Healing Hands – Reiki and Military Stress

By Adrian Zupp

Reiki and MilitaryA lot of people probably still haven’t heard of Reiki. And among those who have, there are likely a healthy number of skeptics. However, Reiki is gaining acceptance among many different populations – including the military.

First things first: What is Reiki? Reiki is a Japanese technique that involves the “laying of hands” to help reduce stress and promote relaxation and healing. It is based on the idea that there is an unseen “life force energy” that flows through us. If that life force is low, Reiki practitioners believe, we are more likely to feel stressed. If it is high, we can be happy and healthy.

Laying of hands? Okay, before you jump to head-shaking conclusions, bear in mind that a great many people swear by Reiki – from the ever-bourgeoning yoga crowd to, you guessed it, military PTSD sufferers.

Its roots in the military go back to July of 2007, when a Dr. John Fortunato, a Vietnam veteran, clinical psychologist, and former Benedictine monk started the Fort Bliss Restoration and Resilience center in Texas (it offered meditation, yoga, massage, and Reiki in addition to other holistic healing methods). The then Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and Army Chief of Staff General George Casey both praised the program and felt it should be replicated throughout the military.

And the Department of Defense “is dedicated to supporting evidence-based approaches to medical treatment and wants to support the use of alternative therapies if they are proven efficacious,” notes a recently-issued request for proposals. 

A German military base recently ran a seminar on Reiki. Service members and families who attended the seminar had a chance to experiment with their energy.

If you’re wondering what one can expect from a Reiki session, here are the basics:

  1. A brief discussion between the practitioner and client; a building of rapport and exploring needs and energies.
  2. Client lies down on a massage table, on their back, fully clothed.
  3. The practitioner then follows certain hand positions – starting at the head and working down – pausing for two to five minutes at each position.
  4. Next, the practitioner will have the client turn over and the same process is repeated down the back.

Maybe you’d like to try learning it yourself; maybe with a buddy. Still skeptical? Think of it this way: What have you got to lose… except perhaps some of your stress.

Adrian Zupp is the marketing and communications writer for Screening for Mental Health, Inc.

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9 Responses to Healing Hands – Reiki and Military Stress

  1. Pamela Miles says:

    Thank you for bringing attention to how Reiki practice can — and is — helping our military. The two responses most documented in Reiki research are reductions in pain and anxiety, two of the symptoms veterans suffer most often.

    I have been collaborating in conventional medicine as a lay Reiki master for 20 years and appreciate the need for research data. It is important, however, to keep in mind that until recently, medical research was primarily pharmaceutical research. Investigators are still grappling with the challenge of study practices such as Reiki that elicit complex, multi-system responses and have mechanisms of action quite distinct from those associated with pharmaceuticals.

    It is also relevant that the purpose of research is to demonstrate safety and efficacy so doctors can prescribe knowing the risk/benefit ratio. Reiki practice, however, has no known medical contraindications and is universally understood to be extremely low-risk.

    Rather than imposing on the body as a drug would, Reiki practice elicits a profound self-healing response from the recipient. A growing number of studies support this, including a study we did at Yale in which 20 minutes of Reiki practice improved heart rate variability (HRV) comparable to beta-blockers, minus the complications that come with drugs. HRV is a reliable indicator of the resilience in the system, and flattens when a system is stressed, as might be seen in PTS. You can download that paper and other peer-reviewed medical Reiki research here http://reikiinmedicine.org/medical-papers.

    Reiki practice carries the additional benefit that families can learn to practice Reiki on themselves and on one another not only to enhance healing, but also to maintain health and well-being.

  2. Thank you for this article. I am glad to hear that Reiki practice is finding its way into military installations.

    I am coordinating a reiki program for a non-profit organization at Ft. Belvoir and Walter Reed Bethesda. We give reiki treatments to the wounded soldiers and their family members twice a month. The response has been very positive. The anecdotal data that we collect shows a 35 % reduction in pain, and a 45 % reduction in stress. Our qualitative data includes comments such as “I feel more peaceful in my mind”, “the reiki treatment helps me to sleep better (without nightmares)” by soldiers who suffer from PTS and TBI, and “Comfort, I haven’t felt that in so long” as stated by a double amputee after the reiki treatment.

    I think that reiki practice is a great adjunct to conventional medical care. It has no contraindications and is akin to meditation. Reiki practitioners do not address symptoms or diseases. They follow a series of hand placements that help the receiver’s system to relax and balance at its own pace.

    As a former military spouse, my husband retired after 26 years of service in the Army, and the mother of a soldier who has been on multiple deployments to Afghanistan, I hope that reiki practice will soon be offered in our military and va hospitals. Our soldiers and their dependents deserve it!

  3. Frans Stiene says:

    It is wonderful to see that the system of Reiki is being embraced more and more. The military has been using the system of Reiki for a while now to help military PTSD sufferers. Keep up your good work Christine!!!

    One other aspect of the system of Reiki is that it is also a self help system, like yoga, tai chi, or qi gong. Personnel can practice the meditations taught within the system of Reiki. In fact the system of Reiki has many mindfulness methods in it to be practiced at home.

    For more information about this visit our website

    or read this article: What is the System of Reiki?

    Frans Stiene

    • Jesse L. says:

      I had read the article titled “Healing Hands – Reiki and Military Stress” and was impressed, but disappointed in that the article gave no links to help receive such care. I’ve wondered if such alternative therapies might help me out regarding stress as a 100% service-connected disabled veteran having suffered many traumatic and emotionally stressful injuries after becoming disabled. I’ve given up hope regarding traditional psychiatry.

  4. Quiet Mind says:

    Great to see, our military also taking part in reiki healing. Reiki is not just for regular people, even military or other organization people can face stressful circumstances and they have right to get the treatment done in any way.

  5. I am happy to find this article. I’m a Reiki Master in NY state. I’m available to give reiki treatment sessions to anyone within driving distance of my practice in the Hudson Valley, in New Paltz.
    However, what’s not mentioned in the article is that Reiki sessions can also be done over the phone. It seems counterintuitive, yet true. Like the article says, what do you have to lose to give it a try at least once. :)

    Be in touch if you’d like to schedule a session with me.
    Thank you for your service to all you servicewomen & men,

  6. Wylie McGraw says:

    I am an OEF/ OIF Veteran that suffered for many years from PTSD. I found holistic lifestyle changes and diet to support my shift, but the biggest benefit was studying and becoming a Reiki practitioner, and using it daily for life management.

    My love for Reiki tuned me into creating my own company to support Veterans and Military Families using Reiki to facilitate a safe place for them to get back in touch with themselves, be at peace, and allow the healing to occur naturally.

    Complimentary/ Alternative therapies like Reiki are very important in the whole picture of health and wellness, and are crucial for preventative measures for stress management. As a Veteran, I know that it is important to feel heard, understood, and safe, and that is why I offer Reiki as a Veteran for Veterans and enjoy seeing others doing the same.

    The more we share, the more we grow! Keep up all the great inspiration everyone, for we are bringing balance into the lives of many.


    W. McGraw

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