Reiki and Legal Issues

by William Lee Rand

Because Reiki is the practice of laying of hands for therapeutic purposes, there may be laws in your state governing its practice. There are also other legal considerations that need to be kept in mind when practicing Reiki. While I have never heard of anyone having a legal problem due to the practice of Reiki, it is good to be well informed so as to avoid the possibility of problems arising.

To make sure there is no misunderstanding about Reiki, it is important to let your clients know that Reiki is a laying on of hands and that it is done without the person disrobing. Make sure that they understand this and that they feel comfortable with you placing your hands on them. Explain the various hand positions and let them know that if they feel uncomfortable about being touched, you can do the entire treatment without touching them by placing your hands 3" to 4" away from their body. When treating any sensitive areas such as the genitals or breasts, it is important to get permission to treat these areas first and then treat them with your hands away from the body. By doing this, you will avoid the issue of inappropriate touching.

It is also important to let your clients know that you are not a doctor or psychologist (unless you are) and that the most you will guarantee is relaxation and stress reduction. It is important to let your clients know that while many people have received healing, you can't guarantee healing results (remember, doctors and psychologist don't guarantee results either) and that if they do have a medical or psychological problem, you suggest that they see an enlightened health care professional.

Never suggest that they change or eliminate any medications they may have been placed on by their doctors. An easy way to do this is to use the "Client Information Form" in the back of "Reiki, The Healing Touch." (Note: while "Reiki, The Healing Touch" is copyrighted, you do have permission to make copies of this one page.) Have them read it and sign it. This way there will be no misunderstandings and little chance of any legal problems.

If you are worried about being sued by an unhappy client, malpractice insurance is available for Reiki practitioners from Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP). It cost $199.00 and gives you $4,000,000 in total coverage and includes membership in their organization. In order to join and get the insurance, you must have a minimum of 100 hours massage training or be a doctor or nurse. 

Some states or local areas have laws governing who can touch others for therapy. In some areas, you may be asked to get a massage license or in other areas, only doctors or nurses may be permitted to touch others for therapeutic reasons. Check with your local or state governments to see if there are any laws governing touch therapy. Let the government officials know that Reiki is not massage. Tell them that it is energy work and you may find that no license is required. So far, this has not been an issue for Reiki practitioners, but situations are changing and it is prudent to be aware.

If legal concerns arise involving the touching aspect of Reiki, just remember, you can give an entire Reiki treatment without touching. This may be one way to avoid any problems. Another thing you can do is to become a minister in a church where laying on of hands is part of their program. By doing this, Reiki becomes part of practicing your religion. Because of this, it can't be restricted or regulated by laws. There are many churches who list laying on of hands as part of their ministry that will ordain you as a minister with little or no requirements. However, in order for this to be effective, you must actually accept their religious philosophy and be a practicing member of the church. In addition, you need to advertise this and your clients need to understand that the Reiki treatments you give are part of your religious practice.

The following excerpt from a sermon by Brother Daniel Zimmerman of the ULC Monastery, Tucson, Az further explains the principal:

"There is another issue that I want to address today and that is Reiki and Polarity and other alternative healing arts and ULC ordination. The church has long been aware that practitioners of alternative healing arts have used the ordination status of the ULC minister to practice their arts by utilizing the "laying on of hands" practice of ministers. This is a controversial practice. While it is clear that they are practicing healing arts, they want some type of "protection" and that is all they want. They are not interested primarily in religion and that is sad because in religion they have a higher power to assist them even if only the power of belief. The protection, if any, is there only if they are actively practicing their beliefs and not if their practice is in the healing arts. Clearly this is an area where some state will want to test its laws. We do not in any way "protect" anyone or encourage any individual to circumvent any laws. The laws are there to protect the public and we support each and every law.

We are saddened each time we learn about individuals attempting to utilize our ordination practices as a "cover" when we know they could do the same thing and work with beliefs and have a stronger base and stronger power even if it is only the individuals power of beliefs. The "laying on of hands" means just that and nothing else; no manipulation of any flesh or muscles. There is no exemption for ministers from any laws on the practice of medicine so individuals wishing and umbrella or protection need to reconsider their hopes in the ordination because it is only their belief that they are allowed, only a belief. That is what religion deals with; beliefs and not medicine.

I am explaining this openly because I know that there are thousands of Reiki practitioners using the ordination to practice their healing arts and I want them to know that they are NOT protected in any healing art and only if they were practicing their religion would the practice be covered. The question is simple; is Reiki their religious belief or is Reiki their healing practice? The second question would be to ask their client. That is where the truth would be told. If the client answered they believed the practitioner was utilizing their healing art; there is no protection as they are practicing medicine. If the client states the practitioner is practicing their religious belief then the laying on of hands would come into consideration. Reiki practitioners need to be aware of this and weigh it seriously.

It is the responsibility of each minister to know the state law for each state in which he/she performs the marriage ceremony. Recently there have been individuals call me and ask if certain states are registration states or not. This upsets me greatly because they should invest in the ULC TEXTBOOK so that they can have a listing of the laws for each state. A listing of each state's laws is available in the RESOURCES section of the website. If an individual performs a marriage and is not registered in a state which requires registeration, there is serious problems to be faced. The church is not responsible for the actions of individual ministers."

An added benefit of being a minister is you will be able to perform weddings.