Reiki and Spiritual Healing: They’re Not the Same

To the casual onlooker, Reiki healing would appear to be much the same as Spiritual Healing, where energy is channelled from a higher source, through your hands, into the recipient. But there are some major differences, and that is what I want to describe here. Spiritual Healing and Reiki are not the same. In the end I see all forms of energy healing as working with the same sort of stuff, so the differences are in how you connect to the energy and what you do with it when you’re connected. I am in no way an expert on spiritual healing in all its forms, but from my point of view the differences between spiritual healing and Reiki are as follows:

  • Origins
  • Ways of connecting to the energy
  • Beliefs
  • Ways of treating
  • Self-treatments
  • The use of Symbols


Spiritual healing grew up through Victorian Spiritualist Churches, with their table-thumping séances, and has thus had a sort of Christian origin which has continued to a greater or a lesser degree. Reiki is Japanese and has more in common with Tai Chi, QiGong, Shiatsu and Acupuncture, Mystical Buddhism, Shintoism etc. Having said that, the NFSH (National Federation of Spiritual Healers) in the UK is non-denominational, but I see the *origins* of spiritual healing as being connected to Christianity, and spiritual healing is offered at some churches.

Ways of connecting to the energy

Spiritual healers learn through practice to connect to and draw down the energy. Reiki practitioners go through a ‘connection ritual’ that gives them a strong and consistent connection to the source right from day one, which I imagine seems to be a nonsense for spiritual healers, who have to work hard and long to do this.

Though some spiritual healers would see themselves as ‘attuning’ to the energy just before they treat someone, the word ‘attunement’ has a special meaning within Reiki, and does not refer to an individual’s ‘preparation to give a treatment’. ‘Attunement’ within Reiki is a special connection ritual that is carried out on a Reiki student when they attend a Reiki course. The attunements have their origins in mystical Buddhism.

Once ‘attuned’ on a Reiki course, the Reiki student is able to channel chi strongly from day 1. It seems to give a strong consistent connection to the source, according to spiritual healers to whom I have taught Reiki. Students can then carry out daily energy exercises (similar to QiGong exercises) to help make them a stronger channel for the energy.


Spiritual healers believe that they can be vulnerable to astral plane entities when they open themselves to the energy, so they take steps to protect themselves by visualising bubbles of light around them, and close themselves down – closing down their chakras – at the end of a treatment session. I have heard of some spiritual healers having someone on hand ‘to stand guard’ as they treat. Reiki people do not have such beliefs, they do not generally take those steps, and the energy seems to be inherently protective.

If you believe that you need to protect yourself then your underlying belief is that you are vulnerable, and that becomes your reality. It you believe that you are safe then you are too!

Protection is also seen as needed to prevent a practitioner from ‘picking up’ problems from the person they are working on. I have met people – particularly hands-on therapists (reflexology, aromatherapy etc.) – who have experienced this problem. Reiki however seems to prevent this from happening. I have taught many therapists who found that attunement to Reiki both prevented them from ‘picking up things’ from their clients, but also stopped them from feeling ‘drained’ at the end of a session. Reiki seems to have the ‘protection’ built in, without having to do anything to achieve this.

That’s not to say that some Reiki people aren’t taught to protect themselves, and visualise protective bubbles etc., but this is usually something that is passed on by Reiki teachers who started out in spiritual healing. They have brought their ‘spiritual healing’ beliefs with them, and applied those rules to the practice of Reiki.

Ways of treating

Spiritual healers tend to treat people seated in a chair, and work in the aura. Reiki people tend to treat people who are lying down on a treatment couch and tend to use a hands-on rather than a hands-off approach.


There seems to be more of an emphasis on self-treating within Reiki, an essential part of the system. I don’t get the impression that this is the same with all spiritual healing.

The use of Symbols

In the way that Reiki is taught and practiced in the West, symbols are an integral part of the system, used both in the connection rituals (‘attunements’), and used when treating others. The symbols give the Reiki practitioner more conscious control of the energy they are working with, though ideally the symbols should be used intuitively rather than being imposed in a calculated academic fashion. Spiritual healing does not use symbols.

Now the above are generalisations, and I am sure that there are many, many spiritual healers out there who will disagree with what I have just said, but as I understand it, those are the main differences between spiritual healing and Reiki. To read an article written by a spiritual healer who ended up as a Reiki teacher, go here: From Spiritual Healing to Reiki by Christine Burns.


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