Learn / Reiki in Rehab: Soothing the Spirit

Reiki in Rehab: Soothing the Spirit

Kayla Gill
 October 7th, 2022|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Rajnandini Rathod

The gentle practice of Reiki promotes inner peace and natural self-healing. And in addiction treatment, holistic rehabs use Reiki to support clients through the physical, mental, and emotional changes of early recovery. But how exactly does Reiki work, and is it actually effective? 

What Is Reiki?

Reiki is a form of energy healing that originated in Japan in the early 20th century. In Japanese, the word reiki means “universal life energy.” Practitioners act as a conduit for this energy, using their hands (with or without physical touch) to transmit it to the receiver.   

Reiki is about overall wellness.1 According to practitioner Teri Kersting, “As a holistic health practitioner, you’re looking at mind, body, and spirit. It’s very healing in all respects.”

What Happens in a Session? 

Reiki usually takes place in a relaxed environment, similar to what you’d expect during a massage. There may be soft music playing to help you relax. You’ll remain clothed and lie on a massage table or sit in a chair. If you have physical pain, you can get into any position that will be comfortable for you to be in for the duration of the session. 

Throughout the session, the practitioner will lay their hands on or near you in various positions, and may also draw symbols above your body. These are intended to clear negative energy and realign your chakras. 

Sessions normally take 60-90 minutes, but can be shorter or longer depending on your needs. And like talk therapy, it can also be done remotely.

Do I Need to Do Anything While Receiving Reiki? 

Your only job during the session is to relax. Some people fall asleep, which is completely okay and doesn’t interfere with your ability to receive its benefits. There’s no right or wrong way to receive Reiki.  

What Will I Feel During Reiki? 

Everyone experiences Reiki differently—and you may feel differently from session to session depending on your state at the time. Some people feel warm or tingling sensations at the site of the practitioner’s hands. Others see colors or other visuals, or have dreams. Emotional and physical feelings are said to indicate a release of stuck energy. Some people feel nothing at all, which is also perfectly normal. 

How Will I Feel After Reiki? 

Most people feel relaxed, grounded, and in a better mood after Reiki. You may choose to discuss what came up for you during the session with your practitioner, but this is optional. You’ll likely be advised to drink plenty of water throughout the day to hydrate your body as your energy recalibrates. You can return to your day as usual, and even drive, immediately following. 

Will My Reiki Practitioner Respect My Boundaries? 

As part of creating a trauma-sensitive environment, your practitioner should respect all of your requirements for feeling safe. You may ask them not to lay their hands directly on you, and request any changes you need to feel comfortable, such as adjusting the volume of the music or temperature of the room. As with any therapy, feel free to voice any questions or concerns at any point before, during, or after the session.  

How Many Sessions Do I Need? 

One Reiki session may be enough to lift your spirits or help you through a hard moment. More sessions may be necessary for stubborn or ongoing issues. You may opt for a series of sessions, based on your treatment goals. Reiki can also be used as a regular part of maintenance and self-care. As Kersting says, “It helps us center at the end of the day. Also, it helps us prepare for the day ahead, and all the stresses and anxieties that can come up.” 

Who Can Administer Reiki?

There are 4 levels of Reiki training. At level 1, practitioners can do Reiki on themselves, and at level 2, they can perform it on others. 

While some alternative medicine professionals hold high accreditations that require years of schooling, Reiki is known for being easy to learn and apply, and courses for each level can be completed in as little as a day.  

Where Is It Available? 

Reiki is often offered at holistic rehabs as a complement to other clinical and alternative therapies. If you want to continue after residential rehab, many practitioners offer it as a standalone therapy. Some massage therapists incorporate aspects of Reiki into their practice—though this looks different than a typical Reiki session. 

What Can Reiki Treat? 

Intended to regulate the nervous system and support your body’s natural healing abilities, Reiki can be used to treat a wide range of conditions.2 Reiki master and practitioner Melanie Hoffstead says her clients report relief from depression and chronic pain: 

“People who come to me who’ve suffered for many years with arthritis, with quite a few treatments, seem to be almost pain-free. People who suffer from depression seem to be able to have more of a sense that life can be more manageable.” 

Because there are no medical conditions that preclude people from receiving Reiki, it can be applied in almost any setting, and is even used in some hospitals. It can also be used to support substance abuse recovery. 

Reiki and Your Recovery 

Recovery is rewarding, but is inevitably challenging at times. This is especially true in the early stages as you confront deeply held wounds and adjust mentally and physically to a life without substances. Reiki can provide much-needed calm and comfort during tough times. 

The “feelings of peace, centeredness and an ability to cope better with the challenges of life”2 this technique offers can be valuable to people struggling in the early stages of sobriety. In fact, studies show that Reiki eases alcohol withdrawals3 by reducing cravings and helping people achieve a sense of harmony through their own, natural processes.

Enlightened Solutions in New Jersey uses Reiki to help their clients restore their mind-body connection: 

For men and women who are in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, reiki healing is especially helpful.4 Addiction tears apart the mind/body relationship and disconnects a person from themselves. Being in such heightened states caused by stimulant substances or depressed states caused by depressant substances, alters the energy flow of the body. Releasing old energy helps those in treatment release emotions which they have held onto for some time. Reiki directly encourages the therapeutic process for healing mind, body, and spirit.”

Sivana Bali in Canggu incorporates Reiki into their treatment program as part of their alternative therapy5 offerings. “While practitioners may vary widely in technique and philosophy,” says their team, “Reiki is commonly used to treat emotional and mental distress as well as chronic and acute physical problems, and to assist the recipient in achieving spiritual focus and clarity.” 

Is Reiki Real?

Some claim that Reiki is pseudoscientific, and research supporting its effectiveness is limited. But numerous studies do seem to draw similar conclusions about its benefits. One study on Reiki for alcohol withdrawal3 confirmed previous findings about its positive effects: 

  • Release of fear, negative thoughts, and emotional strain 
  • Reduced anxiety and depression 
  • Improved self-confidence 
  • Increased hope 
  • Relaxation and better sleep 
  • Reduced heart rate and blood pressure
  • Less pain 

Researchers found that “reiki can produce effects like tranquility, peace, relaxation, reduced depression and increased energy level, which supports the results of greater harmony, joy and energy in this study.”

Even for those who are skeptical about energy healing, the healing power of touch6 has proven benefits for human well-being. According to medical journalist Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, “Mechanistically, it makes sense that Reiki and many other types of touch therapy could mediate the release of neurotransmitters like reward-processing dopamine and oxytocin.” And, adds Saleh, “The combination of gentle touch and personal attention may also be soothing to people who are coping with pain and stress.”

Limitations of Reiki

Reiki can surface suppressed emotions, and it’s helpful to be able to process these with a talk therapist. As a complementary therapy, it should be used to support your primary treatment plan. Reiki practitioners don’t provide diagnoses and shouldn’t be expected to treat severe conditions on their own. It may not be for you if you prefer a more evidence-based approach to healing.

Is Reiki Right for You? Discover Alternative Addiction Treatment

Energy healing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But as Reiki is a safe, gentle practice with no contraindications, there’s very little risk involved in trying it. The safe space that rehab provides is a great place to try new things, and many people find Reiki to be a helpful addition to their care. 

As Kersting says, “Everything in the universe is energy, including emotions. When we have emotional blocks that we hold onto, that can affect our pure life force energy. Reiki is about helping to release those blocks.”
Explore rehabs that offer Reiki to see their facilities, learn about their programs, and reach out to their admissions staff directly.

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