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Complimentary Therapies: Meditation, Hypnotherapy & Reiki

Improving the quality of care at the end of life has become a priority for many. By seeking advancements in a range of palliative therapies to meet the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of those at end-of-life, has led to an increasing use of alternative modalities. Three commonly used complimentary therapies within the hospice community are: meditation, hypnotherapy, and reiki.

Meditation, hypnotherapy and reiki are a great source of comfort and support for people in hospice care and/or their caregivers. To gain a better understanding, we will take a look at what each method is defined as, the primary benefits and how it is applied. Let’s begin with meditation.


Meditation is the practice in which an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought or activity – to train attention and awareness with the intention of achieving a clear, calm and stable state of mind.

This concept can often feel intimidating, however, consider thinking about it like exercise: there are countless ways to do both, and whatever method you choose, you will still reap the rewards.

One reward to meditation is the empowerment it offers patients, families and caregivers. It encourages healing of physical and emotional suffering, deepens interpersonal connections builds resilience and explores themes of forgiveness, gratitude, meaning and love.

Mary Scholes, Meditation Coach, Reiki Master, and Certified Hypnotherapist from Burlington, Ontario volunteered for eight years with women diagnosed with breast cancer. She led the women through guided meditations – focused on relieving feelings of pain and fear. She also encouraged them to listen to a guided mediation of their choosing while their chemotherapy treatment was being administered. She was astonished by her findings.

Mary clients reported back to her that they were able to tolerate their chemotherapy better; they were able to approach treatment with a more positive attitude and bring themselves to a peaceful state of mind. By tolerating their treatment better, this also improved their overall mood and increased the amount of rest and sleep.

Mary explains that the thoughts these women carried are energy; by lifting their vibrations through guided meditation, they were able to choose positive feelings instead of fear or doubts.

So, if you are looking for a way to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain while enhancing peace, perception, and well-being – give meditation a try. You won’t be disappointed.


Another complimentary therapy that many are exploring is the use of hypnosis or hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy is a type of mind-body intervention where hypnosis is used to create a state of focused attention allowing your brain to absorb suggestions, and to re-wire certain thoughts or feelings to achieve a goal. Hypnotherapy helps people to break addictions, manage mental-illness and cope with severe pain or chronic illness.

Mary shared that it can be difficult to make changes on our own without the intervention of hypnosis because our brains need to be in a theta state to accept new thought patterns. The theta state is where our brain goes when we are in a meditative state – you have entered a state of focused attention, deep relaxation and a curiously detached parallel awareness. You are now setting aside your conscious brain and diving into the subconscious level of the mind, the state where people are the most suggestible to change and transformation. For Mary’s clients, the changes action gradually, with three to five sessions typically needed for the client’s goal to be achieved.

Hypnotherapy is performed by a trained practitioner, who uses verbal cues to create mental images. For those at end-of-life, the hypnotherapist may offer to teach self-hypnosis to empower the client to participate in their own treatment and grant them the freedom and independence to enter a state of calm and relaxation when needed.

The benefit of hypnosis with serious illness or with end-of-life issues or concerns is vast. It can allow clients to feel more connected to others, reduce pain or discomfort, lower excess anxiety, improve sleep, encourage finishing personal affairs, assist with acceptance of dependence on others, create a safe space for sharing feelings of fear, guilt, or other emotions, and gently explore the intimate thoughts of the unknown.

If you are struggling with negative thoughts, anxieties or looking for healthier coping habits – try the power of hypnosis.


Reiki (ray-key) is the Japanese word meaning universal life force energy. Sounds power, right? That’s because it is.

Reiki is a form of energy healing where a practitioner uses their hands, either through palm healing or hands-on healing, where they transfer energy from the client to encourage emotional or physical healing. This treatment supports the whole person physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Mary uses reiki to not only relieve stress, but it also is an excellent energizer and provides healing on all levels. It relaxes muscles, stills the mind, lowers blood pressure, and eases pain. Reiki calms anxiety and supports a sense of peace. So, how it is done? Mary explains that it is important to ask the client whether they would like palm healing (a practice with no direct contact), or hands-on healing (a practice with skin-to-skin contact). Some people crave physical touch, where others don’t – but everyone should have access to the healing of reiki. Once the technique is established, the client will lie down, fully clothed, while the practitioner uses various hand positions across the body. The client will usually feel warmth or a light tingling sensation. This is no manipulation of tissues. The practitioner is trained to be attentive to the physiological and energetic state of the body, using this awareness as their guide for the path over the body. This training tells them when to linger over particular spots to release stagnant energy and when to move on.

If you suffer from chronic pain, or are looking to full-body relaxation, reiki may be a great option. The flow of your energy will move more freely. It will unblock stagnant energy, aligning the body, mind, and spirit to promote optimal harmony and well-being.

--- Madeleine Allman is an HHA Death Doula Candidate. She is an emotional support volunteer for palliative individuals, where she began her journey in the end-of-life sector. She currently works in the communications industry for a not-for-profit. She hopes to transfer her knowledge and skills in advocacy and awareness to help those in palliative care, their caregivers, and the organizations that support them.

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