The Lightning Process

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Lightning Process (LP) is a trademarked[1] three-day personal training programme developed by British osteopath Phil Parker.[2] Developed in the late 1990s, the three-day course aims to teach participants techniques for managing the acute stress response that the body experiences under threat. The course aims to help recognise the stress response, calm it and manage it in the long term. It draws on ideas developed by osteopaths. It also applies some ideas drawn from neurolinguistic programming, as well as elements of life coaching. It claims to be beneficial for various conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and chronic pain. Evidence of efficacy from randomized trials is currently lacking (a clinical trial regarding chronic fatigue syndrome has been registered[1]). The approach has raised some controversy.[3][4]


The Lightning Process comprises three group sessions conducted on three consecutive days, lasting about 12 hours altogether, conducted by trained practitioners.[1][5][6]

According to its developer, Phil Parker, the programme aims to teach participants about the acute stress response the body experiences under threat. It aims to help trainees spot when this response is happening and learn how to calm it. Techniques based on movement, postural awareness and personal coaching are intended to modify the production of stress hormones. Participants practise a learnt series of steps to habituate the calming method.[5][7]

The rationale for the programme draws on ideas of osteopaths Andrew Taylor Still and J M Littlejohn regarding nervous system dysregulation and addressing clients' needs in a holistic manner rather than focusing solely on symptoms.[8] It also incorporates ideas drawn from neuro-linguistic programming and life coaching.[9] A basic premise is that individuals can influence their own physiological responses in controlled and repeatable ways.[10] Such learnt emotional self-regulation, it is suggested, could help overcome illness and improve well being, if the method is practised consistently.[10]

Parker advocates attending the training course in order to gain a full understanding of the tools in a safe and supportive context.[11] He also lays emphasis on the trainee playing an active role in recovery (the course is framed as a fully participatory 'training', not a passive 'treatment' or set of answers given to a 'patient').[12][13] He claims that the programme has helped to resolve various conditions including depression, panic attacks, insomnia, drug addictions, chronic pain and multiple sclerosis.[14] The program has also been used with chronic fatigue syndrome.[4][7]


Evidence of efficacy from randomized trials is currently lacking. A registered clinical trial (UK SMILE pilot study) is being conducted in England at Bristol University.[1][15][16][17]

A qualitative study on experiences of the course among a group of young people with chronic fatigue syndrome was published in 2003.[18]

Information is being collected on two or three patients as of May 2016 at the patient outcome reporting site PatientsLikeMe.[19]

Public reaction to research[edit]

Research into chronic fatigue syndrome is often a target of criticism and even personal attacks by campaign groups.[4] The SMILE study received some public criticism for recruiting children when adult subjects are available.[20][21][22] The study was approved by the National Research Ethics Service.[4][23] The paediatrician supervising the study, Esther Crawley, has commented "If the Lightning Process is dangerous, as they say, we need to find out. They should want to find it out, not prevent research."[4]

Criticism and support[edit]

There has been criticism of the cost of the three-day course.[24][25] There has also been criticism of the claimed benefits (see also below).[3][25] John Greensmith, of the British advocacy group ME Free For All, stated "We think their claims are extravagant... if patients get better, they claim the success of the treatment — but if they don't, they say the patient is responsible."[3]

Some chronic fatigue syndrome patient support groups have strongly objected to the perceived implication that the disease has psychological causes.[3]

Some people have claimed rapid cures for longstanding illnesses.[3] Prominent advocates of the process include Esther Rantzen (whose daughter has coeliac disease and chronic fatigue syndrome),[26] British journalist Patrick Strudwick,[27] French dancer Chris Marques,[28][29] and singer Laura Mvula.[2]

Advertising Standards Authority ruling[edit]

In 2011 Hampshire Trading Standards requested that the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) give a ruling on the website, arguing that the information on the site was misleading in four areas. The ASA upheld two of the four challenges.[30] They concluded that although there seemed to be some evidence of participant improvement during trials conducted, the trials were not controlled, the evidence was not sufficient enough to draw robust conclusions, and more investigation was necessary; consequently, the website's claims at the time were deemed misleading.[30]


