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The Healer's Ethics

Anna Parkins, Reiki Master Teacher

Any healer worth his or her salt knows about ethics. Ethics are addressed in the different levels of Reiki training. Ethics are addressed by my energy medicine teacher. Ethics are addressed in my dowsing classes. And ethics are mentioned quite often by my massage therapy instructors. According to Susan Salvo, one of my required and becoming more-familiar-by-the-day authors, a code of ethics is a set of guiding moral principles that governs one’s course of action. Codes of ethics are conduct guidelines. (1) Salvo also suggests a professional code of ethics may not be very different from one’s personal code of ethics. As far as the practice of massage therapy, this includes principles for therapeutic relationships, professional behavior, business policies, and even guidance in decision-making. Qualities such as honesty, integrity, sincerity and respect have the distinction of being at the top of the list. In fact, any professional whether in the healthcare, legal, or business arena may have standard principles or guidelines propounded by their respective associations or affiliated governing bodies. But what if you are not a professional (making money and having a relationship with Uncle Sam) what ethics apply then? What if you have just received your first Reiki certificate, what is your ethical responsibility to others?

In the first Reiki class we learn about two or even three ethics. First of all, we must have permission by the other person that they wish to receive Reiki. Permission is paramount. Gray areas exist if the individual is in a coma or incapable of giving permission such as the case of a young child. Diane Stein writes, “Send the healing with the clear intent that it be accepted by free will only. Add that if the person refuses the energy, it can go instead toward healing the Earth or to someone else who needs it.” (2)  In his book ‘Beginner’s Guide to Reiki’ David Vennells states that Reiki always works for the greatest good. (3)  As part of his intention before sending Reiki, he uses a dedication which may include a statement such as “May Reiki work for the greatest good in this situation” or “May this positive energy be fully dedicated for the greatest good of all” or “May every living being benefit from this positive energy.” Another scenario might be someone who consciously or subconsciously blocks Reiki. Whether or not you are aware of this, you may want to include a proviso that the energy be used for the greatest good and healing of the Earth. I am sometimes asked what do you do when you do not have permission, it has not been given on the physical level. Diane Stein discusses this in her book Essential Reiki (page 68). She suggests asking “on the astral” of your visualization or in a meditative state. I believe that you can ask in your mind and receive an answer, perhaps visually or audibly. After stating that the energy may be used for the healing of the Earth or to someone else who needs it, Stein continues, “To force unwanted healing on anyone is totally against healers’ ethics.” (4)  Use your time and talents wisely.

Confidentiality is the next ethic, just as important as permission. Confidentiality within the practice of Reiki includes Reiki sessions, classes, attunements, healing circles or group shares. This is not just a matter of sharing personal information, it also has to do with respecting others. We do not break confidentiality on any treatment session or experience, positive or negative. Should we divulge information, then our reputation is damaged, people will not have our trust, clients will not feel safe. Make confidentiality a number one priority.

The ethics of touch is next and could be sub-headed under permission. We assume that if we have permission from the recipient that we also have permission to physically touch the person. John Tompkins says, “Never insist upon the touch aspect or push it on someone who does not feel ready or comfortable with it.” (5)  In some Reiki shares, the practitioner may ask the receiver if they may touch them, if they may touch their bare skin or face. For the new Reiki practitioner, it may be appropriate to curb enthusiasm before you go out into the world and touch everyone or everything in sight!

There are more ethics when you reach Reiki level two. They are non-manipulation and receiving permission for distance healing. Keeping symbols private is another ethic that I ask my students to observe. Even though the Reiki symbols are readily accessible in books and on the internet, through respect for my teachers I request that the symbols be honored as private. Using symbols responsibly, not against another’s free will, is another request.

Again quoting from Diane Stein, she emphasizes ethics in Reiki, as it is the first conscious use of a highly expanded energy. When talking about non-healing uses and manifesting….It is not ethical to manipulate anyone in any way. When manifesting, put yourself in the picture, but others only by permission. Bring abundance into one’s life is very ethical – some people may not know that – but taking abundance from someone else so you can have it is not. (6)

One more ethic that John Tompkins explores is complementary medicine. There may be other routes to healing besides Reiki or another modality that may be effective. Tompkins says we do a grave injustice to our clients if we do not recommend a holistic approach to their challenges. (7)  Looking at the body, mind and spirit connection may not be a part of your healing vocabulary. However, as part of your own practice, you may want to embrace this idea and stretch your boundaries.

When it comes to sharing or exchanging healing services, you may find yourself in a dilemma. Bartering may cause you further cause for concern. There are no hard and fast rules, but the professionals amongst us have looked at this question, have examined our practices and principles and make ethical decisions.

Ethical behaviors such as not practicing when you are tired or ill, not diagnosing or giving medical advice, not imposing your beliefs, etc. seem to be common sense ideas and are not necessarily mentioned in classes. Being the best that you can be is all that can be asked of you. As alluded to previously, there are no written rules and regulations when it comes to the healer’s ethics. The ethics for a Reiki practitioner are clear. The ethics and boundaries for a licensed massage therapist are very clear. Let honesty, integrity and confidentiality be foremost on your own list of ethics and may you be guided to follow the highest principles as you touch the lives of others in miraculous ways.



1 Massage Therapy: Principles and Practice, Susan G. Salvo, p.22.

2 Essential Reiki, Diane Stein, p.68.

3 Beginner’s Guide to Reiki, David Vennells, p.71.

4 Essential Reiki, Diane Stein, p.68.

5 Mastering Reiki, John Tompkins, p.82.

6 Essential Reiki Diane Stein, p.125.

7 Mastering Reiki, John Tompkins, p.87.