Insight Reiki: Bodywork Counseling Considerations and Methods for Practitioners

When I began working in counseling centers on the East Coast the early 90’s, there were many parts of a session that were not being addressed. I got the feeling that it was what you didn’t see or hear from a client that would end up telling you the most about them. I later learned this is what is called subtle energy or ‘chi’. I couldn’t ignore the fact that there was much more going on in the session than the dialogue we were exchanging. I began to ‘sense’ problems lurking behind polite smiles. Sometimes I even saw what I later learned were energy fields around them, which would fluctuate in color depending on the client’s mood.

I asked my colleagues if they experienced such phenomenon. Most thought I was working too many hours. I began studying practices such as Polarity Therapy, Reiki and Therapeutic Touch to explore the other levels of reality I kept encountering in my sessions. As I studied these therapies, I began to realize that although I was helping people as a counselor, I wasn’t truly able to offer them all the alternatives I felt would have made their session more therapeutic. With little support from employers or colleagues, I didn’t see how I could combine my new knowledge with the traditional counseling I was doing.

Frustrated with these limitations and honoring an inner calling to move West, my partner and I migrated to Seattle. I initially worked as a career counselor for the Boeing company but found that as the economy shifted and they began to issue massive layoffs, I was doing more crisis intervention with my clients than formulating any kind of real career plan. Reiki began to ease its way into my session environment and the basis for Bodywork Counseling was born.

As a client would download their reactions after getting the layoff notice I would begin to send Reiki to them. I would intuitively begin to sense what parts of their energetic body were holding on out of scarcity and fear. I “asked” Reiki to continue to flow during each session and on several occasions, I was called to place my hands gently over a client’s shoulders or forehead. I would ask them if they were OK to have me practice a ‘stress reducing’ method I had learned. In the corporate setting, even on the West coast, talking about something like Reiki wasn’t encouraged (or really understood).

During those sessions I always worked off the body, as the ethical guidelines for counselors have quite a taboo on the issue of touch, which I discuss later in this article.

I found presenting the Reiki and counseling techniques this way so simple and invigorating that I began to teach some of the methods to my clients. I witnessed incredible changes in their personal lives. Clients who were previously unable to achieve any true insight or direction were now able to connect with their own passions for career and life changes they needed to make for living more fully.

Those sessions began to change my own career focus. I decided I wanted my own full-time Reiki and counseling practice. I wanted to be able to give workshops on holistic health and the personal growth techniques I had learned and experienced.

Bodywork Counseling encourages an individual to get in touch with the feelings surrounding trauma, confusion, pain that are held within their body. Balance is initiated through Reiki, which serves as the foundation of the practice. As one gets in touch with these feelings emotions are released which brings additional insight and clarity to the situation/issue at hand. The method can also be used on oneself to provide additional insight on current issues or problems. It developed from my own experience as a social worker/counselor and beginning Reiki student over ten years ago.

Before looking at some techniques of Bodywork Counseling that a Reiki practitioner could incorporate into practice, its helpful to have some background and legal scope of what exactly is meant by the term “counseling”.

Counseling is communication. It is talking things over, brainstorming. It is searching for a solution. Because counseling deals with feelings it is a sensitive process. Even when a solution is not forthcoming, those involved may be able to live with the situation with more grace.

Counseling is a proven way to help others sort out and solve problems. There is no magic to the basic techniques and methods. They can be learned and applied by anyone.

Some states and provinces have specific regulations governing who can and can’t use counseling in the therapeutic context. Some require a minimum of two years college education. Others also specify a certain amount of internship experience. And others don’t have any specific requirement at all if a practitioner is not applying for health insurance reimbursement. My recommendation would be to first see what the legal requirements are before implementing any of the following into practice where there is payment of services. . ( lists which states require Reiki practitioners to also have massage licenses. Massage guidelines vary, but most dissuade the use of counseling during the session).

But over the last thirty years other professional organizations, such as The European Association of Body Psychotherapy ( and the United States Association of Body Psychotherapy ( have provided support for the integration of bodywork and counseling approaches.

“We have very high standards of ethics — as you might expect from a modality where practitioners work intensely and sometimes intimately with other people’s bodies. We have to have these standards, and we take this aspect of our work very seriously. Ethical misbehavior is rigorously pursued and re-education of the therapist is a major priority. There is a massive dialogue and debate about transference and touch that is also very important to us and we really want to engage in open discussion about this with other disciplines.” Body Psychotherapy: It’s history and present day scope by Courtenay Young, General Secretary, EABP

There are no specific limitations or ethical restrictions of utilizing counseling approaches within the confines of a Reiki session in either code of ethics for the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals or the International Association of Reiki Professionals. However, I feel it should be made clear to clients that the Reiki practitioner is NOT a therapist, and that Bodywork Counseling is NOT a substitute for therapy.

I’ve found that students having a background in which they’ve offered help to others-volunteering, professionally doing social work, nursing, or at least an equivalent amount of their own self-help work assists the process of learning Bodywork Counseling because you’ve already encountered the necessity of having ‘bodicitta’ or loving kindness when working to help someone. If you’ve never had this opportunity, then before they go out and see clients, I recommend at least a year or more of working with people in this capacity: giving Reiki at Reiki circles, volunteering through hospice or nursing homes, and/or doing their own therapy.

Because a practitioner comes to the session with Reiki as their base, they are coming in being familiar with what it means to have faith in a Universal Energy. That is love and light and it is what guides the session so much more than the practitioner.

If you approach each session with a full and open heart, surrendering over to Reiki as your guide and follow the basic protocol for opening and closing a session, then what happens in between is Divine, it is an honor for you to bear witness to.



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