Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date



This thesis explores complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) through research on the modality of Reiki. Reiki is an energetic practice that uses the “laying on of hands” to facilitate healing. The aim is to give insight both on a specific mind-body-spiritual practice and on how Reiki and similar modalities might be accepted as treatments and integrated into biomedicine. Research was completed through standard anthropological methods: interviews, participant observation, and field notes. Twenty-seven Reiki practitioners were interviewed to learn about their perspectives on Reiki and the progression towards integration.

Through analysis of the interview transcripts and participant observation, I developed a number of themes. For organizational purposes, the themes were grouped into three levels of analysis: the institutional level, the practitioner level, and the patient level, following the approach used by anthropologist Susan Sered in her 2007 article “Taxonomies of Ritual Mixing: Ritual Healing in the Contemporary United States.”

At the institutional level, I suggest that integration is based on a spectrum and that CAM modalities range in their progression towards integration in aspects such as insurance coverage and requirements for becoming a practitioner. At the practitioner level, I suggest that practitioners affect integration progression by impeding cohesion of Reiki as a modality through mixing rituals, individualizing philosophies, and individualizing terminology from biomedicine. Analysis of the patient level examines the ambiguity and mixed information given to Reiki clients. I also explore some of the possible ways that Reiki can heal and the kinds of conditions Reiki is being utilized to heal.