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The wounds of physical trauma may eventually heal, but the unseen wounds of emotional or psychological trauma can last a lifetime – resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an emotionally disabling condition. Left untreated, they may experience intense bouts of prolonged depression, explode unexpectedly in anger with little provocation or constantly be on edge. A person with PTSD may bounce from job to job, or even remain jobless for years. In extreme cases many end up homeless, without friends or family to support them.
Many forms of bodywork have been found to assist in restoring balance to individuals with PTSD. Various hands-on techniques help to reduce stress and lower the body’s production of cortisol. Cortisol production increases with prolonged stress and affects blood pressure, insulin levels, immune function and the body’s inflammatory response. In individuals with PTSD the result is a constant “on” of the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system.
Someone with PTSD may not be open to certain forms of massage therapy. He or she may be reluctant to take his or her clothes off for Swedish massage for fear of being vulnerable. This is especially true of those who have suffered sexual abuse or domestic violence. For them, the answer may be to start with work that is less intrusive. One such modality is Reiki. Reiki is done with the client fully clothed and can be done seated or lying on a massage table. The practitioner may place his or her hands lightly on the client’s body, or hold them three to five inches away.
Reiki in the Military
The practice of Reiki has even found its way into the military. In July of 2007, Dr. John Fortunato, a Vietnam veteran, clinical psychologist and former Benedictine monk started the Fort Bliss Restoration and Resilience center in Texas. The center, which offers meditation, yoga, massage and Reiki in addition to other holistic healing methods, was praised by both the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (in office 2006 – 2011) as well as Army Chief of Staff General George Casey (in office 2007 – 2011) who has been quoted as saying the program, which treats soldiers returning from deployment and diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), should be replicated throughout the military. The current program is for soldiers who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq, experienced PTSD or other trauma and want to stay in the Army. Statistics indicate that more than 40,000 soldiers who have served in those arenas have been diagnosed with PTSD.
In addition to what the military is doing, other organizations, such as Honor-a-Veteran.org offer Reiki as well as other mind/body services to veterans and their families, usually either for free or for a discounted price. Massage therapists and other practitioners can sign up with this organization to become involved in this program.
Other Forms of Trauma Benefit from Reiki
The body and mind can suffer from other kinds of emotional trauma as well. For example, when a person learns they have a serious disease, or is scheduled for surgery, his or her body and mind may react to the information in such a way as to create a kind of unbalance in his or her energy. Administering Reiki before and after such an event can help to maintain and restore balance. This then allows the body and mind to heal itself through the use of positive energy.
Many hospitals throughout the United States are now using Reiki as an adjunct therapy for their patients because of the benefits – especially pre- and post-surgery.
An individual who has experienced trauma and suffers from PTSD or another form of psychological distress may not actively search out bodywork on his or her own. The person may be encouraged to do so by a family member or close friend. He or she may have received a gift certificate for a massage or heard from a primary care physician or psychologist how massage can help to manage stress – only to discover that he or she feels uncomfortable or vulnerable getting the massage.
The wonderful thing about Reiki is that once trained and attuned, you, as a massage therapist, will have yet another option to offer your client. It is a gentle, non-intrusive powerful form of energy work that has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, which in turn activates the body and mind’s natural healing abilities. If you are trained as a Reiki Master, you can also teach your client to self-administer Reiki, which can go long way in maintaining the work you have already done with them.
Editor’s Note: While Reiki has been shown to be safe it should not be used as a replacement for proven conventional medical care. For serious conditions always seek the help of a licensed physician or other healthcare professional.
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