  1. ^ a b c d Crawley E, Mills N, Hollingworth W, et al. (2013). "Comparing specialist medical care with specialist medical care plus the Lightning Process for chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME): study protocol for a randomised controlled trial (SMILE Trial)". Trials. 14: 444. PMC 3879423Freely accessible. PMID 24370208. doi:10.1186/1745-6215-14-444. 
  2. ^ a b "Laura Mvula: 'I don't think I'm good at being a pop star. It's making me too paranoid'", The Independent, 16 February 2014
  3. ^ a b c d e Cormier, Zoe (2008-04-18). "Lightning Process - Controversial training program comes to Canada". CBC News. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Dangers of research into chronic fatigue syndrome" British Medical Journal, 2011;342:d3780,
  5. ^ a b Parker (2010), p. 7
  6. ^ "What is the Lightning Process? - Phil Parker Lightning Process". Retrieved 2016-02-12. 
  7. ^ a b Rimmer, Vikki (August 2008). "The Lightning Process Treatment for ME". Positive Health Magazine (150). Retrieved 2011-05-25. 
  8. ^ Parker (2010), pp. 42-44
  9. ^ Cormier, Zoe (2008-03-08). "'Talk Therapy' Takes On Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Coming Soon To Canada". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2011-05-25. 
  10. ^ a b Parker (2010), p. 17
  11. ^ Parker (2010), p. 11
  12. ^ Parker (2010), pp. 13-16
  13. ^ Parker (2010), p. 27
  14. ^ Parker (2010), pp. 25-26
  15. ^ University Of Bristol. "School of Social and Community Medicine". 
  16. ^ "Ethics committee finally approves controversial ‘SMILE’ pilot study into Lightning Process and children with ME/CFS". ME Association. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  17. ^ "SMILE – Specialist Medical Intervention and Lightning Evaluation". Centre for Child and Adolescent Health. University of Bristol. Retrieved 2010-10-17. 
  18. ^ "Experiences of young people who have undergone the Lightning Process to treat chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis – a qualitative study", DOI: 10.1111/j.2044-8287.2012.02093.x, British Journal of Health Psychology, Volume 18, Issue 3, pages 508–525, September 2013, The British Psychological Society
  19. ^ "Phil Parker Lightning Process treatment report". Patients Like Me. Retrieved May 27, 2016. 
  20. ^ "Study involving children and the Lightning Process is unethical, says joint charity statement". 2010-08-05. Retrieved 2011-05-25. 
  21. ^ "SMILE Study". October 2010. Retrieved 2011-05-25. 
  22. ^ "Church Times: Dr Esther Crawley responds to Prof Robin Gill (SMILE Lightning Process pilot study)". 2010-11-30. Retrieved 2011-05-25. 
  23. ^ Britton, Tony (2011-01-06). "Ethics committee finally approves controversial 'SMILE' pilot study into Lightning Process and children with ME/CFS". ME Association. Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
  24. ^ Kinnes, Sally (2007-09-02). "Coping with ME". The Sunday Times. 
  25. ^ a b Medicine: 'Talk therapy' takes on chronic fatigue syndrome: coming soon to Canada, Globe and Mail, 13 March 2009
  26. ^ Rantzen, Esther (2011-02-15). "At last, I have discovered the secret of Emily's 14 lost years, by Esther Rantzen". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
  27. ^ Strudwick, Patrick (2011-02-22). "Lightning cure ... or a flash in the pan?". The Times. pp. 7–8. 
  28. ^ "Young ME sufferer Anna thanks her 'cool' headteacher". Mid Sussex Times. 2008-04-14. 
  29. ^ Hardy, Rebecca (2008-12-13). "Austin Healey: I'd been through hell before Strictly". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
  30. ^ a b "ASA Adjudication on Phil Parker Group Ltd". ASA. Retrieved 2013-05-04. The pilot study conducted with the International Centre For Wellness Research reported positive results from a sample of 17 participants. However, we understood that the study was not controlled and had concluded that further investigation was necessary... We noted that the trials conducted by the ME Association, the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and the Sussex & Kent CFS/ME Society reported positive results but were self-assessment studies and had not been controlled. We considered that those studies and surveys did not constitute a suitably robust body of evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of the LP in the treatment of CFS/ME. Because of that, we concluded that the CFS/ME page of the website was likely to mislead... The claims on the website should not appear again in their current form. We told Phil Parker Group to ensure they did not make medical claims for the LP unless they were supported with robust evidence. 


External links[edit]