Doing Reiki Professionally In California: Legal issues
In the state of California, there are two laws that affect Reiki practitioners. Even if you do not live in California, you may find the discussion helpful.
If you are just using Reiki to improve your own life, and work on family and friends there is no issue. However if you are trying to make Reiki into a legitimate licensed business, these are things you should be aware of:
A Minister is not Enough
Many Reiki teachers mistake a minister accreditation through an organization like the Universal Life Church as sufficient. Full details on why this may not be a good idea can be found in William Rand's article on keep Reiki free on Reiki.org. This article also describes why the Universal Life Church, ULC.org, issues a concern over this misinformation.
What laws apply?
Two sets of laws affect the professional practice of Reiki in California: business laws and massage laws.
First are the laws governing medicine, passed as SB57 some years ago to become part of the California business and professions code.This law makes it legal to do alternative healing in the state of California without being accused of practicing medicine without a license. There are requirements, most notably that you have to have a client information form. All of this is described in the next headlined section.
The other law to be aware of is your city or county's definition of massage, which revolves around whether Reiki touch is massage. I include sample laws from some cities, and how to find the municipal law for yourself.
Can I use this Information?
I am not a lawyer. You may wish to seek your own legal advice, but this represents my best understanding of the law.
Practitioners of Reiki and other healing arts that wish to use this material are welcome to do so. As a courtesy though, I would like my name and website connected to it.
Business Law in California that Relates to Reiki
California Law : Sections 2053.5 and 2053.6 of the California Business and Professions Code
The law included belowwas current as of late 2013. early 2014. To see current law, go to http://www.leginfo.ca.gov [external link]
Section 2053.5 - My Notes
ReikiMastery Note: This section 2053.5 covers what is illegal for alternative health practitioners, and was included in the law as a way to make it legal to practice in California. Reiki fractionates clearly do not conduct surgery, do X-rays, nor administer prescription drugs. We do not set fractures, or use electrotherapy, nor advertise we are physicians or surgeons.
The law also states alternative practitioners must not diagnose mental nor physician condition, nor interfere in the treatment of a licensed health care professional in way that could cause or create risk of great bodily harm. This is very commonsensical, and is part of the International Center for Reiki Training's materials, and code of ethics.
Section 2053.5 - Actual Text
2053.5. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person who complies with the requirements of Section 2053.6 shall not be in violation of Section 2051 or 2052 unless that person does any of the following:
(1) Conducts surgery or any other procedure on another person that punctures the skin or harmfully invades the body.
(2) Administers or prescribes X-ray radiation to another person.
(3) Prescribes or administers legend drugs or controlled substances to another person.
(4) Recommends the discontinuance of legend drugs or controlled substances prescribed by an appropriately licensed practitioner.
(5) Willfully diagnoses and treats a physical or mental condition of any person under circumstances or conditions that cause or create a risk of great bodily harm, serious physical or mental illness, or death.
(6) Sets fractures.
(7) Treats lacerations or abrasions through electrotherapy.
(8) Holds out, states, indicates, advertises, or implies to a client or prospective client that he or she is a physician, a surgeon, or a physician and surgeon.
(b) A person who advertises any services that are not unlawful
under Section 2051 or 2052 pursuant to subdivision (a) shall disclose
in the advertisement that he or she is not licensed by the state as
a healing arts practitioner.
Section 2053.6 - My notes
The section below describes what must be included in the client information form given to clients of Reiki or any other type of alternative healing not otherwise covered bystate law. (Ie: affects Reiki, supplement providers, but not chiropractors because they are state licensed.)The phrase below"Healing arts sevices licensed by the state means traditional medical care, or things like chiropractic and accupunctunture which are state licensed." In (2), it is lettered oddly so looks like is ordered (b, a, c) but that is how the original text reads.
Section 2053.6 - Actual Text
2053.6. (a) A person who provides services pursuant to Section
2053.5 that are not unlawful under Section 2051 or 2052 shall, prior to providing those services, do the following:
(1) Disclose to the client in a written statement using plain language the following information:
(A) That he or she is not a licensed physician.
(B) That the treatment is alternative or complementary to healing arts services licensed by the state.
(C) That the services to be provided are not licensed by the state.
(D) The nature of the services to be provided.
(E) The theory of treatment upon which the services are based.
(F) His or her educational, training, experience, and other qualifications regarding the services to be provided.
(2) Obtain a written acknowledgment from the client stating that he or she has been provided with the information described in paragraph (1).
