MelloDynamic Energy
A Holistic Approach to Health and Well Being

Reiki In A Cancer Center

by Jane Van De Velde, DNP, RN (aricle from Reiki Magazine Spring 2012 Issue)

Reiki In A Cancer Center



A diagnosis of cancer with subsequent treatment is life changing, overwhelming and sometimes traumatizing for anyone who has had this experience. People with cancer require care and support on every level—body, mind, and spirit.  Use of complementary and integrative modalities is becoming increasingly common as people diagnosed with cancer seek more holistic and non-invasive means of supporting their overall healing process


Reiki is a holistic, complementary healing practice that is being embraced by the cancer support services community throughout the United States.  In the Chicago metropolitan area, a number of nonprofit cancer support centers offer Reiki services and classes to participants, e.g., Wellness House (Hinsdale, IL); Wellness Place (Palatine, IL); Living Well Cancer Resource Center (Geneva, IL); and Cancer Support Center (Homewood, IL).  In Naperville, IL, Edward Hospital's cancer treatment center holds a monthly Reiki clinic that began in 2004.  As part of my own Reiki practice, I offer weekly sessions as a volunteer and teach occasional Reiki classes at Wellness House.  In the past five years, I have learned many valuable lessons from this client group.


Dealing with an initial diagnosis of cancer is an emotional, chaotic time for people.  They need to find appropriate medical care, connect with new physicians and make decisions about initial treatment, which may include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation.  Treatment may last a few months or more than a year.


Client Experience of Cancer

Cancer, in a sense, is holistic because it affects people on every level—physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  My clients and students often report a variety of physical symptoms associated with their cancer diagnosis or as side effects to their treatments.  Physical symptoms may include muscle aches, fatigue, gastrointestinal disturbance, weight loss, hair loss and peripheral neuropathy.  Mental, emotional and spiritual symptoms can also occur during initial diagnosis and treatment, and can persist long after treatment is completed.  Reported symptoms include fear, anger, worry, anxiety, depression and loss of faith.


The overall approach to cancer care needs to be holistic, combining the best of traditional Western medicine with integrative and complementary modalities.  Reiki fits well into this paradigm.  There are many ways in which we can offer our Reiki knowledge, skills and compassion to people and families dealing with a cancer diagnosis.  There are both anecdotal reports and beginning research that support the use of Reiki in providing relief for the physical and mental/emotional effects of cancer (Miles, 2003; Shore, 2004).  Reiki sessions, classes and self-treatment can be valuable tools and resources for anyone at any point throughout this experience, which often spans years.  We can adapt many aspects of Reiki practice to specifically meet the needs of people with cancer.  In the following sections, I will share what I have learned as a Reiki practitioner and teacher in working with this client group.


Reiki Sessions

Over the past five years, I have offered nearly 700 Reiki sessions at Wellness House, a nonprofit cancer support center.   Each client receives a 45 minute full body Reiki session using the standard hand positions.  At the client's initial appointment, I explain the nature of Reiki and how the session will be conducted.  Then I ask the question, “Why are you coming to Wellness House?”  At this point, most clients will share their cancer diagnosis with me.  This information helps me in focusing my Reiki hands. However, there have been a few clients who have chosen not to give me this information, and I do not ask directly, respecting their privacy.


In working with all these clients, I have learned to both observe and listen to them very closely.  As I scan a client's energy field, asking to be guided to the cause, and begin the hand positions, I trust in the guidance of Reiki and that the client is receiving exactly what is needed.  Clients often find comfort in knowing that I am placing my Reiki hands on or over the area where the cancer is located.  I worked with one client who was diagnosed with liver cancer and we spent our Reiki sessions "loving her liver" with my hands on her right upper abdomen.


I ask clients for a healing intention, e.g., "How would you like the Reiki to help you today?"  This gives them an opportunity to participate and give some direction to the session.  I also ask if they are experiencing any pain or discomfort so I can focus on those areas with other techniques such as sweeping and pain drain.  I begin and end each session with head to toe sweeping to clear clients' energy fields especially if they are in active treatment with chemotherapy or radiation.  I explain that we hold everything in our energy fields—our worries, fears, pain, anxiety as well joy, peace and happiness. While I am sweeping, I suggest they use this as an opportunity to release anything that does not serve them.


Clients sometimes feel that their bodies have betrayed them and express negative thoughts about their colons, livers, breasts or lungs.  I gently recommend that they talk to their body, offering additional love and support to those areas which are so in need of healing.


If clients have taken a Reiki class, I encourage them to self-treat during the session.  I use this opportunity to discuss daily practice and to answer any questions that they might have about Reiki. Finally, I document all my sessions.  This helps me with the continuity of care that I provide my clients and is part of a professional Reiki practice. If someone comes infrequently, my documentation refreshes my memory about the client before the session begins.


Compassionate Listening

Reiki can open people emotionally, bringing forth thoughts and feelings that have been repressed. People dealing with cancer sometimes need to share their stories.  I have some clients who talk throughout their sessions as I quietly go through the hand positions.  I find that conversation does not interfere with the session but can actually contribute to the overall healing process.


Reiki practitioners who are licensed as nurses, social workers, counselors and teachers have acquired listening skills as part of their professional practice.  However, good listening requires very little talking and these skills can be developed by anyone.  Basic components of compassionate listening during a Reiki session include:

             Listening with empathy and without judgment

             Maintaining eye contact and responding appropriately

             Letting your client know that you are paying attention to them

             Not asking for details or interrupting; not telling your own stories

             Being quietly present and continuing to offer the Reiki


We do need to be aware of our Reiki scope of practice in situations where clients share any personal information.  As Reiki practitioners, we do not diagnose, prescribe or offer advice or solutions.  We are simply giving people the opportunity to connect with Reiki for purposes of their own personal healing.  It is also very important to maintain client confidentiality.  Whatever information our clients disclose during a Reiki session is private and not to be shared with others.



Reiki is a powerful self-care practice that can impact positively on the day-to-day lives of people dealing with cancer—whether they are newly diagnosed, a cancer survivor or receiving hospice care.  Reiki is a multifaceted gift that offers relaxation, comfort, emotional support and symptom relief.  As Reiki practitioners and teachers, we can offer our skills and expertise, extend our Reiki hands and make a difference to those people whose lives are affected by cancer.

Website Builder