clients want to receive these psychic insights, as this is what they are use to getting as part of their treatment – so I don’t often see them return again and that’s completely fine. I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea of giving ‘psychic messages’ to clients, for the very reasons you’ve articulated and from my own personal experience. I always felt that Reiki was perfectly balanced just as it was, and it didn’t need to be ‘accessorised’.

  5. Stephanie Wilson

    Hi Pamela,
    Thank you for your thought-provoking article above. I have been trained in a more traditional Japanese based style of reiki rather than the western style. Nowhere does it include the passing on of messages psychically or any other such intervention. We are reiki practitioners, we do not diagnose or give unwanted and unsolicited advice. I had a very upsetting conversation many years ago with a close friend who was somewhat horrified when I told her I had undertaken reiki training. She went on to tell me about her experience with a so-called reiki practitioner who had spent the whole session telling her what was wrong with my friend’s life and what she, the practitioner thought she should do to rectify all of the perceived problems and the practitioner “offered” to help my friend in this endeavour. My friend was going through a difficult break-up of a relationship and had recently been bereaved, losing her Mum. When my friend told me of her experiences, I agreed that this practitioner was preying on her vulnerability. It certainly made my friend very suspicious of me when she thought I would try and do the same. It has put my friend off reiki for life. I tried to explain that reiki is not about being “told what to do” and I did feel at the time that it would have been very beneficial for my friend to try reiki again but she was totally against it and still is to this day.
    I myself use reiki as a spiritual practice. I am selective in what I read and learn about reiki as there is so much information out there which is detrimental.
    It would be useful if there was an ethical code which potential clients could read (and practitioners abide by!). I am a registered nurse in the UK and we have “The Code”. This lays out the scope in which we practice. If our actions breach this, we face being taken off the register for misconduct etc. I try to apply the same values and ethics which my professional code of conduct demands of me as a nurse, to my reiki practice also. I am against the regulation of reiki but we do need to have a framework in which both practitioners and clients are protected from some of the more injurious practices carried out in the name of reiki.
    Stephanie.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Stephanie. Your perspective as a licensed nurse is helpful as the Reiki community sorts this out.
      The regulation of Reiki practice varies from country to country, and in the United States, from state to state. Like you, I oppose regulation of Reiki practice, which is why I started the Protect Reiki initiative.
      It’s not possible to protect everyone from everything, but there are two things we can do to make a significant impact.
      One is through raising awareness, both in the Reiki community and in the mainstream, that without any standards for Reiki practice or education, this is a buyers beware market, and educating the public about what to look for in a Reiki professional. There are many fine Reiki professionals out there and we want to help the public know how to identify them.
      The other is to have public conversations about the ethics of being a spiritual health consultant, so Reiki professionals better understand the impact we have on our clients and students, and educate themselves about trauma-informed care.

  6. Although I feel you needed to have ‘psychic’ in quotations or had defined it, I agree that giving a client a message out of the blue during a session would be inappropriate.
    HOWEVER
    My intuitive abilities (sure call them psychic if you want) turn on high gear when I begin a session. Some of my clients can even HEAR the signal I get and are like, “what the heck is that?”
    ……most of the time I have no choice but to share the ‘message’ I’m given during a session.
    Note that:
    Rei- means ‘spiritual wisdom’… after 12 years of practice I’m still learning what this means and will not profess I know ALL the wisdom it includes.
    As an Empath sometimes a physical sensation will come over me (headache, stomach pain) and will not subside until I discuss the meaning with my client.
    I fought this whole ‘psychic’ thing from the beginning but each Attunement INCREASED my abilities- I feel I have no choice but to share the important messages I received.
    I’d gone back to my first reiki master and discussed these things and she told me to ignore it. I tried.
    Meeting a new Reiki Master in 2019, he attuned me to Master and gave me a copy of William Rands reiki manual.
    You know what I learned from it?
    Reiki was taught to be intuitive! As in no instructions on hand placement AND the Byosen scan, used by Usui Sensei, to ‘sense’ the area that needs healing.
    To say Reiki doesn’t include psychic abilities and to accuse a practitioner like myself of ‘showing off’ and misinformation doesn’t seem right to me…..
    and because we are the conduit AND because reiki has its own intelligence who’s to say it’s not perfectly appropriate?
    Tricia Gunberg

    1. Tricia,

      Thank you for sharing your perspective.
      And I apologize if you took offense, but if you look again, you’ll see I didn’t accuse you or anyone in particular of showing off. I simply noted that it happens. Do you disagree?
      I shared the gist of a scenario too often recounted by people who were hurt when a Reiki practitioner acted unethically, without regard for informed consent. I gave the Reiki practitioners the benefit of the doubt — it could be a clumsy attempt to be helpful — but I’ve seen that sometimes, it’s “see-what-I-know” flexing, and it’s invasive, at best.
      It’s a concern when anyone says, “I have no choice.” It’s of particular concern when that’s said to justify actions that impact someone who has turned to you for care.
      We always have choice. Your intuition is just that; yours. It can inform your interaction with a client. You don’t serve your client when you let it take over, especially if that’s not what the client signed on for.
      Your choices around the messages you receive aren’t mutually exclusive, either fighting it or giving it full rein. You can privately explore it, to see if there’s a way to ethically include it in your work.
      And if you discover there is, and you want to include that in your sessions, then you need to disclose that choice so prospective clients are informed. When you say you have no choice but to share your messages, you violate consent.
      If you added a line to your website alerting prospective clients that you can be counted on to blurt out whatever psychic message you get, without any filter, on the basis that you are the authority on what’s best for your client, would that affect people’s choice to work with you? If you think it would, then that’s your answer.
      It’s possible to gently ask your client an open-ended, non-invasive question that might elicit conversation relevant to the message you’ve received, and leave it up to your client to interact, or not. Even if your client chooses not to talk to you about it (after all, she didn’t come to you for psychotherapy), she might still mull it over on her own. Her system continues to respond to the Reiki treatment even after your time together has passed.
      An important question to consider is, which do you have more confidence in, your practice or the voices in your head?
      Trespassing boundaries is simply not acceptable. When people complain to me of being bullied by Reiki practitioners, I ask them to consider giving the practitioner feedback about how it felt to be on the other side of that interaction. That can be empowering, and a service to a Reiki practitioner who’s open to self-scrutiny and growth. Unsurprisingly, the person who feels victimized is loath to have that conversation.
      There are scholars such as Justin Stein who are fluent in Japanese language and culture, and have researched Reiki history; William Rand isn’t one of them.
      Saying Rei is spiritual wisdom isn’t accurate. Japanese and English don’t have equivalents. Language develops to express what is valued in that particular culture. The Reiki kanji cannot be reduced to a literal translation without losing the exquisite nuance of the practice.

      1. Deborrah M Tatum

        For me, Reiki practice has always been a spiritual practice. I am not the generator, but the conduit. It is through me that the Reiki guides work. It would go against my practice to assume that I am in charge and so instruct my client as though I was in charge. I believe that my part is to provide an environment of peace and tranquility and allow the Reiki guides to balance the individual. My knowledge and skills are for this purpose. My ego has no place in this process.
        I am opposed to regulation. I am supportive of an ethics code.

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