Context: Touch therapies, including Reiki, are increasingly popular complementary therapies. Previous studies of touch therapies have yielded equivocal findings.
Objective: Exploring the experiences of Reiki recipients contributes to understanding the popularity of touch therapies and possibly elucidates variables for future studies.
Design: Descriptive study with quantitative and qualitative data. This report focuses on qualitative interview data. Thematic analysis was used to discern patterns in the experience.
Setting: All Reiki treatments were given in a sound proof windowless room by one Reiki master. Audiotaped interviews were conducted immediately after the treatment in a quiet room adjoining the treatment room.
Participants: Generally healthy volunteers (N=23) who were naive to Reiki.
Intervention: Standardized, 30-minute Reiki session.
Main outcome measures: Interview data supported by quantitative data.
Results: Participants described a liminal state of awareness in which sensate and symbolic phenomena were experienced in a paradoxical way. Liminality was apparent in participants' orientation to time, place, environment, and self Paradox also was seen in participants' symbolic experiences of internal feelings, cognitive experience, and external experience of relationship to the Reiki master.
Conclusions: Liminal states and paradoxical experiences that occur in ritual healing are related to the holistic nature and individual variation of the healing experience. These findings suggest that many linear models used in researching touch therapies are not complex enough to capture the experience of participants.