Stead, Maxine, Kirshbaum, Marilyn and McCluskey, Serena (2015) An exploratory study of Reiki experiences in women living with cancer. In: British Psychosocial Oncology Annual Conference, 12 & 13 March 2015, Leeds, UK. (Submitted)

There is limited empirical evidence demonstrating the efficacy of Reiki in cancer care. As the demand for complementary therapies increases, there is a growing need for wider investigation of how Reiki is experienced.

Research aims
The study aimed to explore and document perceptions and experiences of Reiki for women living with cancer in order to inform the development of appropriate outcome measures for a larger intervention study.

An exploratory, qualitative study based on semi-structured interviews of ten participants was conducted. The interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed using Framework Analysis.

Key themes identified were:
• limited understanding of Reiki prior to receiving Reiki
• release of emotional strain during Reiki - feelings of a release of energy, a clearing of the mind from cancer, inner peace/relaxation
• experience of physical sensations during Reiki
• physical, emotional and cognitive improvements after Reiki
• overall positive experience of Reiki.

The physical and psychological impact of Reiki was revealed in this study. Findings suggest that Reiki could be a beneficial tool in the self-management of quality of life issues for women with cancer. Previous Reiki research has used quality of life tools that measure general symptoms and psychosocial issues such as changes in ‘mood’ or ‘anxiety’, but not more complex issues such as release of emotional strain or body sensations such as energy release. Our study demonstrates that future Reiki research should choose assessment methods that allow the more complex psychosocial issues to be measured and reported in more detail.

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