NewYork-Presbyterian: Healing energy of Reiki, mind/body connection

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The natural state of the mind-body connection is one of harmony and unity. When that balance is disrupted, illness can ensue. The science of Mind-Body Bridging (a branch of mind-body medicine) seeks to restore a smoothly functioning connection. It is based on the principle that one can learn to use one’s thoughts to positively influence some of the body’s physical responses, thereby decreasing stress.

Aviva Fisher, RNC MS CADC, Patient Care Director at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital  Westchester Division in White Plains states, “The majority of our patients come in physically, mentally and spirituality depleted and need assistance in reconnecting to their body, mind and spirit. They need guidance to understand this concept as it relates to their wellness, so they can manage their illness and its symptoms in a much more therapeutic manner, especially in recovery from addiction.”

The mind, body, and spirit all operate independently and are unique for each individual. This is an essential component to the principles of Reiki — a modality offered by specially trained nurses and psychosocial rehabilitation therapists. “It is not necessarily a religion but, rather, a spiritual practice,” says Ms. Fisher.

Reiki is a holistic Japanese technique for stress reduction, relaxation and spiritual healing. Defined, Rei means higher knowledge or spiritual consciousness, and Ki means life energy. Reiki, as a whole, is spiritually guided life energy. People are susceptible to illness when there is a restriction in the flow of energy and Reiki seeks to restore it.

Catherine McQuade, MS, a Rehabilitation Specialist at New-York Presbyterian’s Addiction Recovery Unit, explained that “Many of our patients come into the hospital with a history of medical problems. They are malnourished, fearful, hopeless, and can be in severe physical, spiritual and mental pain.” She notes that Reiki has proven helpful in dealing with these issues for each patient in their own way. “It can be a meditative, spiritual experience; patients may experience warm feelings, they may become tearful during the process, they may feel more secure and peaceful, or they may even fall asleep.” The end result is that the majority of patients feel calmer, with a decrease in their level of pain or anxiety, and with improved mood and sleep. Ms. McQuade notes that none of the patients report negative reactions.

The goal of Reiki is to quiet the mind, and it is often used in conjunction with music, aromatherapy, deep breathing, movement therapy, pet therapy, and complementary relaxation techniques. All of these modalities do not conflict with other psychiatric or medical medications. “Our goal on the Addiction Unit,” states Catherine McQuade, “is to provide patients with alternative coping strategies for early recovery in order to reduce anxiety, decrease pain, promote sleep and reduce cravings for drugs and alcohol.

How Reiki is performed

Patients can choose how their Reiki session is administered—hands on, light touch or hands off, or hands just above the patient’s body. It can be given sitting in a chair or lying on a massage table. Patients are fully clothed and sessions are typically offered for various durations, individualized to what the patient can tolerate. Ms. Fisher states, “Our Reiki program takes a patient-centered approach. Patients partner with their treatment team to develop a wellness plan that can be used when they are discharged. We meet the patients where they are in their recovery, providing them with the tools they need to be successful.”

Anyone can be treated with Reiki.  No prescriptions are necessary, it will not interfere with medications and there are no side effects.  Reiki can even be used to treat oneself, with specific Self Reiki hand positions. Ms. McQuade and Ms. Fisher, both certified Reiki I and Reiki II practitioners, also use this therapy for their own benefit.  Says Ms. McQuade, “When I use Reiki, aromatherapy, meditation or other relaxation techniques on myself, it enhances my ability as a clinician to provide the best care for my patients—and it works.”

Adds Ms. Fisher, “Patients express their gratitude and satisfaction with being offered alternatives that they can utilize at any time.”

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s Psychiatry Program has been ranked #1 in New York by U.S. News & World Report and has been recognized by the Planetree organization as a leader in patient-centric care.  For more information on our services please visit or call 877-NYP-WELL to find a physician.

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