A new RCT of Reiki healing has been published by US authors from the following institutions: Union Institute & University, Psychology Program, Brattleboro, VT, Coyote Institute, Augusta and Bangor, ME, Eastern Maine Medical Center and Acadia Hospital, Bangor, ME, University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, Biddeford, ME, Coyote Institute, Orono, ME. The purpose of this study was to determine if 30 minutes of healing touch could reduce burnout in community mental health clinicians.

The authors utilized a crossover design to explore the efficacy of Reiki versus sham Reiki, a pseudo treatment performed by volunteers who had no experience with Reiki and pretended to be healers vis-à-vis the patients. This sham control intervention was designed to mimic true Reiki.

Subjects were randomized to whether they started with Reiki or sham. The Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS) and the Measure Your Medical Outcome Profile Version 2 (MYMOP-2) were used as outcome measures. Multilevel modeling was used to represent the relations among variables.

The results showed that real Reiki was significantly better than sham Reiki in reducing burnout among community mental health clinicians. Reiki was significant in reducing depersonalization, but only among single people. Reiki reduced the primary symptom on the MYMOP also only among single people.

The authors concluded that the effects of Reiki were differentiated from sham Reiki. Reiki could be helpful in community mental health settings for the mental health of the practitioners.

My team has published on Reiki (see here and here, for instance), and on this blog I have repeatedly been expressed my doubts that Reiki is more than an elaborate placebo (see here and here, for instance). Do these new results mean that I need to eat my words and henceforth praise the wonders of Reiki? No, I don’t think so!

Having conducted studies on ‘energy healing’ myself, I know only too well of the many pitfalls and possibilities of generating false-positive findings with such research. This new study has many flaws, but we need not look far to find the reason for the surprising and implausible finding. Here is my explanation why this study suggests one placebo to be superior to another placebo.

The researchers had to recruit 16 Reiki healers and several non-Reiki volunteers to perform the interventions on the small group of patients. It goes without saying that the Reiki healers were highly motivated to demonstrate the value of their therapy. This means they (unintentionally?) used verbal and non-verbal communication to maximise the placebo effect of their treatment. The sham healers, of course, lacked such motivation. In my view, this seemingly trivial difference alone is capable of producing the false-positive result above.

There are, of course, ways of minimising the danger of such confounding. In our own study of ‘energy healing’ with sham healers as controls, for instance, we instructed both the healers and the sham healers to abstain from all communication with their patients, we filmed each session to make sure, and we asked each patient to guess which treatment they had received. None of these safeguards were incorporated in the present study – I wonder why!

10 Responses to A new study of Reiki healing with a (false?) positive result

  • No you don’t have to eat your words mainly because there are in reality very few who can really do Reiki. The majority are Spiritual Healers and the production of a sham healer does not prove anything as they may not be aware of any connection that they may have.
    The way to identify any person who claims to be a practitioner of Reiki is to place hands on their crown and be aware of warmth or heat coming out of the Crown, this indicates that they are giving out or another way to explain it that the energy flow has been reversed from receiving to giving out.
    If there is not warmth or heat then they are not holding within the Higher Chakras the vibrations that are applied through the Attunement process.
    Just watch the sceptis start their reterick about Reiki.
    What does a Reiki Practitioner do;
    They help people to move towards a balanced and wholeness within self by allowing for an energy flow through the Chakra Energy system but that may not happen immediately that clearing may take place only after a couple of sessions.
    Reiki is real but there has been to much of the negative about it.

    • Oh holy len, one of the very few with the true knowledge, I wish to understand.
      Please define the following terms in words a cringeing fool can comprehend.
      Higher Chakra
      Chakra Energy system

    • len,
      You are cementing your hard-won status as an A grade fruitloop with another gem of absurdity. (I was going to correct your post but there are too many errors and, besides, it would be wasted on you.)

      I do, however, appreciate the value in the Prof publishing such posts. It does allow normal, logical people, whose beliefs are based science, understand the enormous challenges they face in the irrationality of loons like you.

