University of Pennsylvania Health System

Focus on Cancer

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Reiki For Cancer Patients- Dispelling Common Reiki Myths

Many people choose Reiki to complement their cancer treatment. Reiki for cancer involves the light tough of a Reiki caregiver to provide relief from cancer treatment. 

Reiki for Cancer
Author Kim Fleisher
Kimberly Fleisher, MEd and Reiki Master, is the founder and director of The Reiki School + Clinic in Philadelphia and Collingswood, NJ. She has been practicing Reiki since 1995. Kim specializes in Reiki education, particularly in the healthcare field and is the team leader for Penn Medicine's Volunteer Reiki Project, providing Reiki sessions to patients receiving cancer treatment.

In my last blog post about Reiki for cancer patients, I explored the basics of Reiki practice, including potential benefits of receiving Reiki sessions during cancer treatment. In this post, I’d like to address some of the concerns patients have expressed about the practice and dispel some common Reiki myths.

Concern #1: Reiki practice can interfere with cancer treatment.

In online blogs and forums, I have heard the recommendation that patients should refrain from receiving Reiki sessions while receiving cancer treatment. This concern comes from the theory that if Reiki sessions promote healing, they might do so indiscriminately, promoting the health and growth of cancer cells at the expense of a patient’s overall wellbeing.

In my experience:
Reiki practice is balancing to the whole system. It is not diagnostic and doesn’t target treatment of specific symptoms. In my 17 years of Reiki practice I have not received report of a session conflicting with a cancer treatment plan. There is no evidence that Reiki practice causes harm. We’ve given over 4000 sessions to cancer patients at Penn, soliciting feedback from both patients and health care providers, and the response is exceedingly positive.

Concern #2: Reiki practitioners impose their faith or beliefs on you during a session.

Patients with deeply held religious convictions or who are atheists or agnostics sometimes worry that by receiving a Reiki treatment, they are opening themselves up to the spiritual beliefs of their practitioner and that those beliefs may conflict with their own.

In my experience:
It is not in a Reiki practitioner’s scope of practice to become a client’s spiritual, psychological or medical advisor. They shouldn’t offer a prescription for how to live your life, ask you to change your diet or question your worldview in any way. During sessions at Penn, Reiki practitioners are not trained to pray for you or to “think about” something in particular to make the practice work. Reiki is a practice, facilitated mainly through light touch; it’s not a philosophy or religion. Each recipient’s experience of the practice is unique. After a session it’s common for people to report a profound sense of connection to their own faith or spirituality, as well as increased feelings of peace and wellbeing, however, a practitioner doesn’t try or “intend” to make those things happen. If you are seeking a Reiki professional, question their style of practice. You want to make sure they are coming from a non-diagnostic, non-prescriptive or invasive perspective.

Concern #3: You have to believe in Reiki for it to work.

Some people have equated Reiki with faith healing, suggesting that for a Reiki session to provide benefits, the recipient must have special beliefs—that it is their own faith in the power of Reiki that allows it to work.

In my experience:
As I mentioned in the previous section, Reiki practice does not require the recipient to believe anything. I’ve noticed that some of my most skeptical clients have had great sessions. A patient does need to be willing to receive- a credible practitioner would never coerce you into getting a session or give you one without your consent. Belief, however, is not a part of Reiki practice. You can try Reiki practice the same way you might try anything new, and see for yourself if you experience a benefit.


  1. Great to see Reiki presented in a clear and positive way on a credible site. Over 4000 volunteer sessions given to cancer patients is a fantastic service that Penn Medicine is supporting!

  2. thanks for sharing.

  3. Hi Kimberly,

    Well said. I have experienced the same as you.

    Frans Stiene

    1. Thanks Frans! Looking forward to meeting you in September.

  4. I am impressed with this well expressed post and your dedication. I, too, have seen the same results with cancer patients I've treated at The Gathering Place and The Cleveland Clinic. Thank you for being an advocate for ethical practice and clear education regarding Reiki.

  5. Hi Kimberly,
    Thank you for sharing, I had an opportunity to volunteer at a cancer center for a period of almost a year and observed same things you mentioned.

  6. Thank you Kim for the clear and concise answers to those common questions/concerns.

  7. Thank you Kimberly,

    As a Reiki Teacher of over 26 years, I have had incredible experiences with cancer patients as well. As a cancer patient I have received the benefits first hand --- with gratitude for it's many blessings.

    ~Ginny Mackles

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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