When Reiki Treatment Doesn’t Seem to Be Working

Have you ever given a treatment to someone who didn’t have the usual response?

She fidgeted continually, or kept her eyes open as you placed your hands. Halfway through the session, she was still staring at the ceiling, and you wondered what’s the point of continuing.

Or maybe you have a client who enjoys her Reiki treatments, but isn’t getting the relief she was looking for. She’s sleeping better, feeling happier, but those headaches keep coming on…

Perhaps it’s your own self-treatment that isn’t doing it for you the way it used to.

Have you ever felt like throwing up your Reiki hands, asking, “Why? Why isn’t my Reiki treatment working?”

Is it even possible that Reiki treatment is not working, or are we just not getting the results we have come to expect? We see some responses so frequently that we may think they are necessary–changes in breathing, softening of the facial muscles, light snoring. Yet we know that each person’s system responds in her own way, according to the wisdom of her own self-healing mechanisms.

Remove the cause

Hawayo Takata* repeatedly said, “Remove the cause and you will remove the effect.”

Do we know what it will take to “remove the cause,” what any individual’s path of healing will be? Can we know what exactly it will take for an individual’s system to go from its current level of health to greater health? Of course we cannot.

Obstacles to cure

Sometimes the client is doing something that aggravates the situation. This is obvious when someone is undergoing invasive medical treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation. In this situation, we understand that we are up against the current assault as well as the deeper imbalance, and we expect that Reiki treatment will be needed long after the medical therapies stop.

But sometimes the aggravating factors — known as obstacles to cure — aren’t so obvious. The person might be actively doing things that weaken her health and well-being. It might be something she’s eating — or not eating — or the schedule she’s keeping, or even something less obvious like sleeping near electrical outlets, or in a room that’s not dark and cold enough, or wearing synthetic fabrics. Most often it’s a combination of influences that are slowing the obvious results.

Slow and steady wins the race

This is where consistency really makes a difference. Even when there are factors that dilute the experience of the benefits, Reiki practice still brings awareness. Over time, the person receiving Reiki treatment usually comes to suspect what in her life is aggravating the situation, what changes may be needed. Since Reiki practice changes consciousness, over time, people naturally gravitate toward more health-promoting habits.

When you feel frustrated by your results, take inventory. What else has changed? How do you feel about your life, your relationships, your job–yourself? And remember, lasting benefits come with consistent treatment, over time.

* Hawayo Takata and her Reiki master, Chujiro Hayashi, brought Reiki practice from Japan to Hawaii in the 1930s.


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15 thoughts on “When Reiki Treatment Doesn’t Seem to Be Working”

  1. Hello,

    On my third visit, my reiki healer told me that I am too invested in helping everyone else in my life and not finding time for myself that he would not be able to help me anymore. I had been working really hard on meditating and being a little more selfish, I’m not nearly the control freak I used to be, so this was really disappointing and I even had to go to a park and cry because I felt booted out by him. He said I need to take a trip to someplace nice and that would open me way up because it would show that I was taking care of me. Does that sound right?

    1. Kathie, I’m sorry that you had such an unfortunate experience with a Reiki practitioner. Has it occurred to you that what he said and did has more to do with his limitations and self judgment than it is about you?

      Reiki professionals rarely have training in clinical skills or ethics; they may not have much understanding of service. An experienced, well trained professional would likely have handled this more kindly, perhaps opened a conversation rather than making a declaration.

      But what’s done is done, and we can always choose to heal from even a difficult experience, which is what it seems you did.

      I don’t think you need to go take a trip some place nice, but maybe you need to find a more experienced Reiki professional who has developed better relationship skills. This article will give you some things to look for https://reikiinmedicine.org/clinical-practice/recipe-for-reiki-credibility. And why not learn to practice Reiki self treatment? This article will help you find a teacher who is qualified and a good match for you https://reikiinmedicine.org/clinical-practice/recipe-for-reiki-credibility.

      Have you considered sending an email expressing to him the irony that he felt he couldn’t help you when you felt that he was helping you so much, and you’d come a long way in just a few sessions? Not to try to reconnect (I would not advise that), but just as a kindness, to offer helpful feedback.

