Reiki is a branch of what’s commonly called energy work.

Although reiki is not a mental health specific treatment, it is often used to treat stress and other conditions related to mental health. It can also be used as a supplement to more traditional forms of psychotherapy.

Reiki originally comes from Japanese traditions and is a somewhat spiritual practice, but it is usually used in secular settings rather than religious ones. In reiki, the practitioner guides what’s sometimes called the client’s “life energy” in order to promote physical, mental, and emotional healing.

What can Reiki help with?

Generally, reiki is used to promote relaxation and help you release stress. In particular, it is commonly used to treat mental health conditions including the following:

Reiki is also sometimes used to reduce stress associated with physical illness and injury.

Does Reiki work?

There is relatively little empirical research on the effectiveness of reiki. In addition, reiki focuses mostly on creating relaxation and feelings of peace, which means that its outcomes are hard to quantify in research.

That said, some smaller studies have found that reiki correlates with a variety of improved outcomes. For example, one study found that reiki seemed to have positive physiological effects on people who had experienced acute coronary syndrome. Additionally, individual people who have been treated with reiki often report feeling a sense of well-being afterward.

How does Reiki work?

Reiki is based on the idea that there is a deep life energy running through all people. This life energy is said to affect all aspects of your well-being--whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. When the energy is low, you might experience negative symptoms in any of those areas.

In reiki, a practitioner helps you replenish this healing energy by guiding it through your body with gentle touch. Sometimes, reiki does not involve any physical touch at all; the practitioner might only place their hands near you.

The idea is that you already have the healing energy you need within you. It’s simply the practitioner’s job to help it flow.

How frequently are Reiki sessions held?

Reiki can happen as often or as infrequently as you need. Some people might have just one reiki treatment for a more minor issue. Others may wish to return to a practitioner on a regular basis for months or even years.

Since reiki has to do with maintaining your natural, healthy flow of energy, it’s common for people to continue seeking it out even when nothing in particular is bothering them.

How are Reiki sessions structured?

Reiki is not a formally structured therapy. Sometimes, treatment may only last for one session. Even in longer treatments, there’s not a set course for how sessions proceed; the structure is guided by your needs and what your practitioner recommends.

Length of reiki sessions can also vary. Sessions may be anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour long.

What happens in a typical Reiki session?

Everything that happens in a reiki session is based on the core idea that your practitioner is helping guide your life energy to flow effectively.

Generally, the process can be described as follows:

  1. You identify an emotional or physical concern that is bothering you.
  2. With your concern in mind, your practitioner gently holds their hands on or near certain parts of the body that correspond to different points in the energy flow. This often includes the limbs, head, or torso.
  3. The practitioner changes positions every few minutes. If you have a specific injury, they may also hold their hands directly over that spot.

Many people report that over the course of this process, they feel intense relaxation, decreases in stress, and profound well-being.

What should I look for in a Reiki Practitioner?

Although trainings and certifications in reiki do exist, certification is not mandatory for reiki practitioners. Because of this, training and expertise among reiki practitioners varies. Make sure that you’re working with someone reputable by verifying their training and/or certification online and/or getting recommendations from people your community.

It’s also important to remember that reiki should be a source of relaxation. Take the time to find someone you feel calm and comfortable with, and you may be more likely to experience benefits from reiki.

New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.