      • Fruit loops make good eating but sceptically rejections don’t fit on the plate.
        Truth is greater than fiction. Will you explain what you consider to be absurdity.
        Please apply your corrections and explanations.
        Do meridians exist within the Emotional Body Y/ N
        Do Chakras exist within the Emotional Body Y/ N
        Does vibration exist within words or symbols Y/ N

        • len,
          I know your reply is aimed at the other Frank, but it leaves me once again perplexed. If people ask me to explain something about which I have specialist knowledge I do so gracefully. You have told us many times that you are one of the few with genuine knowledge about reiki (“there are in reality very few who can really do Reiki”) but you go silent the minute we ask you to explain things.
          Now you ask us questions, but I’m stumped even to start to answer. Please explain to us. What is a meridian? What is the Emotional Body? What is a Chakra? Air vibrations are the mechanism for transmitting speech, but that’s not the same thing as vibrations existing within words or symbols. You repeatedly confront me (and, I suspect, other readers of these threads) with terminology I don’t understand. Would you be kind enough to explain these terms (and the ones from your previous post)?
          I’m sure I can google them, but I fear I’ll find different answers. That’s why it would be so helpful if you will give us the benefit of your special knowledge.

        • “Fruit loops make good eating but sceptically rejections don’t fit on the plate.
          Truth is greater than fiction. Will you explain what you consider to be absurdity.
          Please apply your corrections and explanations.
          Do meridians exist within the Emotional Body Y/ N
          Do Chakras exist within the Emotional Body Y/ N
          Does vibration exist within words or symbols Y/ N”

          What is the “Emotional Body”? Is it real or some construct from the propagators of other fictions?
          What are meridians?
          What are Chakras?
          Are “vibrations” the same vibrations that science has found, identified, defined, measured, and mathematically calculated so that the nature of any vibrations can be predicted by their basic nature and waveform? Are these the “vibrations” that mathematicians, physicists and engineers take for granted as a fundamental facet of nature, and understand? If they aren’t those “vibrations”, what are they?

        • Len asked:
          “Do meridians exist within the Emotional Body Y/ N” No.
          “Do Chakras exist within the Emotional Body Y/ N” No.
          “Does vibration exist within words or symbols Y/ N” No.

          Only in alt-med business empires are such things claimed to exist. Alt-med business empires thrive only by promulgating myths, and the vending of false hopes, to vulnerable (or otherwise gullible) people.

          Len, it is high time you desist from shifting the burden of proof: You are the one who is making outlandish claims, therefore it is totally your responsibility to back them with independently verifiable empirical evidence. Until you provide such evidence I shall continue to invoke the epistemically logical principle: That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without the need to provide any evidence whatsoever to the contrary.

          In other words, I shall continue to presume that you espouse only bullshit, until the day that you can adequately demonstrate to the whole world that you actually possess the special wisdom/knowledge that you claim to possess.

          • Comments made to information that i have posted in the past to me and I suspect to many seem to come from the flat earth society. They have their thoughts and I have mine and mine is that everything is vibration. We are all Souls traveling within the physical to learn and enjoy. Dis-ease originates within the Emotional long before it appears as a disease within the Physical. Within the emotional body there exists many energy pathways that cannot be seen by the medical profession but some people can see or feel them.
            As far as the system called Reiki is concerned it is not Spiritual, it is within the Emotional Body and the Chakras or Energy Centres has their vibrations increased by the application of vibrations.
            It took quite a while before I was confident with that system.

    • To become a true Reiki master one must put in substantial time and most likely expense. This brings to mind the situation with a forged painting. The more one has invested, the less likely one is to doubt the authenticity. I believe you are the proud owner of a forged painting len on.

      • 1) from the article’s method section:
        “During the course of the study, we worked with a total of
        16 different Reiki practitioners; all were at least level 2, and
        6 were Reiki masters. All practitioners were known by us to
        be ethical and effective in their community. The minimum
        years of practice were 5 and the range was 5–21 years of
        practice. The average was 10 years, with a standard deviation
        of 6.6 years. The practitioners were our colleagues and
        friends and were asked to participate on that basis.”
        2) as I stated often before:
        even the proper training in BS will only result in BS.

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