The client shall be provided with a copy of the written acknowledgement, which shall be maintained by the person providing the service for three years.
(b) The information required by subdivision (a) shall be provided in a language that the client understands.
(c) Nothing in this section or in Section 2053.5 shall be construed to do the following:
(1) Affect the scope of practice of licensed physicians and surgeons.
(2) Limit the right of any person to seek relief for negligence or any other civil remedy against a person providing services subject to the requirements of this section.
Section 2051 & 2052- My notes and link to actual law
Sections 2051 and 2052 below are alluded to above [2053.5] so I have included them here:
By following the laws above, we are not in violation of 2051 nor 2052, which relate to who is a physician. They are not really relevant here, except for completeness. So instead of including the whole actual law, I include just 2051, and enough of 2052 to get a feel for it. You can follow this external link to leginfo.ca.gov to read it in completion if you choose.
2051. The physician's and surgeon's certificate authorizes the holder to use drugs or devices in or upon human beings and to sever or penetrate the tissues of human beings and to use any and all other methods in the treatment of diseases, injuries, deformities, and other physical and mental conditions.
2052. Excerpt only ... any person who practices or attempts to practice, or who advertises or holds himself or herself out as practicing, any system or mode of treating the sick or
afflicted in this state, or who diagnoses, treats, operates for, or prescribes for any ailment, blemish, deformity, disease, disfigurement, disorder, injury, or other physical or mental
condition of any person, without having at the time of so doing a valid, un revoked, or un suspended certificate ...
My California Client Information: Form and Waiver, based on Law
Below is the version Ii use. You would have to modify it to include your own qualifications.
California Client Information Form & Waiver
Version Jan 1, 2003
Welcome to Reiki! The purpose of this form is to give you some basic information on Reiki to take home.
What Reiki is
Reiki is a form of complementary medicine, which enhances the body's ability to heal itself.
What Reiki is *not*
Your practitioner is not a licensed physician. Reiki is a complement to "healing arts services licensed by the state", ie, it is a complement to more traditional western medicine provided by doctors, nurses, and hospitals. As a complementary or alternative medicine, Reiki does not require licensing by the state.
Nature of the Services Provided
Reiki Sessions: The client lies down fully clothed. The practitioner(s) place their hands on or above the body and allow the Reiki to radiate from the hands.
Theory of Treatment
Stress, trauma and illness restrict the natural flow of "ki" (life force energy through the body). By restoring ki to the body, Reiki rejuvenates the bodies ability to relax and de-stress, and support its ability to heal itself.
In addition to the practitioner radiating the Reiki energy through their hands, sessions may involve the practitioners sweeping their hands above the body in various ways, or incorporating breath or vocal tones to break up energy blocks.
Jessica Miller's Qualifications
Jessica Miller has been practicing Reiki since 1992, and teaching Reiki since 1993. She is a senior licensed teacher for the International Center for Reiki Training. She graduated from the center's licensing program in 1995, having taken (and reviewed) all levels of Reiki Training and Karuna. She continues to study under various other Reiki Masters.
Client Acknowledgment (Will be kept on file for 3 years)
I have been provided with a copy of the above document, in accordance with California state law SB 577:
Client Name: _______________________Date: ____________
Legalities of Reiki not being Massage in California
The rules governing Reiki not being massage used to vary by city and county in California, but a couple years ago, a state law was adopted for massage therapists that individual cities could follow or not. There is also a huge amount of variability in how individual towns interpret their own laws.
The state law about massage does not specify anything that sounds like Reiki. To read the law for yourself see this external link to leginfo.ca.gov
The biggest distinction between Reiki and massage legally, is massage is typcially described as including presure, and that Reiki does not require pressure, and in many cases it is done without touch. If a city defines massage as touch Reiki could be argued to be a form of massage by that definition. If the city defines massage as pressure, stroking etc., Reiki is clearly not massage.
How to look up your Laws in Your area of California
Cities will typically not have any ordinances written about Reiki. The area of law most Reiki practitioners should look for is that cities definition of massage As long as the city defines massage as pressure, stroking etc, it is clear that Reiki is not massage, and that therefore, they do not need to have a massage license. (If the practitioner is already a licensed massage therapist, licensed nurse, etc. this law does not apply.)
The legal world of your city or county probably does not know or care what Reiki is, but they don't want to have to make a new law just for you.
I am indebted to one of my students, Emma R. for walking me through how to do this research.
