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The brain is often described as a tape recorder, taking permanent snapshots of every action a person takes and every image a person sees. The body can take similar snapshots, and according to practitioners of Eastern medicine, those memories are stored in a person’s bones, joints and muscles. Over time, as negative issues collect, the person becomes crippled with memories that he/she might not even know about on a conscious level.
People recovering from addiction may have more negative memories to process than people who do not have addiction issues. As a result of their substance abuse, addicts may have lied to their friends, stolen from their family members and broken promises they made to their children. These memories must all be dealt with in order for healing to begin.
Some Eastern medicine practitioners believe that Reiki can help deal with these memories. Through Reiki, the links between the body and the memories are broken, and the person is allowed to deal with each issue and recover from it. This process, sometimes called “Reiki detoxification” can be a powerful tool for people recovering from addiction.
A Standard Definition of Detoxification
In Western medicine, addiction recovery begins with a formal process of detoxification. Unlike a Reiki detoxification, which deals with an emotional issue, a standard detoxification has a decidedly more chemical and clinical feel. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines detoxification in this way, “Detoxification is the process by which the body clears itself of drugs and is often accompanied by unpleasant and sometimes even fatal side effects caused by withdrawal.” The focus here is on the chemical aspects underlying the withdrawal process. Through the course of the addiction, the addict’s body has developed a reliance on, and a dependence to, the substance the person uses. When the person stops using the substance, the body reacts with alarm and a variety of side effects can kick in. These side effects can vary dramatically, depending on the substances the person used, but common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Involuntary movements in the muscles
In a traditional detoxification program, the addict is provided with medications that can ease these symptoms and allow the addict to feel relaxed and comfortable. As the addict’s body becomes adjusted to performing without the use of drugs or alcohol, the drugs are slowly tapered away. Then, the person enters a formal program to recover from addiction.
In these formal programs in a Western model, the emotional health of the addict is addressed through counseling and support from medical staff, but the primary focus is on the physical health of the addict. The idea of emotional balancing, helping the addict to build up a new life and recover from the trauma of addiction, takes place during programs provided when detoxification is complete. Reiki has a slightly different spin on this idea.
Reiki originated in Japan, and it’s based on the idea that the human body is surrounded by fields of energy. These energy fields connect the person with the rest of the world, even though the person may never see these energy fields or even believe in them in any real way. Reiki can be performed in a one-on-one session, although some practitioners report that they can provide Reiki to patients who are not even in the same room.
In a one-on-one Reiki session, the patient is fully clothed and lying on a flat table with his/her eyes closed. The practitioner moves his/her hands over the person’s body in a series of 12 to 15 hand positions, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Each position is held for two to five minutes, and often, the practitioner and the patient don’t touch at all. Instead, the practitioner is attempting to shift the energy around the person into a more favorable pattern.
According to an article published in the journal Nursing Clinics of North America, Reiki is designed to:
- Reduce anxiety
- Relax the muscles
- Reduce stress
- Improve a sense of well-being
- Reduce pain
It’s easy to understand why these aspects of Reiki would be useful in an addiction program. People may have developed their addictions due to ongoing stress or pain, and they may have more of these problems now, as the addiction has progressed.
People who go through a Reiki session may go through what is known as a Reiki detoxification after the sessions are complete. Practitioners state that this process can take from seven to 21 days and it’s often accompanied by symptoms such as:
These symptoms seem quite similar to those experienced during a standard detoxification program from drugs and alcohol, but there are a few minor differences. According to one practitioner, the symptoms tend to shift from one part of the body to another during Reiki detoxification, where a standard drug detoxification doesn’t involve this sort of shifting. Also, a Reiki detoxification process can last for up to three weeks, which is much longer than a standard drug detoxification.
Comparing and Combining
By contrasting these two detoxification definitions, it’s clear to see that they are not at all the same. A standard detoxification program provides care for chemical and physical symptoms of withdrawal, and medications are in heavy rotation. A Reiki detoxification is a spiritual process whereby the body heals on a mental plane, not a physical one.
The two methods are so dissimilar that they cannot be used interchangeably. In fact, it might be dangerous to do so. An alcoholic, for example, can go through life-threatening seizures during the detoxification process, unless the proper medications are provided. If this alcoholic tried to use Reiki instead, death could occur. It’s just not set up to assist with the physical problems that can occur during detoxification.
That isn’t to say that Reiki has no place in a standard detoxification program. In fact, the two can go hand in hand quite nicely. For example, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that heart rate and diastolic blood pressure readings decreased in people who received Reiki treatments compared to people who received placebo treatments. If a person in a standard detoxification program was taking medications to reduce stress and heart rate, perhaps Reiki sessions could help replace the need for those medications.
Similarly, during the Reiki detoxification process, patients are encouraged to take care of their bodies and stay in touch with the emotions they’re feeling. They may be encouraged to drink additional water, get adequate sleep, take long walks or meditate on their good qualities. These can be healing steps for anyone to take during a stressful part of life, and going through the detoxification process is certainly stressful. In other words, the two programs really do seem complementary.
Drawbacks of Reiki
As mentioned, Reiki shouldn’t be considered a substitute for standard detoxification. While the word “detoxification” might be used in both addiction medicine and in Reiki, the two processes are dissimilar, and some addictions really must be treated with medications and supervised withdrawal techniques. This might be the biggest drawback of Reiki. People who attempt to use Reiki as a replacement for science-based programs for addiction may be putting their lives at risk.
In addition, Reiki sessions can be expensive. According to a study published in the journal Common Factor in 1995, costs for Reiki sessions can be $80 or more. Costs are likely to have gone up dramatically since this time. Since Reiki is not considered a standard treatment for addiction, some insurance programs may not cover Reiki treatments.
The final drawback concerns training and licensing. Not all people who perform Reiki have taken the appropriate classes and passed the required tests. In fact, a quick scan of advocacy websites indicates that people who go through Reiki sessions are often encouraged to share what they’ve learned with their friends and family members almost immediately. This could mean that some people are performing Reiki with no real training whatsoever. While Reiki is not likely to cause harm when performed by an amateur, it may not have the same benefit as a session would have when performed by an expert.
To Reiki or Not to Reiki?
In the end, the choice whether or not to include Reiki as part of a detoxification program comes down to the individual wants and needs of the addict in therapy. As part of a structured program, Reiki might be beneficial and soothing, allowing the addict to feel peaceful, strong and ready for what comes next. But some people may not like the idea of using a method that seems somewhat free form and based on structures and concepts that aren’t so easy to see and understand. It’s a personal decision and there are no right and wrong answers.
If you’re debating the pros and cons of Reiki and detoxification, call Axis today. We can explain how we think Reiki fits into a program of care, and we can answer any questions you might have about how we use Reiki in our programs.