Reiki teaching: using the right 4MAT

reiki teaching myers briggs 4MAT system

That is not a spelling mistake: I did intend to spell the word ‘format’ in that way! The “4MAT” system is a way of approaching teaching that was created by Bernice McCarthy and proposes that there are four major learning styles, each of which result in a student asking different questions and displaying different strengths during the learning process.

The 4MAT system is based on Myers-Briggs personality typing, which break people down into different categories, for example Introvert and Extrovert.

I am not going to go into detail here about the different categories (you can read up about those for yourself if you’re interested) but beyond Introvert/Extrovert there are three other pairs of categories:

  • Sensor/Intuitor
  • Thinker/Feeler
  • Judger/Perceiver

Myers Briggs uses these labels to create four-letter abbreviations for particular personality types, so someone might be an “INFJ”, an Introvert, Intuitor, Feeler, Judger. Myers Briggs aficionados will know immediately what sort of a person that is!

But let’s get back to teaching and Reiki…

The four 4MAT categories

The 4MAT system describes four different types of learners, all of whom require different things in order to best assimilate information. If your teaching style, the things that you say, the issues or topics that you cover, do not match the needs of a student, they are likely to feel dissatisfied or will not take in the information so well, or they may feel disengaged with the topic.

And the challenge is that, since we all fall into one particular category ourselves, we are likely to naturally emphasise what we need as a learner, when we teach other people. This will be fine for students whose 4MAT category matches our own, but won’t be so helpful to those who have different needs.

So by deliberately and carefully considering the 4MAT categories we can make sure that we routinely satisfy the needs of these four ‘flavours’ of learner,. In doing that, we can make sure that all out students’ learning needs are satisfied, leaving them more engaged and better served by our teachings, and we then make what we provide as a teacher more comprehensive and powerful.

Here are the four types:

The Concrete-Random learner

This learner needs to know “Why?” they are learning a particular thing, why they should be involved in a particular activity. What is the point of all this?

The Abstract-Sequential learner

This learner needs to know “What?” to learn: exactly what do they need to know? They need to see it in black and white; it shouldn’t be vague and wishy-washy. There shouldn’t be unanswered questions.

The Concrete-Sequential learner

This learner wants to know “How?” to apply the information they are being presented with: what do you actually do with this information in practice?

The Abstract-Random learner

This learner wants to answer “What If?” questions about how they can modify what they have learned to make it work for them.

Using 4MAT in practice

You can use the four questions – Why?, What?, How? and What If? to guide you when teaching a course or teaching a particular technique or practice.

If you deal with these four different questions, you make the learning accessible to the four major categories of learners, make what you teach memorable and ensure that you leave no-one behind.

These four questions can be cycled through again and again for each section of your course. Let’s think of an example: say, the teaching of Hatsurei ho (daily energy exercises used in Japanese-style Reiki).

This is how the teaching of it, 4MAT-style, might look like:

Hatsurei ho teaching, 4MAT-style

Why do we do Hatsurei ho? What is the purpose of it and what are our goals in carrying it out?

What do we actually do when we perform Hatsurei ho? What are the stages, what precisely will we do in what order? What do we need to know in order to perform Hatsurei ho effectively?

How do we do Hatsurei ho? This would be a good time to talk your students through the process and talk about when to do Hatsurei ho, how often, and what happens if you miss a day.

Finally, how can you modify Hatsurei ho and use it in different contexts? This is the “What If?” stage: you might talk about separating out Kenyoku and using it for cleansing/clearing prior to starting a Reiki treatment, or in other situations. You might also talk about using just Kenyoku and Joshin Kokkyu ho, a shorter sequence which comes closer to what Usui Sensei was teaching to his students in Japan.

That’s not a bad sequence to keep cycling through, is it?

You can introduce a topic or exercise by explaining why you would want to go through this exercise, you move on to explain in detail exactly what the exercise is, you describe how the exercise is used in practice and then finish by exploring different ways in which the exercise can be used, in different contexts and situations.

So you can see that the 4MAT system provides you with a way of being comprehensive with your teaching of each chunk of your course, while meeting the learning needs of all your students.

Over to you

Why not look at the different things that you teach on your Reiki courses, and see how well your presentations, descriptions and demonstrations meet these four learning criteria.

How could you alter what you say and do to follow the 4MAT system in these examples?

  • Self-treatments
  • Head/shoulder treatments
  • Distant healing
  • Using the Reiki symbols
  • Working intuitively


Need some help with your course materials?

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Photo credit: Tim Pierce


2 thoughts on “Reiki teaching: using the right 4MAT

  1. What a really useful piece of information, is this why so many people are attuned yet they never get to use Reiki, not even on themselves. This 4MAT could be used for teaching any subject. It is time tutors of all subjects got rid of the One Size Fits All methods. Thank you for this information.

    1. Dear Mary, I was pleased to hear that you found this blog post helpful and, yes, the 4MAT approach/system is applicable to all teaching, not just Reiki.

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