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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Clients in crisis

By Claire M. Schwartz

As healers and counselors, we offer support and comfort to those in need. We do this work because we care about others and because we want to be of service! But what about clients in a true crisis? We may be presented with urgent and dire circumstances – and how we respond may save a client’s life.

When I was undergoing Reiki training in an intense and in depth two-year program, we had a day where all of us got to practice doing sessions on friends. We were all in a large room with several massage tables, one for each of us, and our teacher, Margaret Ann Case, walked from table to table observing how we worked with and spoke to clients.

My first client that day was a friend and that went very well. But the second woman who came was not someone I knew personally. A friend had sent her to me, telling her about Reiki and telling me only that, “I think she could really use your help.” Eager to be of service, I made the appointment with her.

I was not prepared for what greeted me when I went to the waiting area to see her. She was clearly exhausted, unkempt, thin and strained to the point of breaking. She had not washed herself recently, she had a vacant stare in her eyes and her left hand shook. Due to her lack of hygiene, a discussion began between my teacher and myself as to whether I should see her or not.

It was clear to me that this woman was in dire need of help – any kind of help - and was hanging on by a thread. I insisted on her being allowed to stay, and not only did I treat her that day, but she became my client for over a year. It turns out she was in the middle of a severe nervous breakdown, in a deep depression, and was right on the edge of giving up all hope.

So here is my question to my fellow practitioners: how prepared are you when a client walks through your door? What if you have to deal with someone:

• suffering from severe depression?
• who is suicidal?
• recovering from surgery?
• in the midst of addiction? in the midst of recovery?
• suffering in a violent relationship?
• who has just lost a parent, spouse or child to illness or an accident?
• who walks in and bursts into tears, but can’t tell you what is wrong?

There are many skills that go into addressing these issues - Here are some ideas to consider:

• Take classes in specific areas and circumstances, such as crisis management, suicide prevention and domestic violence.
• Study grief counseling.
• Study addiction counseling.
• Take classes in a wide variety of specific counseling techniques and practice using them so you have them at your fingertips when they are needed.

These skills are not for marketing purposes, or to put certificates on your wall! They are to ensure that we are supplying only the best in care to all who seek us out.

It is also essential to have a resource directory to give to clients that includes contact information for other counselors and practitioners if there is an issue you think someone else might be better equipped to handle. Chiropractors, acupuncturists, aromatherapists, nutritionists, as well as psychiatrists and doctors in the area, can offer healing that is complementary with Reiki, write prescriptions if necessary, and help you network in the healing community to offer many options to all of your clients.

And what about if there is nothing you can do? I recently have had someone come to my office who is homeless, injured and in deep need of support. He has exhausted all the resources of the county and he is not allowed to leave the county. Can you turn someone to such desperation away? Sometimes the best assistance we can offer is to listen. But I also quickly realized that he needed much more than I could provide. He has since disappeared.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must acknowledge that dealing with this type of client can be very draining. Do you have the training to stay grounded when confronted with these stark realities? As I teach my clients to care for themselves, healers must do so, as well – get any support you need, particularly having dealt with potential suicide or violence, and make sure you have someone more experienced to whom you can turn.

To work in a healing profession is an honor. When you hang out your shingle and it says Healer – Teacher – Counselor – people are going to come to you for help. The wrong response can, even with the best of intentions, send someone over the edge. Let’s make sure we help more than we harm.


Anonymous Ginny Mackles said...

Great article Claire! It is so important as Reiki practitioners that we offer support in our areas of expertise only and refer out as needed. Remembering to Do No Harm is critical!
Ginny Mackles, LMHC, RM

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences, its so appropriate I was looking into a program call spiritual psychotherapy today it seems to come with the territory and yes its important to be aware when its appropriate to give referrals. Excellent article.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful dialog to have in our community as so many practitioners out there may have had only a weekend of 'training'. Training in Reiki doesn't necessarily train one in the myriad nuances of dealing with a diverse population in a truly therapeutic manner. I especially value the ides of having a referral list, not only does this help the client but strengthens the image of Reiki practitioners as grounded members of the wider healthcare team. Great article, and I
am fascinated at the thought of a 2 year Reiki training!

4:49 PM  
Blogger Cymber Quinn said...

As a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) survivor and a Reiki master, I noted that the symptoms you are describing often are associated with PTSD. offers a variety of articles and information about defining and treating PTSD. The web site also has real people who will provide referrals to therapists and doctors who specialize in PTSD in your area. This is how I found the right therapist after 26 years of trying all kinds of healing modalities. Reiki helped me and was part of my path. Now that I have the correct root diagnosis, Reiki will be even more effective.

I was that battered woman. I had PTSD from childhood sexual trauma, and then the resulting life events. Finding helped me find help. Reiki will help it heal.

Cymber Lily Quinn

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Debbie Naillon said...

This was an excellent post. I found the information in your post and the information contained in the responses to be very helpful to me. I am currently taking additional classes to go with my Reiki to help deal with situations such as the one that you told us about.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Kristin Webb said...

It's a very good article. There are a number of Reiki Master Teachers who give 2 year master training. I wonder if we should be calling ourselves "healers" since it is clearly Reiki that is doing the healing.

Kristin Webb

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Kim Fleisher, The Reiki School + Clinic said...

I agree there is a big difference between a lay practice (treating friends and family) and having a professional practice where we offer treatments to the general public. Thanks for highlighting this! I also agree that practitioners treating the general public have an obligation to get specialized training for working with the diverse populations that come through the door, in order to keep themselves and those they serve safe and comfortable, and to maintain scope of practice. I don't think it's helpful, however, to get a degree as a counselor or therapist in order to be a better Reiki Practitioner. The need for specialized training is nearly the opposite, to be able to determine where our scope of practice starts and ends, and not to allow clients to overely on us Reiki Practitioners, thinking they can take the place of any other physical or emotional help they might need. It's a slippery slope to confuse counseling skills, or the skills needed to help someone get out of a domestically violent relationship, with those of a Reiki Practitioner. I've seen so many Reiki practitioners whose open heart and desire to help create a co-dependent relationship with clients where the practitioners can actually cause harm thinking they are helping, or they are the only person who is willing to help. For the sake of our clients, practitioners need to be able to
- identify where their Reiki scope of practice starts and ends
- screen clients to make sure they are not wanting Reiki as a replacement for other kinds of care, and that they have other needed help in place in addition to Reiki treatment
- identify ways to make the client feel safe and comfortable to receive the Reiki session.

4:41 PM  

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