Reiki Grows in Popularity

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Once dismissed in many circles of Western medicine as quackery, reiki has gained a reputation as helpful for pain, anxiety and stress relief among many healthcare providers. 

For example, Upstate Medical University hosts a reiki team of volunteers to provide reiki to patients, outpatients and caregivers. Other health systems in Rochester, Buffalo and elsewhere also provide reiki.

“I took a reiki course and have had many clients who’ve had reiki,” said Stephen Wechsler, doctor of chiropractic at Network Healing Arts. “It’s a very relaxing, peaceful experience. It’s a wonderful thing for people to connect with themselves. The practitioner also connects with themselves at the same time. It comes through them as they’re a conduit for the healing.”

How reiki works and its benefits is not well understood by many people. Jeanne Farrell, reiki practitioner in the Syracuse area, explains reiki as “bringing the coherence and harmony out of those energy systems in the body.”

She views it as enhancing the body’s natural healing ability but not a replacement for standard medical care.

“It’s always complementary to medical practices,” Farrell said. “It’s never in place of medical practice or advice. It’s working with it.”

She said that many clients use it before surgery or during recovery to enhance their healing process by invoking a relaxation response and reducing inflammation. Farrell encourages clients to speak with their practitioner about why they want reiki, such as a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual issue.

“There are many schools of reiki,” Farrell said. “They’re basically the same. You find different techniques, depending on with whom your teacher was learning. There’s no one complete right or wrong way. It’s just exposure to many different ways. Each practitioner is a conduit for the natural universal life energy, which is what we all have. It’s how we were born. It is why we exist.”

She added that reiki has no contraindications and cannot be “overdone” or cause harm.

The energy clients receive is not from the practitioner. Brittany Terotta, reiki master teacher and practitioner through Peaceful Remedies in Oswego, said that practitioners giving reiki open themselves up to “universal life force energy. We can send that to the other person’s energy field. We’re rebalancing the natural flow of a person’s energy system. Injury, illness and stressors can get your energy out of whack. When it’s not flowing, you experience more illness.”

Clients remain fully clothed and practitioners place their hands slightly above them. Unlike massage therapy, the practitioner does not manipulate tissue.

Some focus on energy centers of the body, major joints or chakras.

Typical sessions last about an hour.

“I do it a little differently with a guided meditation to help people get more relaxed to open up that energy,” Terotta said. “Then I start the hand position. You start at the head to the chest, stomach, legs and feet. You become in tune with sensing energy so you can sense where there’s a blockage. It becomes an intuitive practice.”

Some people think that reiki drains the practitioners, that it’s their energy going into clients, but Terotta said that “it’s just going through me. It’s universal life force.”

She joked that it is a little like “the Force” of “Star Wars” fame, but it takes reiki training, not Jedi training, to learn how to direct it. And it cannot be used for anything negative.

“Reiki will do no harm,” Terotta said. “It will go towards the person’s highest good. You can’t overdo it. If you have a blockage, the energy will not continue to flow. It’s a conscious energy system.

“It’s complementary to anything you are doing. If you have cancer or diabetes or something, take your medicine. This just supports people’s wellness.”

She said that reiki has helped her with anxiety. It is anecdotes like those that draw people to reiki. Though a small amount of research supports its benefits, Terotta chalks that up to science not catching up with what she and other reiki practitioners and clients have observed and experienced.