About Our Guest- Helene Williams – Bringing Reiki To Hospitals
Helene Williams is a registered nurse, published author and Reiki Teacher/Practitioner. She received her B.S.N. from Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences and is a graduate teacher of the International House of Reiki. Her background in nursing includes oncology, hospice and orthopedic nursing. Helene has over ten years of experience providing Reiki sessions in a hospital setting and has a well-established private practice where she provides sessions and teaches classes. She has presented information on Reiki and holistic health care at two national nursing conferences, participated in a hospital-based Reiki research study, implemented and facilitated a hospital Reiki Volunteer Program and in 2013 established the Lancaster Community Reiki Clinic. She has six years of experience providing Reiki for Caring Hospice Services and actively volunteers at the VA Medical Center in Lebanon, PA. providing Reiki sessions for veterans and staff. Helene’s passion is to provide educational opportunities to health care organizations about the many benefits of Reiki for patients, families and staff.
Full Podcast Transcription
Helene Williams 01:31
There is solid research for Reiki, as an evidence based practice and the areas that Reiki is trending in showing to be effective are exactly those things – chronic pain management, help with stress relief, depression and also practitioner wellbeing, so helping the practitioner because they’re doing their own work. When people come in and they know there’s something else besides asking for a pain med or something for anxiety, it’s empowering to the patient, and that itself triggers the healing process.
Diva Nagula 02:11
Hello everyone and welcome to a another episode of From Doctor to Patient. Today I’m pleased to have Helene Williams with me. She’s a registered nurse, published author and Reiki Teacher/Practitioner. She received her BSN from Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences and is a graduate teacher of the International House of Reiki. Her background in nursing includes oncology, hospice, and orthopedic nursing. Helene has over 10 years of experience providing Reiki sessions in a hospital setting and has a well established private practice where she provides sessions and teaches classes. She’s presented information on Reiki and holistic health care at two national nursing conferences, participated in a hospital-based Reiki resource study, implemented and facilitated a hospital Reiki volunteer program and in 2013, established the Lancaster Community Reiki Clinic. Just six years of experience providing Reiki for Caring Hospice Services and actively volunteers at the VA Medical Center in Lebanon, PA providing Reiki sessions for veterans and staff. Elaine’s passion is to provide educational opportunities to healthcare organizations about the many benefits of Reiki for patients, families and staff. Helene, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you doing?
Helene Williams 03:46
I’m doing great. Thanks so much for having me on the show.
Diva Nagula 03:50
You know, I have always been fascinated about Reiki. And I met when I was in the depths of Western medicine and Western philosophy. And if somebody had approached me about Reiki, I would have just, you know, gave him the I would have probably rolled my eyes and gave them the evil look. And now you know, I’ve so espoused the eastern traditions, and alternative means and holistic means of treating a person that Reiki is just one of those things that’s high on the list for me to like, learn about, and even consider practicing on my clients and patients. So I’d love to find out how you got into it.
Helene Williams 04:30
Oh, well, I wasn’t actively reaching out for it. It was actually funny, the way it happened was that I was working in a hospital and just joined on the team. The manager that I was working for suggested bringing a Reiki Master in to teach those of us who are interested. And so I said, “Sure, I’d love to try that” and I did and little did I know that it would change every thing for me not only in my career, but also in the ability to really help patients on a different level, a much more spiritual level than just passing meds every day as an RN. So from learning Reiki at the hospital, I then went on with my training, I learned the second level Reiki and also the third level, the teacher training, and from there, I just started to use Reiki in an entirely different way than I thought I would just for personal practice.
Diva Nagula 05:35
It’s fascinating. And I really want to get an idea of and I don’t know this myself, where did it come from? What is Reiki? And if we really want to define it in a concise way, can you go over that real quick?
Helene Williams 05:49
Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s a struggle with Reiki practitioners as to how we describe Reiki. But as a Reiki practitioner, I typically describe Reiki as a Japanese healing art, but also a very deep spiritual practice. And that spiritual practice for the practitioner helps us be in a state of mindfulness, practice well being compassion, inner peace. But for the general public. The definition that I like to suggest people look at is actually one from the National Institute of Health. And that means that Reiki is a complimentary health approach, in which practitioners placed their hands lightly on or just above a person with the goal of facilitating the person’s own healing response. And it’s based on an Eastern belief and an energy that supports the body’s innate or natural healing abilities. So that’s a good go to definition because I think the key part of the definition there is that the person taps in to their own healing abilities. And that’s the unique part about Reiki. That we as practitioners don’t manipulate the energy, we only hold that space for the energy to flow. And Reiki began back in Japan and the 1920s. And the man who discovered it, his name was Mikao Usui. And throughout his lifetime, he studied martial arts, and he was very well studied. He was not a medical doctor, which is sometimes a myth in Reiki. But what he did do was, he had a very deep interest in reaching spiritual enlightenment. And in order to do that, he knew that he had to heal his mind. And in order to heal his mind, he went on this spiritual quest of deep meditation retreats, not kind of like we do today of maybe a weekend or a week, but actually years at a time. And it’s after one of these meditation retreats that he reached a state of enlightenment and also found that he had this ability to allow this healing energy to flow through him. And so he began teaching students and he began seeing clients or I’m not sure what they called it in Japan, patients clients, just the general public would come to him for healing.
Diva Nagula 08:15
That’s fantastic. And currently, there are so many different branches of Reiki. And so is there a different name for each branch? Or how is it just basically all terminology or all the same? How would you describe these different facets of Reiki?
Helene Williams 08:36
When Reiki came to the west, it came through Hawaii. And at this time, that by the time it came to Hawaii, this was right before World War Two. And so the person who brought it to the States, her name was Hawayo Takata. And because of World War II, she took out a lot of the Japanese elements of the system because of what was going on in the world at the time. And so that’s how things sort of began to change with the different branches. And it was also an oral tradition that she taught. So nobody really could take notes, or draw things. And so you can imagine how things may have gotten changed just a little bit when it came to the west, and then when it came to California was during the 70s, during the New Age movement, and so people began to bring their own things to the system of Reiki. So that’s why we see different you know, either very traditionally practiced Reiki, which I do, or maybe a Reiki where people use crystals, or singing bowls or things like that. But the important thing to really remember about Reiki is, it’s all the same energy. So whether you practice traditionally or more in a Western tradition, it’s all the same. It’s just in the way that practitioners chose to practice.
Diva Nagula 10:02
And I guess, the foundation of Reiki, as you mentioned, it’s basically healing energy or moving energy. And that is something that is easy to conceptualize, once we understand that, you know, we’re all energy, everything, you know, even all matter has some sort of energy form. And once you conceptualize this and understand this, then it kind of makes sense that we can manipulate to the energy fields. And then that’s kind of like how Reiki is essentially defined, or it’s one of the it’s one of the core tenets of Reiki. So if you don’t have an idea, or they can’t conceptualize that we’re all form of energy, it becomes a kind of a difficult practice to understand and comprehend.
Helene Williams 10:46
Yes, but what makes Reiki different than other healing modalities, like healing touch, or therapeutic touches that the practitioner does not manipulate the energy, they only hold the space for the energy to flow to the person where they need it most. I often describe Reiki as a divine energy of love. And so that energy is used as we need it. I often describe Reiki to doctors in this way, when they can’t grasp the concept. I always say, you know, when you like, get to hug somebody you really love or somebody does something incredibly kind for you. How does that make you feel, and it’s often beyond words. But that’s really the energy of Reiki. When we use that love, our body is able to like relax and receive what it needs, and then work on its own healing process.
Diva Nagula 11:44
From your perspective, when you are practicing Reiki, I guess it’s in the best interest for yourself to perform in a client to receive to really be kind of present, and not have anything that’s distracting you from the moment because it’s all about energy flow. So it’s flowing from you to the client, you can actually have an issue where there’s energy that it’s obstructed, if you’re not clear headed, and clear minded.
Helene Williams 12:11
Absolutely. Reiki really is a practice for the self. So when you learn Reiki, there’s meditations that you learn to help you stay focused and grounded. So important as you go into a Reiki session to have as much of a clear mind as possible. So we have techniques and meditations that we use, we have the Reiki precepts, or some people call them the Reiki principles that we focus on every day and meditate with, we have hands on healing for ourselves. That is such an important part of Reiki practice. So there’s different things that we use to go inward so that we can hold that space for other people.
Diva Nagula 12:54
You were talking previously about Reiki from a traditional perspective. Can you describe more of that?
Helene Williams 13:01
Yes. So Reiki from a traditional perspective, is really about healing yourself as the practitioner, it’s doing your work, it’s exploring, you know, the triggers of anger, and worry and fear, and all the things that we have accumulated in a lifetime. So it’s doing your own personal practice as a practitioner, and then really holding space for others to facilitate their healing process is more of a side effect of the practitioners own work.
Diva Nagula 13:35
I see. And then there are specifically some elements of the traditional perspectives that are prominently known?
Helene Williams 13:42
The traditional elements are a little bit different than the western elements in that we really focus on the meditation practice for the self. And the symbols that are learned in the second level of Reiki. And the mantras, again, are something that are used for the practitioner and not necessarily to use the symbols on the clients, where that’s more of a Western thought.
Diva Nagula 14:09
Well, I see. And how is it used as a self care practice? I know you’re talking about that earlier. You know, I always picture Reiki is the transference from the practitioner to the client? I wasn’t aware of it being used as a self care practice.
Helene Williams 14:27
Yes, yes, really the most important piece is the self care practice. So as the practitioner you learn how to allow this loving flow of energy through you. And so when we sit in meditation, and we do our own hands on self practice, we just allow that energy to flow through us. So there’s traditional hand placements for the self, around the head or the throat around the chest, the upper chest, the abdomen. We also practice hara breathing. So breathing deeply into the hara, which is our grounding center. And so just using very traditional techniques that were widely taught in Japan at the time to in in the time in the 1920s, really focusing on allowing that energy to be generated in the heart so that we can be clear minded and grounded and focused.
Diva Nagula 16:35
Can you take us through how a Reiki session is actually conducted from a practitioner perspective? Now I kind of want to get an understanding and conveyed this to the listeners, because a lot of people are unfamiliar with it. And, you know, I know we’re talking about utilizing your hands and energy field. So can you take us through a process as you were actually going through a client for the first time?
Helene Williams 16:59
Sure, absolutely. I always take time to work with the client, find out why they’ve come for a session, and then have them set an intention for themselves of how they would like to feel after the session. And then also have them hold an intention that the energy of Reiki goes exactly where it’s needed from them because it has a divine intelligence of its own, and it knows what to do. So having the client hold that intention. And having me as a practitioner, hold that intention, then we’re on kind of the same wavelength as we go into the session. And then, as I began, I do a technique that’s called dry bathing which is just really kind of sweeping across my body grounding and focusing technique to be centered. And then I’ll go into Namaste prayer, we call it  position, in Reiki, and just again, holding intention, allowing my hands to go where they’re needed most for the client. And then traditionally, we start at the head with hand placements and move from the head, down the body to the feet. So a traditional Reiki session uses touch, which, again, is just so healing in itself and what everybody’s missing right now, of course, but we use touch, but we can also just hover the hands above the body for people that don’t like touch. Or even I say, in hospital settings, some people, you know, can’t be touched like burn patients, or sometimes people who are receiving chemotherapy don’t like to have their head touched. And that’s why it’s such a great practice in healthcare, because we can just hover the hands above the area, and we just hold the attention of letting that energy flow. And that’s what the session looks like. It’s actually very simple. So we don’t have to worry about manipulating the energy, we just allow the flow.
Diva Nagula 19:09
Got it. And when people come to you to have you perform Reiki on them, what are they looking to achieve? And what are you exactly treating? I mean, is it any issues that are ranged from, you know, psychological disorders to whatever it is that there may be searching? I’m just curious to to the utility of Reiki in a clinical setting.
Helene Williams 19:30
So most of the clients that I see outside of the hospital setting are there for issues like anxiety, stress relief, issues with depression, and pain management. Those are probably the main ones. And sometimes people going through life changes. They may have lost a loved one and they just are having trouble dealing with that. And they just find Reiki very comforting and there is solid research for Reiki, it is an evidence based practice and the areas that Reiki is trending in and showing to be effective are those exactly those things. chronic pain management, help with stress relief, depression, and also practitioner well being so helping the practitioner because they’re doing their own work?
Diva Nagula 20:21
Now, this may be a stupid question. But are there similarities between Reiki and just conventional massage therapy?
Helene Williams 20:31
No, because we don’t manipulate any tissue or anything like that. We only just gently place hands on the body, there’s no, there’s no pressure put on. It’s a very gentle touch. So there’s not really any similarities. I think maybe one similarity would be of course, the presence of the practitioner and the kind of the space they’re holding. But as far as it being manipulative, it’s not. It’s not that.
Diva Nagula 21:00
Got it. And you were saying that there? There’s a lot of research that’s going on? And like, can you specifically talk about any current research in terms of like, of course, right now, in the era of COVID, you know, a lot of people are having some mental health issues. So I’m really curious about the the current research that ties the benefits of Reiki for purposes of anxiety and depression and other mental health illness.
Helene Williams 21:25
Interestingly, one of the best days that’s been done lately has been on total knee replacement patients. But that study also measured not only pain, but anxiety. And so, you know, the research is now of course, as you said, slowed down because a COVID. But there’s more research to be built on those foundations. But a lot of the research, you know, that’s for certain medical conditions, like cesarean sections and knee replacement patients. There’s been several studies done for that population of patients, because there’s also anxiety going into operations. So how that anxiety is measured pre and post-op.
Diva Nagula 22:21
You were talking earlier about how Reiki is used in the hospital setting. And you know, I’ve been in hospitals, training for a long time, and back, then it’s not something that you would see at all. And I’m very pleased to see that there are hospitals and other facilities that are using Reiki. So why are hospitals putting Reiki into their programs now?
Helene Williams 22:44
Well, I think one of the main things right now is because in January of 2018, a joint commission who oversees all hospital organizations came up with new standards for pain management. And it’s a requirement that has hospitals have to have at least one non-opioid modality to bring in to help patients. But I also think that hospitals are understanding now that there’s another level of healing. It’s not just the physical healing, it’s also a spiritual component. Patients are also seeking a lot of these things outside of the hospital setting, and they’re asking for them. The other part is that when people come in, and they know there’s something else besides asking for a pain med, or something for anxiety, and anti-anxiety medication is empowering to the patient. And that itself triggers the healing process.
Diva Nagula 23:46
Yeah, I totally agree. Absolutely. And it’s interesting, because as you’re talking about the utility of Reiki and pain management, that was what I used to practice in my previous life was, I was an interventional pain medicine specialist. And so I would see a lot of patients in the outpatient setting. And I can really see how important the practice of Reiki would have benefit my patients, it would have definitely helped a lot of them with their pain. Now, obviously, anxiety and depression go hand in hand with chronic pain. And so this would have been something really nice. And as you said, it was 2018 just a few years ago, or just started to be something that was more commonplace in the hospital setting. So I am just curious, I mean, from your perspective as a practitioner, is this something that can be refunded or or covered by insurance?
Helene Williams 24:38
Unfortunately, no, not yet. And I think that’s one of the things that is difficult for Reiki because we don’t have any standardization because there’s many, many different ways to do it. It’s actually something a colleague and I were working on that exact project about a year ago before COVID hit to work on some type of national certification for practitioners just wanting to practice in healthcare, so that we could be accredited so that we could get insurance reimbursement so the hospitals could reimburse. So right now, a lot of the Reiki programs in hospitals are volunteer programs, which are great. But again, we can’t use them right now, because most of the volunteer programs have been shut down because of COVID.
Diva Nagula 25:29
Right? Yeah, that’s unfortunate. And, interestingly enough, you were actually providing Reiki sessions for veterans. And, you know, this is a subset of the population that I would imagine that would benefit from this profoundly, because, you know, they typically suffer from mental health disorders, specifically PTSD. And I’m sure, you know, it just works wonders for them.
Helene Williams 25:53
It does. And in fact, you know, I haven’t been able to go into the VA since probably February, I think, but I’m still doing online sessions every week.
Diva Nagula 26:03
Oh, wow. So this can be done online?
Helene Williams 26:05
It can be done from a distance. That’s the other beautiful part of Reiki. When we talk about Reiki, we also talk about the concept of oneness. And so we’re able to connect and allow that energy to flow, even if it’s from a distance. Every Tuesday, I’m online with the with the veterans, and that works with more of a guided meditation, with Reiki and just having them get into a really relaxed space. And it’s been so amazing, that they’ve really found it to be beneficial.
Diva Nagula 26:41
Are you guiding them to place their hands over specific areas as you’re talking to them? Or how does? How does it work when you do it virtually?
Helene Williams 26:51
I do. But since a lot of them have limited range of motion. I just tell them to put their hands on their heart. You know, just be at that heart space?
Diva Nagula 27:04
And is it a guided meditation that you take them through with the practice of Reiki? Okay, I got it.
Helene Williams 27:09
That’s how I’m doing it now. But it took me a while to figure out exactly how I was going to do it. And to find a way that was really beneficial for them. And I think we’re there.
Diva Nagula 27:21
And you’re able to notice that the clients are getting equally effective relief from a virtual session as an in person session.
Helene Williams 27:30
Yes, for sure. Definitely. It always amazes me actually, because I always, when I do my own practice my own clients, I connect with them either on zoom or on the phone, and then we check in after the session and you know, pain is reduced every single time. If not gone.
Diva Nagula 27:52
Wow, gone even?
Helene Williams 27:55
I know. And to me, I’ve been practicing since 2007. And sometimes I’m still amazed how Reiki works. So decreased pain, decreased anxiety, just in a deep state of relaxation, a lot of times people fall asleep. And it’s in that deep relaxation where the body heals itself.
Diva Nagula 28:16
It’s really tapping into that state of mind where a person can get out of that fight or flight response. And that’s really how this facilitates the healing process I’m imagining.
Helene Williams 28:27
Exactly, that’s exactly how it works. Just allowing that relaxation response to kick in. And then the body knows what to do from there.
Diva Nagula 28:37
And it’s really important as a practitioner to really provide a safe setting. And you’ve got to really hold space for that client and make them feel safe.
Helene Williams 28:46
Exactly. And that’s always something that I really emphasize when I teach Reiki is that we have to make the client feel as comfortable as possible. And I always tell my clients that this is their time, we create a safe space. And if at any time they don’t feel that way that we have a very open line of communication.
Diva Nagula 29:10
Yeah, that’s fantastic. And I’m glad you’re able to pivot a little bit because I don’t I can’t imagine that you were doing a lot of virtuals before COVID.
Helene Williams 29:18
No, zero. I don’t even know what Zoom was.
Diva Nagula 29:22
Yeah, know this is probably your livelihood right now?
Helene Williams 29:25
Yes, it is.
Diva Nagula 29:28
We talked a lot about the benefits of Reiki and so are there any, like contraindications or complications that can arise from from practice of Reiki?
Helene Williams 29:39
Well, there’s no contraindications to Reiki for any medical condition. And there are some myths out there that Reiki shouldn’t be used for people with pacemakers or conditions like diabetes, there’s there’s a myth that the pacemaker will stop or your blood sugar will drop. I did Reiki and health care for 11 years, and I never had any Have those experiences happen? So there’s really no concern about that aspect of contraindications, what there is sometimes is when you know the energy gets back into balance, sometimes things are shifted in the body, energetically. And so sometimes people experience maybe a little bit of a runny nose, or maybe a little bit of diarrhea or an upset belly. But all those things are always positive, because that means something in the body shifted in the way your body eliminates things, it has a beautiful system for doing that. So sometimes that can happen, but not every time.
Diva Nagula 30:45
And all those things that you just mentioned are all parasympathetic response. So it really proves that what you’re doing is instigating the parasympathetic response.
Helene Williams 30:53
Diva Nagula 30:55
That’s fascinating. Do you have any? I mean, I don’t know, I know that you do this virtually. But have you put out a series of videos? Or is it something that can be learned and self taught? Because I’m fascinated because I know there’s a lot of people that would benefit from this and don’t know about this in this is so easy, especially when it’s guided from a professional like yourself?
Helene Williams 31:18
Well, I am not teaching classes online, and I’m only providing them online. I really feel like Reiki is a practice that needs to be learned in person. There are people who are teaching online, but that’s not part of my practice. Yeah, I’m not I’m not sure, as far as teaching videos. I’m a true believer in that we all have this energy of Reiki. And one of the things that we learn in Reiki classes and people experience in a Reiki class is something called an attunement. And that’s what makes Reiki different than any other kind of energy healing modality. And it’s really a spiritual blessing from the teacher to the student, hopefully awakening that knowledge that we all have this healing ability within us. So that’s a little bit hard to teach online, and to experience online. But I still think that people can experience the benefits of going through a time of quiet meditation and just allowing their hands to go on their heart and just receive what they need from loving energy.
Diva Nagula 32:31
Perfect. And you were alluding to in the very beginning about the different types of training like level one, level two, what is the difference between each and you know, how does one go from one to the other.
Helene Williams 32:45
So level one is an introduction to Reiki, what it is we go into the history of Reiki and learn how to practice on ourselves, because that’s where it all begins. My classes, I never encourage people to take level one, level two ,and level three, because it takes a long time till you really adjust and practice and are able to hold space for others. So it’s really just doing your practice, working with the Reiki precepts, which are for today only do not anger, do not worry, be grateful, be diligent in your practice, and be compassionate to yourself and others. So we work with all these different elements, the techniques and meditations. And then when you feel really grounded and ready, you go to level two of Reiki. And that’s where you learn the mantras and symbols, three of them, which in traditional Reiki practice, are really just for the practitioner, again, to go deeper inside of themselves. So you’re going deeper inside, you’re increasing your intuition. And you’re also developing more of the concept of non-duality and being able to share Reiki when you’re not sitting next to a person. And then the third level is in western practice, called the Reiki Master Level. But the master term was actually coined in the United States. It wasn’t a word that was used in Japan. I don’t usually use that word very often to describe myself, because I call myself a teacher because I’m always going to be a student and for me to master something is going to take probably my entire lifetime. But that level is about teaching Reiki and again, going deeper into your own personal spiritual journey.
Diva Nagula 34:40
Wonderful, so you’re always continuously learning. It’s not like you you’ve just done a couple of
classes, but it’s a consistent and constant journey that you’re engaged in yourself.
Helene Williams 34:50 Yes
Diva Nagula 34:51
Ah, I see. That’s fantastic. Well, Helene, I really appreciate all this information. And this is such a wonderful topic, but I’ve always been fun. Later on for our listeners, how can they look you up on the internet and where can they find you and learn more about you?
Helene Williams 35:08
I have a website it’s, www.helenewilliamsreiki.com so you can reach me there. I’m also on Facebook and Instagram.
Diva Nagula 35:23
Fantastic. Well, I appreciate the opportunity to having you on as a guest, and I look forward to someday trying one of your your Reiki sessions in person.
Helene Williams 35:31
I’d love that. Thank you again for having me on the show.