1) Go to the website for your city. (If you don't find what we are looking for, try going to the county website.) Alternatively you may find it with the name of your city, your state, and words "massage code".
2) Most cities now have their municipal code online. Open it.
3) Look under Professional, Business, or Business license.
4) Look for information pertaining to massage, and see how it is defined. Since Reiki is traditionally done as light touch, without manipulating, stroking or tapping the body, it may or may not be covered under the definition.
5) Also, while it is important to know the definition when going in for a license, be aware that there may be differences in interpretation. Some may interpret the statute more or less strictly than the actual words. Be polite, and be patient.
6) If your city law defines massage as touch, you may still offer a 'touchless Reiki"
Some definitions of massage in different California city legal codes
Los Angeles County [external link] applies to unincorporated areas of the county.
"Massage" and "massage services" mean and shall include any method of pressure on or friction against, or stroking, kneading, rubbing, tapping, pounding, manipulation, or stimulating the external parts of the body, with or without the aid of any mechanical or electrical apparatus or appliances, with or without supplementary aids such as rubbing alcohol, liniments, antiseptics, oils, powder, creams, lotions, ointments, or other similar preparations.
Pacific Grove [external link]
The terms “massage,” “massage therapy,” and “bodywork” are used in this chapter interchangeably and shall mean the application of touch to the human body using a variety of techniques which may include any method of pressure or friction, stroking, kneading, rubbing, tapping, stretching, pounding, vibrating, or stimulating the external surfaces of the body with hands or with any object or appliance. [Ord. 10-010 § 2, 2010].
San Carlos [external link]
J. “Massage,” “massage therapy,” or “body work” means and refers to any method of treating the external parts of the body for remedial, health, or hygienic purposes for any form of compensation by means of pressure on or friction against, or stroking, kneading, rubbing, tapping, pounding, or stimulating the external parts of the body, with or without the aid of any mechanical or electrical apparatus or appliances; or with or without supplementary aids, such as rubbing alcohol, liniments, antiseptics, oils, powders, creams, lotions, ointments, or other similar preparations commonly used in this practice; or by baths, including but not limited to Turkish, Russian, Swedish, Japanese, vapor, shower, electric tub, sponge, mineral, fomentation, or any other type of bath.
Santa Clarita [external link]
"Massage” or “massage therapy” means the application of various techniques to the muscular structure and soft tissues of the human body, including, but not limited to, any method of pressure or friction against, stroking, kneading, rubbing, tapping, compressing, pounding, vibrating, rocking or stimulating of external surfaces of the body with hands or the aid of any apparatus or other appliances or devices, with or without supplementary aids such as rubbing alcohol, liniment, antiseptic, oil, powder, cream, lotion, ointment, or other similar preparations for any consideration or compensation.
Glendale, CA [external link]
"Massage" means any method of treating the human body's external parts for relaxation, restoring or enhancing an individual's well-being, or another remedial or hygienic purpose that is offered, provided, given, or performed:
By rubbing, stroking, kneading, pounding, tapping, vibrating, stimulating, or using pressure on or friction against, the body's exterior;
With or without the aid of any one (1) or more of the following:
Another individual's hand, foot, elbow, or body part;
An instrument, tool, appliance, or device that mimics or enhances the action of the hand;
Water, rubbing alcohol, liniment, antiseptic, oil, lubricant, salt scrub, powder, cream, lotion, ointment, or another topical preparation; or
Heat or cold, including a bath, shower, steam or vapor room, dry heat room, heal lamp, tanning lamp, fomentation, or similar treatment; and
For compensation, hire, gratuity, reward, or any form of consideration.
Sunnyvale, CA [external link]
(i) “Massage” means any method of treating the external parts of the body for remedial, health or hygienic purposes by means of pressure on, or friction against, or stroking, kneading, rubbing, tapping, pounding, vibrating or stimulating the external parts of the human body with the hands or any other part of the body or with the aid of any mechanical or electrical apparatus, or other appliances or devices, with or without such supplementary aids as rubbing alcohol, liniment, antiseptic, oil, powder, cream, lotion, ointment or other similar preparations, or by baths, including, but not limited to, aroma therapy, vapor, shower, electric tub, sponge, hot towels, mineral fermentation, sauna, steam or any other type of bath.
"Reiki is not Massage"
Look up the phrase "Reiki is not Massage" on Google and print out an article or two. Highlight "Reiki is not massage" and bring article with you when going to get your license.