On the Boundaries of Medicine and Spirituality

Professionalization and Self-Regulation of Reiki in Sweden


  • Jenny-Ann Brodin Danell Umeå University


Reiki, alternative medicine, complementary medicine, spirituality, professionalization, self-regulation


This article examines professionalization and self-regulation in two Swedish Reiki organizations. The main question is: how do they approach their activities in relations to established (bio-) medicine/science and public health care? With help from qualitative interviews with key actors and a variety of written material, we take a closer look at the goals of the organizations, how they relate to spiritual and medical/scientific claims, and how they work to establish different forms of legitimacy and professional status. The results indicate that both organizations work actively to increase the general legitimacy of Reiki and to establish Reiki as an occupation. However, a key dilemma is how to deal with the different kinds of Reiki practitioners. Most people who attend Reiki training use it as a self-help technique, and have no intention of working professionally. One of the organizations has chosen to focus on the issue of getting Reiki acknowledged in medical settings and by public authorities. This organization has also made the choice to first of all be an organization for those who want to work professionally and who supports research in this area. The other organization has chosen a broader approach as an association for all kinds of Reiki practitioners, as long as they follow general statutes and guidelines. The difference in focus is also evident in other aspects of their work. For example, the first organization has developed a documentation protocol to contribute to scientific knowledge on the effects of Reiki. In general, this organization is focused on the technical or physical aspects of Reiki. The second organization has focused on developing common standards for education in order to secure quality and support a common understanding of Reiki. This second organization has a more pluralistic approach concerning spiritual aspects of the tradition.


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International Journal for the Study of New Religions