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When an individual becomes emotionally or physically dysregulated, their mind and body will respond with sensations of distress. For example, if someone locked their keys in the car with the engine running, was late for work and continued through their day in the previously flustered state this would result in even more dysregulation. In this example, when a person wants to return to their personal baseline, they use a process described as emotional regulation. Emotional regulation allows one to communicate safety to their autonomic nervous system and allow the parietal nervous system to bring the body back to baseline. Techniques include but are not limited to active breathing, counting backwards, exercise, creative outlets, counseling and alternative healing modalities.

Reiki is one of the alternative modalities that has been studied to improve emotional regulation. As stated by Julie Swann in ‘An introduction to Reiki as an alternative therapy in care homes’ Reiki is a type of energy healing where the practitioner gently touches or hovers their hands above the body while the client is seated or laying on a therapy table. The participant may experience fluctuations in body temperature and sensations in the body during a session as the practitioner channels and transfers what is called “life-force energy” to the participant. The idea is that if the body is low in life force energy, it becomes more prone to sickness and health concerns. This is a practice that was believed to be lost to Tibetan ancient knowledge and was recovered in the 19th century by a Doctor Usui. The Usui system was then developed and passed on to Dr. Usui’s student Chujiro Hayashi who also passed the system down. (p. 32-33, 2009)

In a recent study Reiki was used in conjunction with therapy to determine the effectiveness in treating individuals diagnosed with anxiety. As stated by Webster, Holden, Ray, Price, and Hastings, the practitioner would complete a body scan with the participant. The participant would report sensations they felt and offer emotions or thoughts that would come up while the practitioner would work on that area. This would allow the experience to be released and then the practitioner would provide an alternative narrative or encourage the participant to come up with one to replace the previous narrative. (P.313, 2020) This would be a statement much like an affirmation. Before the client would begin the treatment involving Reiki there was a three-week baseline phase assessment to determine what the individual self reported as their anxiety baseline experience. Webster, Holden, Ray, Price, and Hastings, let us know that during the experiment the participant would use the Adult Manifest Anxiety Scale to self report their anxiety experience which would give a clear understanding of the treatment’s effectiveness. They also share that every version of the scale has three scales in common which are; worry/oversensitivity, physiological anxiety, and a lie scale which tests participant’s responses to ensure they are consistent. The experiment was split into four treatment tasks of individuals who received 3-5 weeks of baseline phase and roughly 6 treatments over 7 weeks time. (P.315-316, 2020)

The treatment of psychotherapeutic Reiki showed improved results in all individuals except for one. According to Webster, Holden, Ray, Price, and Hastings, the individual with no improvement had the highest baseline and appeared to have trouble trusting and establishing a therapeutic relationship. This could be a possible explanation for the lack of improvement, or he may also have needed more sessions to be able to show signs of improvement due to his high baseline. Two participants reported strong treatment effects for more than one area of measurement. (P.322, 2020) This shows that Reiki that can encourage participants to become more aware of their anxiety and help regulate it.

A second study was a single-arm effectiveness trial that focused on the effectiveness of a single Reiki session on psychological and physical health. The study took place in private Reiki practices across the united states over the period of a year. According to Natalie L. Dyer, Ann L. Baldwin, and William L. Rand 99 Reiki participants were identified and instructed to give out a pamphlet to their participants that explained the study and invited them to complete a survey before and after their session. (Abstract, 2019) They also shared that the mean age of participants was 49 and most were female. Natalie L. Dyer, Ann L. Baldwin, and William L. Rand’s “Inclusion criteria for participating in the study as a Reiki practitioner were as follows: (a) being a certified licensed Reiki Master with the International Center for Reiki Training (ICRT) to ensure their commitment to the practice and that they abide by the ICRT's code of ethics, (b) having an active practice in the United States for at least 1 year in which clients are charged money for sessions, (c) providing at least two sessions per week that last 45–90 min, (d) Reiki must be the only modality they practiced in their sessions, and (e) having a computer available to the client that is Internet connected.” (participants, para.1, 2019) Trained and certified Reiki Masters conducted in person reiki on participants for between 45 and 90 minutes. According to the article 1411 reiki sessions were conducted and outcome improvements included positive affect, negative affect, pain, drowsiness, tiredness, nausea, appetite, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, and overall well-being. Paired sampled T-tests were used to analyze the statistical data. The p-values for all outcome were <0.001. (Discussion, 2019) Although the results were shown to be effective, the author realizes that more research is needed to provide scientific evidence that Reiki is effective.

From the results of the two studies, we can see the effectiveness in a clinical setting with few individuals and within a wider population outside a clinical setting. Both studies appeared to show positive results. However, they were both very different studies because experiment one was able to be more in depth with each participant while experiment two only considered one session of Reiki while covering a larger demographic. With the second experiment we purely looked at statistical data that did not take into consideration a person’s life experiences that experiment one was able to look at. They also varied because while the first experiment were therapists who only took the first degree of reiki, the second experiment only accepted practitioners that had completed all levels of Reiki and were certified registered Reiki practitioners.

Although both experiments appeared to have compiled data that supports the idea that Reiki could be useful for the purpose of regulation, we didn’t see much use of dependent and independent variables strategically. If the first experiment had gone longer with resting periods in between where Reiki was not offered there may have been potential for the development of a pattern. It also would have been interesting if there was one therapist who was not trained in Reiki but offered it as a placebo to contrast with participants receiving the Reiki treatments. The second experiment appeared to be less regulated which could have had an impact on the results. It was a smart way to look at a larger population but there were too many factors not being taken into consideration such as baseline, placebo, and the practitioner’s bias as a potential peer pressure. With our current technology I would add the use of a phone application or a fit bit that monitors vitals during baseline preparation and during the treatment process to show the outcome of biological responses. Lepine states that another way to study Reiki and biofield therapies is to determine the properties of the magnetic emissions from the hands of the healer…” (p1. Para.2, 2018) This would allow for the creation of a measurement system to show what amount of magnetic emissions determine what amount of therapeutic effectiveness.

We do not yet understand from a scientific perspective how Reiki works or to what degree Reiki is helpful so there is still research to be done before those questions can be answered. With the information that is present we know that individuals who participated in Reiki sessions received some improvement emotionally and mentally. Or if not, they simply remained the same. Statistically speaking, Reiki can have a positive effect on the mind and body which can help with grounding and emotional regulation. We saw that in the experiment’s individuals reported better focus, regulation, and well-being in general. Something else that is nice to know is that anyone can learn Reiki and Reiki can be preformed on oneself. This means that if one knows Reiki and is needing to regulate themselves, they can practice a self treatment to initiate the regulatory process. So, although research is still needed to understand the effectiveness of Reiki, we do know it has some impact and one can still benefit from it and understand it through being personally involved.


1. Lepine, E. (2018). Reiki in Australian hospitals and palliative care centres. Journal of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society, 24(3), 166–168.

2. Natalie L. Dyer, Ann L. Baldwin, and William L. Rand. (2019)The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 1156-1162.

3. Swann J. (2009). An introduction to Reiki as an alternative therapy in care homes. Nursing & Residential Care, 11(1), 31–34.

4. Webster, L. C., Holden, J. M., Ray, D. C., Price, E., & Hastings, T. M. (2020). The Impact of Psychotherapeutic Reiki on Anxiety. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 15(3), 311–326.

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