  2. Reiki works when I least expect the reiki and unrealizingly so, To keep this simple I simply keep thinking of the meaning of the term and so I tend to reason.

  3. Thank you Pamela, for starting this discussion.

    Interesting insight and a great discussion by all. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    What I always like to remember too is that there is a difference betweem healing VS a cure…

    Susan Martinez
    Healing Lotus Yoga & Reiki

  4. This topic reminded me of a brief experience I had during self treatment. Over the years of practice, I’ve become accustomed to a particular sensation associated with the application of Reiki, namely and predominately heat from the palms. On this one particular occasion of treating my midsection, I recall being dismayed at the lack of heat in my hands, felt as if I was going through the motions so to speak. However, the loud and sudden stirring of internal functions proved that Reiki was in-fact “there and working.”

    From this, I learned to simply be aware rather than placing my awareness in a particular area. This has become especially applicable when working on clients whom expect a specific sensation/experience/result. While not the most illustrated and profound experience, it definitely left me with enough of an epiphany to share.

  5. Interesting exchanges, as always. I want to thank you Pamela for using the female pronoun as you set up various scenarios. It’s refreshing and reminds us all to avoid falling into gender specific modes of communication.

  6. I apologize for whatever I said that offended you, NyteWolf, and I am sorry that you feel the need to opt out of the conversation. The questions that I receive from practitioners indicate that these topics are of interest to many.

    Of course I would post your comment. Practitioners are welcome to disagree with my perspective–that’s what makes for a valuable dialogue in which everyone can deepen their understanding. Debate is a practice valued in many great traditions, including Tibetan Buddhism and Judaism.

    The idea that Reiki comes from a higher source is just that–an idea–which for many practitioners has become a belief. It’s not based in any verifiable reality.

    One of the most valuable aspects of Reiki practice is that it doesn’t require beliefs. When practitioners require beliefs, they limit themselves to reaching people who share those beliefs. My goal is to bring Reiki practice to the mainstream, so I am careful not to wrap it in beliefs. And personally, I prefer to be in the open reality of not knowing rather than grabbing a belief.

    I hope this opens possibilities for some practitioners who might read these comments: it would never occur to me to think that a client likes to be sick or a victim or any of the other scenarios you mentioned.

    Especially when people come to us for help, it is our sacred duty to simply be present for them. They deserve a safe place where they are neither labeled nor further burdened by any story the practitioner might weave around their suffering.

  7. Pamela, I believe you misunderstood me ,,,as i do not presume nor draw conclusions. I was joining in the conversation of why we may think Reiki is not working all the time.. Wasn’t that the subject matter of this blog?
    I was merely giving other reasons why that “might be”, not that I ever assume that scenario Just that the possibility exists. So not a conclusion I draw for how would I know that But only that the possibilty exists. I was not nor would i attach this to any client. This was for purposes of this discussion.
    I do not have expectations from reiki, I offer reiki to all. I come from a place of non-judgement and all who enter feel safe and loved.
    I certainly hope I cleared that up!
    Reiki comes from a higher source and the higher source honors free will. If you disagree with that statement, that is fine and your perogative which I honor.
    I had to respond to your other remarks though. Not only that but i opened myself up thinking This was a safe place for open discussion and spoke of my learning experience with a particular client in hopes that my sharing might help another. I must say your remarks certainly surprised me.
    You certainly have the right not to post this but since your reply to my post misrepresented who I AM I would appreciate you posting this and this will then end my participation.

  8. I don’t understand on what basis one can say, “Reiki honors free will.” The statement assumes that Reiki is an outside agent. This is very different from my understanding.

    I also question the necessity of drawing conclusions about people–that they like/enjoy being sick or ill, etc. How can we know what it is like to be someone else? It seems so presumptuous and disrespectful to label people in this way. When did that become part of practicing Reiki?

    Why not just offer Reiki treatment to those who request it, and leave it there, without expectations? Then people can feel safe to come back for more treatment if they like, knowing that the Reiki practitioner is not judging them, or the “progress” they are making.

