Everything You've Wanted to Know About Reiki Healing (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Welcome to The Now Age, our tribute to the fascinating and ever-evolving landscape of alternative wellness. From Reiki to plant medicine, we're taking a closer look at how holistic healing can factor into the modern woman's lifestyle—with curiosity and a healthy dose of skepticism.

How Does Reiki Healing Work?
Photo: Courtesy of Kelsey Patel

As someone who is endlessly curious about wellness—and happens to reside in the anything-goes frontier that is Los Angeles—I often find myself treading a line between an open mind and the need for scientific evidence. I've sung the praises of float tanks and sound baths, for example, but recently left a "chromotherapy" treatment feeling rather disgruntled that I had just spent $45 on what turned out to be a rather unremarkable nap.

That said, I also find myself feeling protective over the alternative treatments that I have personally found to be quite effective but lack general acceptance from the scientific community—which isn't necessarily a reflection on the efficacy of those treatments, but it sometimes has to do with a lack of research in the first place due to stigma, their abstract nature, or any number of reasons. For me, Reiki serves as the perfect example: The Japanese energy healing technique has been a source of great catharsis even in the limited experience I have with it, but it tends to raise some eyebrows—especially beyond the margins of L.A.'s famously amenable wellness community.

It all begs the question: As a practitioner, how do you respond to the inevitable skepticism toward your work?

"I would tell them I get it!" says Kelsey Patel, Reiki master, meditation teacher, and yoga instructor, who you might recognize from a few episodes of Vanderpump Rules. "I worked in the United States Senate and for a big fortune 500 company for nearly a decade in total. When I first started to receive Reiki, I was also quite skeptical."

But as she continued her sessions, she says, her opinion began to change. "I never knew what was happening in the sessions, but I did know that I left feeling more relaxed," she recalls. And the abstract nature of it, she says, is kind of the point of it all: Because our minds are uniquely complex, our own take on Reiki is highly individualized by default and can often defy logical explanation. When you think about it in this respect, it's not that different from traditional psychotherapy or meditation—progress isn't always linear, and there's no predicting when the breakthroughs might happen. Above all else, self-scrutiny is key.

And to be clear, the woo-woo connotations of energy healing obscure the fact that there is some science to back up the benefits of Reiki. But we'll get to all that in a second.

Find all the answers to your burning questions about Reiki healing below.