Summary of Legal Limits Applicable to All Reiki Practitioners
In general, Reiki Practitioners are within legal limits if they NEVER . . .
- Provide Reiki sessions to anyone under the age of 18 without the permission of a parent or legal guardian
- Diagnose medical or psychological problems (unless you are a medical or mental health professional who is legally approved to do so)
- Prescribe any medication or recommend any over-the-counter medication or supplement, which includes recommending that the client increase, decrease, or discontinue any of these
- Touch the client (unless permission is given by the client)
- Touch the client in inappropriate areas (even with the client’s permission)
- Request that the client disrobe, even partially (removing shoes, belts, or jewelry is permissible – but if s/he resists then do not push)
- Promise a specific outcome or result
- Make disparaging remarks about another profession or another professional (e.g., medical, psychological, chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathic, another Reiki practitioner)
Hands-on Versus Hands-Off Techniques
It is important to understand that the vast majority of legal cases in medical, dental, counseling, and alternative healing professions involve accusations of “inappropriate touch” or “sexual contact.” Although Reiki can be done using a “hands-on” technique, you are encouraged to think carefully before you decide to use this approach with any (or all) of your clients.
If you do use a “hands on” technique, then the following general guidelines are important for everyone to follow:
- ALWAYS ask permission to use a hands-on technique
- ALWAYS explain that you can do Reiki without touch (i.e., “hands-off”) if the client prefers this approach
- ALWAYS explain, in general terms, the hand positions before you begin treatment
- ALWAYS tell your client that he or she should let you know immediately if he or she feels uncomfortable at any time
California Senate Bill SB-577 and Reiki
NOTE: Although the requirements of SB-577 may feel restrictive in some ways, it is designed to protect both you and your clients.
NOTE: SB-577 ONLY applies to Reiki Practitioners in the State of California. However, if you are practicing outside the State of California, you may find the following information helpful. I personally believe that all energy healers, regardless of geographic location, are well-advised to use a similar approach to that described below.
If you are providing Reiki services in the State of California for a fee, then you are considered a “complementary health care provider.” This means that you fall under the requirements of California Senate Bill SB-577, which went into effect on January 1, 2003. This is the same bill that applies to chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and many professionals.
This is very important legislation because it is designed to protect you! Prior to this bill being passed, a strict interpretation of the law would have found anyone practicing any kind of unlicensed healing art in California as technically in violation of the Medical Practice Act. This means that this practitioner could be prosecuted for “practicing medicine without a license.” If you are willing to comply with SB-577, you can safely offer services in California without fear of being charged with what is a felony.
Compliance with SB-577 for Reiki Sessions
Although you should verbally review much of this information with new clients, you definitely need to provide the following information in writing in situations where SB-577 applies. Additionally, all written information is to use “lay person language” that the client will understand. The contents should include:
- A statement about what Reiki is
- A statement about what Reiki is not (e.g., it is not licensed, it is not considered to be traditional Western medicine)
- An explanation of the theory behind Reiki
- A description of the nature of the services that will be provided (e.g., what will be required of the client, what the client might experience)
- The qualifications of the practitioner
- An acknowledgement that the client has received the information included above and agrees to receive treatment from this practitioner
In addition to having your clients receive a copy of the above information:
- The client is to sign a consent form
- You are to offer your client a copy of their signed consent form
- You are to offer your client a copy of the actual text of SB-577
- You are to keep the client’s signed consent form on file for three years
SB-577’s Requirements for Advertising Reiki Sessions
In addition to the requirements stated above, SB-577 also mandates that certain information be included in all advertising. Specifically, if you are advertising your Reiki services, you are required to “disclose in that advertisement that he or she is not licensed by the state as a healing arts practitioner” (from SB-577).
At the time of this writing, there are still many questions about this section of SB-577. For example, does this apply to business cards, fliers, and brochures that are given to your prospective clients? What about information that is sent to the members of a private email list? Or does this section of SB-577 only apply to local or national ads in magazines, newspapers, etc.
I personally believe that you should put this statement on your website because this is public information. However, it is unclear how often you need to make this statement regarding Reiki not being licensed in the State of California (e.g., only the page describing your Reiki services, all pages where Reiki is discussed).
Additionally, SB-577 does not outline how the requirement should be phrased. Here are a few suggestions:
- The State of California does not license Reiki Practitioners
- Complementary healing arts, such as Reiki, do not require licensing by the State of California
- Reiki is not licensed by the State of California
When Does & Doesn’t SB-577 Apply to Reiki Services?
California Senate Bill SB-577 does apply if:
- You are charging for your Reiki services
- You make any representation or claims to clients in your advertising (or verbal presentation) that Reiki can address or remediate physical problems
There are some areas that are still open to debate regarding the application of SB-577. If you are concerned about any of these situations, please seek legal counsel:
- If you are offering services on a “donation only” or “love donation” basis, then SB-577 MAY not apply. (NOTE: I personally would not take this risk and would comply with SB-577.)
- If you are offering Reiki services for a fee but you make no claim whatsoever, either verbally or in written form, that Reiki in any way is related to physical health or improvement of a physical condition, then SB-577 MAY not apply. For example, if you are using Reiki to only improve psychological conditions (e.g., memory, concentration, test-taking skills) and you do not claim that it is related to physical health, then SB-577 MAY not apply. However, if you state that Reiki can create a state of relaxation and that relaxation has been shown to lead to improved health, then SB-577 applies to you.
Based on my review of the available literature, it appears that SB-577 does not apply in the following situations:
- If you are only using Reiki with family and friends and are not charging for your services
- If you are providing Reiki on a purely volunteer basis (e.g., as part of a group that offers Reiki to seniors or nursing home residents free of charge)
- If you are providing services through another organization and you are not paid for your services (NOTE: If the organization is being paid, then it would be up to the organization to meet the requirements of SB-577)