  9. Hi Pamela, a very good article. I would like to add one thing and that is free will. Reiki honors free will and there are people who either,,,like/enjoy being sick or ill as they like the attention it brings them from family/friends,,,,some enjoy being victims,,,,some people just love going to doctors,,,and then there are those that “signed up” for a particular illness in this lifetime for the benefit/life lesson for another,,,(*not one that is karmic as that would be for the individual & we have a symbol for that*).
    So in those cases the reiki will honor thier choice/life path But the reiki will go elsewhere in those individuals since it operates on all aspects of beings. Reiki always works on some level and often many levels. Free will always prevails.
    You are most correct that the practitioner must always release any expectations & it seems this cannot be stated enough in the reiki world.
    Patience is another key as things do not happen in our perceived timeframe but in the all knowingness of the universe and what the client can handle.
    It took one of my regular clients over a year to have thier “Eureka” moment. Before that happened i began to question myself and the reiki with this individual because i did not think the process was happening quick enough. Foolish me!
    The client was just not ready to reveal their secret angst. That day will always stay with me and taught me to trust the process. Trust the Reiki.
    In Loving Unity***

  10. Jill, I always wonder what Reiki practitioners mean when they say they “work on” someone. My understanding of the practice is that we simply share the Reiki connection, and people respond in the way they respond. It’s not up to me to make any change happen, to break down any walls, or to judge them in any way.

    But as you say, it is my choice whether to offer treatment or refer to another practitioner, which I don’t hesitate to do if I think someone else is a better match.

  11. I have a patient where I work that always excepts Reiki but, She has this huge wall of negativity up.I have worked on her really often.She has alot of steress with her disease and within the family.I have even given her tools such as meditations and tools to deal with the negativity.But, nothing has changed. I have made a conscious decision not to work on her anylonger.It is just too exhausting.I thought if i worked on her enough I could break the wall down.But, if it is still serving her in someway, there is nothing I can do for her if she won`t use the tools i give her.But, she is the only patient that i have ever encountered like that.Usually, they say that they are not interested in starting with the Reiki practice.I look at it this way, I may not be able to help her but, there is alot of other people I can help.So, I move on the the next person.That is her path not mine.

  12. Like John’s note, there have been times when doing Reiki on my ownself, I have not “felt” anything. In the beginning when it happened, I wondered what was going on and why? Had I lost a connection?

    After the self practice something was always different in a positive way. I came to trust that if I practice regularly with what I’ve been taught that I am receiving Reiki. It happens less frequently now, and it taught me a great deal.

    At the same time, recently I was working with a young girl (10-12 yrs I’m guessing) who has cancer. It was in a different setting with lots of Reiki Practioners and lots of patients in an open room.

    She appeared to be a bit skeptical, and asked a few questions. I whispered to her that if she needed anything, to give a thumb’s up. While I felt immediately that her body was receiving the Reiki, she kept looking around- and it was almost distracting for me.

    I thought about letting it go, and focusing on the treatment, but I was stubborn I guess.

    After a moment of prayer as the treatment continued, I moved to her shoulders and whispered some information into her ear- about treatments, about styles of Reiki (e.g. hand placements, etc.) and how it differs from “traditional hospital treatment” stuff. I asked her if that helped and she whispered back, “yes” with a smile.

    Shortly after that she closed her eyes a bit more and seemed to relax.

    She was like a little scientist.. all of these questions running around.. and needing / wanting answers… so she wasn’t just a guinea pig. (My perceptions..)

    She was the coolest kid who taught me much, and I’m grateful. 🙂

  13. John Janssen, Reiki Maser

    Interesting subject. I remember talking with my Initiating Master Barbara after one of her recent treatments with a regular client. All during the treatment Barbara felt like nothing was happening, even to the point that at the end of the treatment Barbara was just about to tell the client that something must have been off that day as she didn’t feel anything during the entire time she was doing the treatment. Just before Barbara spoke, the client looked up from the table and announced to Barbara that “That was the most amazing treatment I have ever experienced”. Great teaching for Barbara and in telling me, for me. I try to remember one of the first teachings I received in my 1st Degree class: “Release the outcome”. It has become a constant mantra for me when I do treatments.

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