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The Lightning Process
The Lightning Process (LP) is a trademarked three-day personal training programme developed by British osteopath Phil Parker. 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). The approach has raised some controversy.
The Lightning Process comprises three group sessions conducted on three consecutive days, lasting about 12 hours altogether, conducted by trained practitioners.
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.
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. It also incorporates ideas drawn from neuro-linguistic programming and life coaching. A basic premise is that individuals can influence their own physiological responses in controlled and repeatable ways. Such learnt emotional self-regulation, it is suggested, could help overcome illness and improve well being, if the method is practised consistently.
Parker advocates attending the training course in order to gain a full understanding of the tools in a safe and supportive context. 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'). He claims that the programme has helped to resolve various conditions including depression, panic attacks, insomnia, drug addictions, chronic pain and multiple sclerosis. Perhaps most notably, it has been used with chronic fatigue syndrome.
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.
A qualitative study on experiences of the course among a group of young people with chronic fatigue syndrome was published in 2003.
Information is being collected on two or three patients as of May 2016 at the patient outcome reporting site PatientsLikeMe.
Public reaction to research
Research into chronic fatigue syndrome is often a target of criticism and even personal attacks by campaign groups. The SMILE study received some public criticism for recruiting children when adult subjects are available. The study was approved by the National Research Ethics Service. The paediatrician supervising the study, Esther Crawley, who was singled out for personal attack, 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."
Criticism and support
There has been criticism of the cost of the three-day course. There has also been criticism of the claimed benefits (see also below). 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."
Some chronic fatigue syndrome patient support groups have strongly objected to the perceived implication that the disease has psychological causes.
Some people have claimed rapid cures for longstanding illnesses. Prominent advocates of the process include Esther Rantzen (whose daughter has coeliac disease and chronic fatigue syndrome), British journalist Patrick Strudwick, French dancer Chris Marques, and singer Laura Mvula. Advertising Standards Authority ruling
In 2011 Hampshire Trading Standards requested that the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) give a ruling on the website www.lightningprocess.com, arguing that the information on the site was misleading in four areas. The ASA upheld two of the four challenges. 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.