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Reflexology As An Adjunct Treatment for Depression and Addiction – A Case Study

Updated: Jan 13, 2022

By Laurie Hanna, national certified Reflexologist, RN MSN

I have worked with a number of clients suffering from depression and addiction but there's one client who had such a dramatic response to the reflexology sessions I feel compelled to tell her story.”

Kathy was a 38-year old Caucasian female with a history of depression who had been sober for 10 years from alcohol and drugs. Although receiving antidepressant therapy, Kathy still suffered from a depressed mood, fatigue, insomnia, and feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. Kathy was recommended for reflexology services by another client in hopes that the reflexology would decrease her depressive symptoms.

On the day of her initial appointment Kathy was overwhelmed and was unable to find the reflexology office. She called the reflexology office 20 minutes after her session was scheduled to begin. She was crying on the phone ready to take the train back to her house. With some encouragement Kathy was able to call a friend who picked her up at the train station and brought her to the office.

I began the reflexology session reviewing health history questions with Kathy. Tearful and with limited eye contact, Kathy stated “I feel stuck, I’ve done all this work in recovery and I’m exactly where I was when I began.” Kathy was living alone in a studio apartment and working at a plant care business maintaining plants in commercial buildings. Tiring easily, Kathy stated she has always struggled with her energy levels working at only half of what other people do. She had attended art school for jewelry-making the previous year and stated “it wasn’t a good fit”. Kathy had had two relationships that ended badly. She went off her medications for three months in the spring and was “crying all the time.” Kathy denied suicidality or a history of suicide attempts. Kathy was followed by a psychiatrist for her medication and a therapist and was regularly attending her appointments. Her medical history included hospitalization for Pneumonia when she was 6 or 7 years old, Bells Palsy and Shingles at age 20.

Kathy had never had reflexology before and her experience with body work was limited. I began the reflexology session, by having Kathy take three slow deep breaths in her lower abdomen to try and relax her while also holding the Solar Plexus reflex. I then inspected and palpated her feet, noting the color, temperature and patterns of the lines in her feet. The feet were bilaterally red and very warm to touch. Kathy’s spinal, heart and dorsal-chest reflexes were extremely tight but as I worked the area several times, the tissue relaxed, and Kathy relaxed. Her eyes closed and her breath slowed down and went deeper and deeper. I could feel the tension in her body release as the session progressed. At the end of the session Kathy stated she was too exhausted to take the ten minute walk to the train station and she called a friend to pick her up.

I usually contact my clients by email or text after the first reflexology session to see how their body has responded to the reflexology. After several days Kathy responded stating the evening of her session she slept for twelve hours and the day after the session she felt “out of it” although she was able to wash dishes for the first time in several weeks. As her week progressed she noticed she was sleeping better and feeling calmer than she had prior to the session. Her depression had not totally lifted but she was interested in receiving another session.

The second session was held two weeks later. Kathy arrived on time and was able to walk from the train to the reflexology office. She appeared more organized, focused and had excellent eye contact in her interactions. She still felt “somewhat depressed’ but admitted to functioning better. She was no longer tearful as we reviewed the events from the last session. Of note, Kathy had started taking 1000mg of a Vitamin D supplement in addition to her current medication regime of an antidepressant and Fish Oil.

I began the second session noticing that her feet no longer were hot to touch but were bilaterally warm, with a pink tone throughout. I again worked on both feet focusing on the spinal (Thoracic) chest, back, heart and pituitary reflexes. The client remained relaxed throughout the session. After the session, Kathy was able to walk herself to public transportation without any difficulties.

Kathy sent me an email two days later, with the following message: “About three hours after I saw you, I was in the supermarket and I got extremely hot and sweaty. My vision and thinking was quite askew and I felt as if I had taken drugs. That subsided after about a half hour. I got home and rested for the remainder of the day. Since then I have felt better than I have felt in months – more energy, better mood. I think you reflexed out some negative mojo, for sure!”

I have not seen the client since this last session but have heard she has made positive changes in her relationships, living environment and professional life.

It has been my experience that Reflexology does not cure depression but provides a safe space for a client to begin to feel some hope over their disease.

Laurie Hanna, RN MSN, MAR member, incorporates her professional reflexology techniques in her psychiatric practice. She can be reached at


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