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Monday, November 28, 2011

Hands on Healing under the microscope in the UK - what will it mean for the future of Reiki?

By Heather Alexander
A full experimental trial into hands on healing on patients suffering with bowel disease is underway in a UK hospital. It’s the brain child of Dr Sukhdev Singh, a Gastroenterologist. He put together a team including researchers from the University of Birmingham and supporters from the Holistic Healthcare charity Freshwinds to look into into the effects of Healing Therapy on 200 of his patients. Healing Therapy is not exactly Reiki but the level of credibility of the study means the results could be extremely helpful for the analysis and evaluation of all forms of hands of healing.
“In some people the results have been amazing,” Dr Singh says. He started pushing for the study after working with a hands on healer for 5 years. She volunteered to give 20 minute sessions to his bowel disease patients alongside their regular healthcare treatment. “I’d seen so many people I didn’t have a solution for, they would have abdominal pain, diarrhea, sometimes I wouldn’t even have a diagnoses for them.” Plus he found those he could diagnose, like people with Crohns disease, he might not actually be able to help. “I felt frustrated and was keen to better serve people.” Cue the hands on healer he had met. Dr Singh says he noticed patients symptoms were better even after just one treatment and that made him want to study what was going on in a more in depth way, “I have seen some amazing results, but still want to be scientific and objective so that the results will be credible to a broad range of people.”
The study involves 200 volunteers, all have some form of bowel disease or disorder; Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Inflammatory Bowel Disease which includes Ulcerative Colitis or Crohns. These are conditions where very little can be offered as conventional treatment, only reactive, after the event medications are available. Half will receive 30 minutes of hands on healing per week for 5 weeks, the other half will wait for three months, then they will also receive Healing Therapy. This provides 12 weeks to directly compare the results of those being treated and those not. “We have had pilots before but they don’t really mean enough,” says Tom Kingstone from the Charity Freshwinds, a partner in the bid to get the trial funded.
In the pilot, 180 patients were surveyed after a single 20 minute session of Healing Therapy. Afterwards patients reported feeling more relaxed, less physical discomfort and a general increase in well being. The pilot also revealed a wish that the treatment be more readily available. Tom says, “The results of the pilot were particularly impressive, especially considering the small duration of the therapy received by the patient. However, in order to confirm the effectiveness of Healing Therapy, a high quality clinical trial is required.” This time they will use a set of questionnaires to measure what they call ‘key criteria’ which will include severity of symptoms and quality of life. If the results show enough of a positive impact the trial could be used to argue for Healing Therapy being offered as standard in UK hospitals for people with these illnesses.
Of course some might not accept that the results show us anything about the effectiveness of Reiki as it’s not the focus of the trial but it is difficult to see a huge difference between the two practices. Healing Therapy is taught by the Healing Trust which was founded in 1954 and has 50 healing centers throughout the UK staffed by volunteers. They describe healing as a completely natural process, thought to be the flow of beneficial energy between the healer and the recipient. According to their website “they work with their hands at a short distance or just touching the body” and advise that patients may feel “tingling, heat, coolness or even discomfort coming to the surface to be released as the healing energy works”. However, one of the reasons Healing Therapy was chosen for the trial was because their standardized training program gives a high level of accountability. Practitioners have had a minimum of 2 years training, must pass standard final assessments and adhere to a professional Code of Conduct. This highlights a common problem for Reiki practitioners; how do we rate our service in a way that people can understand and fairly judge when there are so many differing ways of training and practicing?
The trial has been running since July 2010 with the results due in 2012 - they should garner quite alot of interest. It is funded by the UK’s National Lottery fund which is a national grant scheme. When this project was awarded two hundred thousand pounds last year ($320k) it made the UK’s national papers with some angry that public money was being used to research what a minority branded “voodoo”. Dr Singh says there were some negative comments from outside the hospital but he doesn’t really have a strong feeling about them, “I have a scientific background, I studied molecular biology, if I’d heard about laying on of hands I would also have been skeptical.”
Within the hospital (Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, England) people have been mostly supportive of his open minded approach. “My colleagues have got used to me,” he says. Dr Singh’s been making use of mindfulness, yoga and meditation for some time, “I’ve found most people to be really quite welcoming because I am one of them.” He says some therapists borrow language from doctors and use it in a way that they don’t understand which can put people off. “I’ve managed to avoid doing that because I only claim what I can fairly claim.” As well as thorough research trials like the one at his hospital, Dr Singh has taken Reiki levels 1 and 2, has studied Qi Gong and had Qi Gong healing sessions. He says he’s also very interested in mindfulness because he found it was something he can actually participate in which he sees as the most important thing. Wisely he states, “You can talk about all this but in the end these are practical things, you need you own meditation practice, it’s the most grounding thing you can do.”

You can read more about Freshwinds here, and The Healing Trust here.

What are your thoughts about using Reiki for Bowel disease? Do you have experience of Healing Therapy or have you ever come across problems because Reiki training isn't standardized? Let us know here....


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