This article was written by one of our social work interns, Jennifer Aleman. It is the second blog in a series dedicated to exploring options for the treatment of PTSD.

What is Reiki?

Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” or “Ki” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. Reiki is a non-invasive, completely benign healing technique that is becoming more and more popular.

Photo Courtesy of Tabitha Hedrick

Reiki as Therapy

At a recent event for The Veterans Mental Health Coalition of NYC, Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) Commissioner Loree Sutton, M.D. shared a presentation on the importance of alternative therapies. She advocated that in recent years the Department of Defense (DoD) has been investing money in alternative therapies such as Reiki. Sutton explained that these alternative therapies are becoming the standard approach for PTSD treatment because of the impact they have on the body and mind. She supported that alternative medicines need to change from being viewed as “alternative” and shift to being viewed as core treatment.

Tabitha H., a Reiki practitioner and veteran, described her experience using Reiki to work with service members and veterans:

Photo Courtesy of

The relaxing state that people are in when they have a Reiki session is very conducive to healing. Reiki has been likened to meditation in its effects, but not everyone meditates the same. A person who is receiving Reiki will respond to the treatment in the way that is appropriate for them at that time. Also, as with meditation, the effects last beyond the time of the session. And the results are always seen – whether mildly relaxing or dramatically healing.

Reiki in Practice

In a recent study conducted by the Military Medicine Journal, researchers examined the effectiveness of Reiki, labeling it as “Healing Touch.” Researchers observed a drop in PTSD symptoms for the intervention group by 14 points (from 54.7 to 40.7) using the PTSD checklist, which is considered to be clinically, as well as statistically, significant.

Jennifer R., a Reiki master who was connected with Hope For The Warriors® in the past through our Clinical Health & Wellness Pillar, explained that, early in her Reiki career, the DoD actually paid for her Reiki education. In her practice she has seen huge improvements not only in her personal life but also with her clients. She went on to explain the benefits she has seen using Reiki to work with veterans:

Photo Courtesy of

Reiki benefits the military population and people that have PTSD because it elicits what we call the relaxation response. People that have experienced trauma and/or are anxious have difficulty reaching this healing state on their own. The relaxation response is a state of peace that can allow the body/mind to let go and reset itself and healing can begin.

Herbert Coley, civilian chief of staff of the Army Medical Command, released a memo regarding the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD. He said a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which are commonly used for PTSD, could intensify rather than reduce combat stress symptoms and lead to addiction. Coley questioned the efficacy of this drug class in PTSD treatment and clinicians were encouraged to look beyond drugs to treat PTSD. Although medication has been shown to be helpful for many suffering with PTSD, the conversation regarding the effectiveness of these medications has shifted to their potential to cause more harm than good.

Photo Courtesy of

The core treatment option of Reiki is growing in its consideration for military medicine as a treatment for PTSD. Reiki, like so many therapy options, could be considered core treatment for PTSD because of its holistic approach to combat symptoms of PTSD.

For more information on Reiki or how to incorporate it in your own PTSD therapy, please visit: