Our rating
 Question mark: This treatment has not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.


The rating system

  • 3 smiliesThese treatments are very useful. They are strongly supported as effective by scientific evidence.
  • 2 smiliesThese treatments are useful. They are supported by scientific evidence as effective, but the evidence is not as strong.
  • 1 smileyThese treatments are promising and may be useful. They have some evidence to support them, but more evidence is needed to be sure they work.
  • No smiley On the available evidence, these treatments do not seem to be effective.
  • Question markThese treatments have not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.
  • Exclamation MarkSafety or other concerns have been raised for the use of these treatments.

What is it?

Reiki is an alternative therapy which was developed in Japan and has origins dating back 2500 years. Reiki is a gentle therapy which involves a practitioner applying light touch on or above certain areas of the body (e.g. the head, torso). A session of reiki usually lasts between 45 to 90 minutes.

How does it work?

Practitioners of reiki believe that reiki works by transferring “life energy” energy from the practitioner to the client. There is no scientific evidence to support this theory or the existence of such a “life energy”. Some scientists think that reiki may be able to provide health benefits by promoting general relaxation. You can read more about relaxation therapy.

Is it effective?

There is very little scientific evidence on reiki for the treatment of depression. The use of reiki to improve mood has been investigated in studies which recruited adults with pain, men with cancer diagnoses and university students. However all these studies had very small sample sizes and problems with their design. There have been no large, well conducted studies looking at the effectiveness of reiki for treating clinical depression. Due to the lack of good quality evidence, at the moment it is not possible to determine if reiki is effective in the treatment of depression.

Are there any disadvantages?

There is some cost associated with a session of reiki, which is not covered by Medicare and generally not covered by private health insurance. There are no known safety concerns with receiving reiki.

Where do you get it?

Reiki practitioners can be found in the yellow pages. Reiki may be offered by natural/alternative health centres. Be aware that the level of qualification and training of reiki practitioners may vary.


Given the lack of evidence on reiki, it cannot be recommended as a treatment for depression.

Key references

  • Joyce J, Herbison GP. Reiki for depression and anxiety. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015(4).
  • Zadro S, Stapleton P. Does Reiki Benefit Mental Health Symptoms Above Placebo? Frontiers in Psychology. 2022; 13:897312-.

Last updated and reviewed: 27 November 2023