Archive for August, 2010

One of the most gratifying aspects of providing massage therapy in a medical setting involves seeing my profession gain respect and legitimacy among doctors, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners.

More and more studies are appearing in mainstream medical journals documenting the clinical efficacy of massage therapy for symptom relief, and exploring massage as a way to promote well-being among people who face health challenges.

And then there’s Reiki.

Reiki is a hands-on therapeutic modality that relies primarily upon energy rather than the physical manipulation of muscle tissue, as in the case of massage. It is a spiritual practice that has its roots in Japanese bodywork and lots of people really believe in it. Me, I’m not so sure.

As a massage therapist I am certainly aware of energy in the body. I have felt myself interact with my clients’ energies in ways that I find a little bit mysterious. But I tend to be skeptical of larger claims about energy that can’t really be validated scientifically. I like science. I believe in science. Reiki seems more like religion to me.

In fact, Reiki is a lot of things to a lot of people. That’s part of the problem. There seem to be so many definitions of Reiki floating around out there, and such a wide variety of educational and practice standards, that the barriers to integrating this modality into medical settings seem particularly high.

Hospice, as a medical setting, is a bit of a rogue. It champions an interdisciplinary approach to treating patients and their families that most people do not encounter in doctors’ offices or hospitals. It uses volunteers as a core part of its mission. Pastoral care is routinely offered to every patient, and bereavement services are provided free of charge to families after the patient dies.

It’s not surprising that a hospice might be more open to Reiki than, say, an academic medical center. In fact, my own hospice has asked me to start a Reiki program.

So here I am, a Reiki sceptic, about to embark upon a research and educational process so that I can become better informed, in order to build a program that has clear (and high) standards of training and practice. I plan to document my own process here, on this blog, and I look forward to your feedback.

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