The Lightning Process is a psychological intervention created by Phil Parker that has been promoted to myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome patients as a cure. It gets its name because it is supposed to cure in three days.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Evidence
- 3 Criticisms
- 4 Controversy
- 5 Videos
- 6 Articles and blogs
- 7 Learn more
- 8 Online presence
- 9 See also
- 10 References
Overview[edit | edit source]
The Lightning Process claims to be a combination of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and osteopathy. The content of the process is copyrighted but according to patient reports involves affirmations and counteracting negative thoughts:
"You ask yourself if you want to choose happiness. Which you obviously do and then you say how fantastic you are to have stopped the negativity thought. You ask yourself what you really want, then you answer yourself, and again ask yourself how you are going to get there. The answer of course is to keep doing the process, getting rid of those negative thoughts. Then you tell yourself how great you are again and maybe have a bit of a hug with yourself, then…….. no nothing, that’s it."
The cost is between £695 and £1,997 for a three day course with additional sessions up to £250 an hour. (September 2016 rates) 
The Lightning Process is based on the view that chronic fatigue syndrome is a "stress response" which leaves the person's body constantly on alert. It includes some cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy.
Evidence[edit | edit source]
The Lightning Process has not been tested with any randomized, controlled trials.
Anecdotal evidence of patient harm[edit | edit source]
According to a national survey by the Norwegian ME association ME Foreningen in (2012), Lightning Process is one of the treatments that has done the most harm to patients. The Lightning Process resulted in 50% of the ME patients reporting that LP had made their condition worse, 25% seriously worse. 30% reported that LP had no effect on symptoms.
Studies with ME/CFS[edit | edit source]
King's College London Study[edit | edit source]
A small non-randomised qualitative study took place at King's College London, reporting in 2012. The study was conducted by Trudie Chalder and Nicola Archer with Silje Endresen Reme of Harvard University. Nine Participants aged 14 to 26 were recruited through advertisements. They were interviewed after undergoing the process along with three of their parents..
Seven participants reported being satisfied with two as dissatisfied. The intensity and poor follow up were criticised by participants along with the secrecy surrounding it and feelings of guilt and blame if the treatment did not work.
The Smile study protocol
Criticisms[edit | edit source]
John Greensmith criticised the Lightning Process programme as a costly pyramid scheme noting that people who train in the process frequently go on to become practitioners themselves.
Some patients critique the Lightning Process for its high cost, lack of evidence, and the pressure placed on participants if they do not improve.
In a joint statement in August 2010, the ME Association and the Young ME Sufferers Trust called the SMILE study "unethical" saying, "The ME Association and The Young ME Sufferers Trust do not believe that it is ethically right to use children in trialling an unproven and controversial process such as the Lightning Process."
Professor Robin Gill, a member of the British Medical Association medical ethics committee, wrote to the Church Times about the LP and the SMILE trial. He expressed concern about the issue of coercion of children in the trial.
The BMJ Archives of Disease in Childhood,
Dr. Nick Brown, Editor-in-Chief Archives of Disease in Childhood, published by the BMJ, added an Editor's Note to the trial article 'Clinical and cost-effectiveness of the Lightning Process in addition to specialist medical care for paediatric chronic fatigue syndrome: randomised controlled trial'.
- Editor's note
- This study was published online in Archives of Disease in Childhood after peer review in September 2017. The trial tested the effectiveness of a neurolinguistic programming intervention (used widely but never formally tested) in children and young people with chronic fatigue recruited between 2010 and 2013. Though the number of participants was small, analysis suggested a benefit in terms of physical function (measured by the standard SF 36 scale) at both 6 and 12 months after intervention.
- Since publication, the study has been criticised for failing to meet ICMJE and BMJ policy on trial registration and for not fully adhering to CONSORT guidance on trial reporting. The journal has been criticised for not detecting these issues during editorial and peer review. We have acknowledged these comments and reviewed our processes in relation to this paper and relating to EQUATOR guidance in general. In addition, we have received clarifications from the authors which are under editorial consideration.
- Dec 13, 2017, The SMILE Trial’s Undisclosed Outcome-Swapping
- Jan 17, 2018, Professor Crawley’s Bogus BuzzFeed Claims
- Jan 30, 2018, A Letter to Archives of Disease in Childhood
- Feb 19, 2018, A Letter to BMJ Open
- March 7, 2018, My Exchange With Archives of Disease in Childhood
- May 28, 2018, NICE’s Consideration of the Lightning Process
- Jun 4, 2018,BMJ Still “Looking Into” Lightning Process Paper
- Jun 11, 1018, More Letters About BMJ’s Flawed Pediatric Studies
- Jul 11, 2018, Waiting for Godlee
- Jul 11, 2018, Trial By Error: My Letter to Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee
- Aug 21, 2019, Trial By Error: Joan Parland's Lightning Process Experience
Controversy[edit | edit source]
British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling[edit | edit source]
In 2012 the British Advertising Standards Authority ruled against claims on the Lightning Process (LP) website.
The ASA upheld a complaint from Hampshire County Council trading standards made about false claims about the use and effectiveness of LP on ME/CFS. The claims were that "Our survey found that 81.3%* of clients report that they no longer have the issues they came with by day three of the LP course", which the complainant stated "misleadingly implied that the Lightning Process could treat or cure CFS/ME."
The ASA noted, "the website breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products)."
The ASA ruled that Phil Parker Ltd should not make medical claims for the LP unless they were supported with robust evidence and the company was not to refer to conditions for which advice should be sought from suitably qualified health professionals.
The Nordic Consumer Ombudsman[edit | edit source]
The 2017 Agenda for the Nordic Consumer Ombudsman ruled that it is illegal to claim that any alternative medicine treatment is effective against specific illnesses and conditions. This ruling forbids the Lightening Process (LP) owners to market Lightening Process (LP) as a treatment for ME/CFS.
Attempted suicide[edit | edit source]
In 2011, a 13 year-old Norwegian boy with ME attempted suicide after he failed to improve with the Lightning Process.
In 2020 a Twitter user came forward with her story of 10 years of intense depression and suicide attempts as a result of being gaslit by the Lightning Process as a child.
Videos[edit | edit source]
- The Lightning Process Trial: A Saga of Very Bad Research--and Even Worse Editorial Decisions - David Tuller
Articles and blogs[edit | edit source]
- 2014, Cort Johnson on the Lightning Process SMILE Study - Health Rising
- 2015, Patient's account of Lightning Process - Phoenix Rising
- 2018, A Controversial Therapy For ME Has Led To Claims Of Death Threats, Harassment, And Pseudoscience - Buzzfeed
- 2019, Joan Parland's Lightning Process experience
- 22 Jan, 2020, Trial By Error: My Talk Last October in Oxford (Video)
Learn more[edit | edit source]
- The Lightning Process did not work for ME - collection of patient experiences
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Experience of the Lightning Process - a Lightning Process practitioner is the main author
- Wikipedia - Lightning Process
Online presence[edit | edit source]
See also[edit | edit source]
- An Introduction to the Lightning Process, book by Phil Parker
- Esther Crawley
- Live Landmark
- Martine McCutcheon
- Mickel therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
References[edit | edit source]
- Cormier, Zoe (April 18, 2008). "Lightning Process: Controversial training programme comes to Canada". CBC news. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
- "The Lightning Process Didn't Work for Me". HubPages. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
- Cost of Lightning Process courses & sessions-Lightning Process website
- Landmark, Live; Lindgren, Rolf Marvin Bøe; Sivertsen, Børge; Magnus, Per; Conradi, Sven; Thorvaldsen, Signe Nome; Stanghelle, Johan Kvalvik (2016). "Kronisk utmattelsessyndrom og erfaring med Lightning Process". Tidsskrift for Den norske legeforening. 136 (5): 396–396. doi:10.4045/tidsskr.15.1214. ISSN 0029-2001.
- ME Foreningen (May 12, 2014). "Norwegian ME Association National Survey Abridged" (PDF). English.
- Experiences of young people who have undergone the Lightning Process to treat chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis – a qualitative study by Reme, Archer & Chalder
- SMILE Study protocol
- Twitter: James Coyne on the Lightning Process
- "Statement of ME Association and Young Sufferers Trust on SMILE". ME Association. August 2010.
- Invest in ME (October 2010). "Letter to National Research Ethics Committee".
- Church Times (October 8, 2010). "Children should not be used as Guinea Pigs".
- Editor's Note by Dr. Nick Brown: Clinical and cost-effectiveness of the Lightning Process in addition to specialist medical care for paediatric chronic fatigue syndrome: randomised controlled trial - Archives of Disease in Childhood BMJ - June 2018
- ASA Ruling on Phil Parker Group Ltd
- Sand, Camilla (November 26, 2011). "Forsøkte selvmord etter ME-kurs". NRK (in norsk bokmål). Retrieved April 20, 2019.
- Development, PodBean. "Alice Urbino: scam 'lightning process' causes internalized gaslighting - beware of charlatans". www.podbean.com. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
randomized controlled trial (RCT) - A trial in which participants are randomly assigned to two groups, with one group receiving the treatment being studied and a control or comparison group receiving a sham treatment, placebo, or comparison treatment.
Short Form 36-Item Health Survey (SF-36) - A 36-item patient-reported questionnaire, used to determine patient health status and quality of life.
gaslighting gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse which involves persistently denying or refusing to accept facts, and frequently leads to the other person doubting their own experiences. Medical gaslighting is when doctors or health health blame a patient's symptoms on psychological factors or deny the patient's illness entirely, for example wrongly telling patients that they are not sick.