Since the launch of my Practitioner Diploma program I have had a few emails asking me what the difference is between these pathways.
The traditional pathway in Reiki is Reiki 1, Reiki 2, Reiki 3 and finally Master teacher training. This is because Reiki is essentially a self-healing modality so first you learn to do it on yourself and as you practice you may begin to develop an urge to pass on this gift to others. Essentially this traditional pathway is all about you, your personal growth, your inner enlightenment. At each step you learn about yourself, and you develop skills with Reiki to deepen more and more. I talk about each step and the potential to deepen in great detail in my book, Reiki - A Path to Freedom. Reiki is truly a unique opportunity to enlighten to your true nature.
If you are interested in spiritual and personal growth, this is the pathway I would recommend. Being able to work with all the symbols, to attune yourself and others to Reiki is a great gift - not only to yourself, but to the planet. The more of us enlightened to our truth and treading on this earth authentically, the better. This pathway is long - it will take a few years to complete because it is one of deep introspection and growth. I would say the longer and deeper you go, the more you will get out of the training.
If you are interested in teaching Reiki you need to follow this pathway as it trains you to be a Reiki teacher (the term Reiki Master is used for teachers). Currently there is no international certification or international governing/association recognised certification process (nothing like the Yoga RYT200 or life coaching ICF). Each Reiki teacher produces their own certifications. Different country Reiki Associations publish certain guidelines or requirements but this is very much country by country. For example the UK is probably the most organised in this field, I have written more about their process here. In Singapore such Association organisation is very much in its infancy with TURA (The Usui Reiki Association) leading the way, but there is no government regulation. Even in the UK, if you want to teach Reiki all you need is a Reiki Master certificate from your Reiki teacher to say you have completed the course, this obviously varies vastly from school to school. Personally I would assume we will go towards more regulation in future so its always wise to choose courses that are already in line with Reiki Associations. All our Reiki 1,2,3, Master courses are registered with both TURA Singapore and the UK Reiki Federation.
If you are interesting in becoming a Reiki therapist, the Practitioner diploma route is one of professional development - for those interested in working in the Complementary therapy field. In the UK this is the path Reiki has taken and focus is more on Reiki for others. It is less well known that you can learn Reiki for yourself - a huge shame and missed opportunity, but also the result of "professionalising" the modality. When regulating bodies focus more on the professional therapy aspects of practice, the obvious result is an impression left in the public mind that it is a profession. I have resisted going down this path for many years as I didn't want the confusion to spill over into my own teaching, but I can also see the unfolding expansion of Reiki into mainstream healthcare - and that, I am 100% behind!
For many it would make sense to become a Reiki Master via the traditional route and then look at honing your therapeutic skills via the diploma if you are called to be a therapist as well as a teacher, or rather than a teacher. I still see huge value in the spiritual growth aspect of Reiki, and even as a therapist - or even more so as a therapist, that you are guiding your clients to be more self-empowered than in relying on you to "fix" them.
What I would love to see is equal expansion of Reiki into self-care, and also into medical care. This is what I have noticed in my own work with a hospice, I am able to introduce patients to Reiki as a complementary therapy and as they experience the benefits, they are more open and curious to learn it for themselves. I see this as yet another avenue to help people come to Reiki and self-empower. Every client/patient I see as a complementary therapist I tell them they can learn Reiki for themselves, and this would be much better for them to do - a daily Reiki practice being much more effective than a weekly visit to see me.
The main issue in the UK is the Professional diplomas only require up to Level 2 Reiki, so many professional Reiki practitioners in the UK do not teach Reiki, they only provide Reiki as a healing modality - usually combined with other modalities such as massage and reflexology. This propagates the belief that Reiki is something that needs to be done by someone else, since those who are providing the professional service and working within mainstream healthcare are not teaching it. It seems unlikely that they will be recommending their patients and clients to go and learn it for themselves, as cynical as that may sound. I would hope many do pass on that information, but considering the general lack of public knowledge around this, my guess is it is not commonly discussed by Reiki professional practitioners with their clients - I would love to be proven wrong here.
So in summary, the traditional route of learning Reiki from Reiki 1 to Master is still what I recommend for those wishing to use Reiki as a spiritual pathway. It is also the pathway I recommend if your calling is to help empower others.
For those who are already Reiki Masters or are complementary therapists and have the opportunity to work with clients, in the healthcare system or health related charities, then the Practitioner diploma is an avenue to hone your skills and update your skills to regulation standards. I have written more about being a professional Reiki practitioner and requirements here.
Hope that helps to clarify the differences!