The Lightning Process (LP) is a therapy for ME based on ideas from osteopathy, life coaching, and neuro-linguistic programming. LP is claimed to work by teaching people to use their brains to “stimulate health-promoting neural pathways”. One young patient once described it as follows: “Whenever you get a negative thought, emotional symptom, you are supposed to turn on one side and with your arm movements in a kind if stop motion, just say STOP very firmly and that is supposed to cut off the adrenaline response.”
Allegedly, the LP teaches individuals to recognize when they are stimulating or triggering unhelpful physiological responses and to avoid these, using a set of standardized questions, new language patterns, and physical movements with the aim of improving a more appropriate response to situations. The LP involves three group sessions on consecutive days where participants are taught theories and skills, which are then practiced through simple steps, posture, and coaching.
Does LP work?
Some think it does, particularly in Norway, it seems.
Proponents of the ‘LP’ in Norway claim that 90% of all ME patients get better after trying it. However, such claims seem to be more than questionable.
- In the Norwegian ME association’s user survey from 2012 with 1,096 participants, 164 ME patients stated that they had tried LP. 21% of these patients experienced improvement or great improvement and 48% got worse or much worse.
- In Norway’s National Research Center in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NAFKAM’s survey from 2015 amongst 76 patients 8 had a positive effect and 5 got worse or much worse.
- A survey by the Norwegian research foundation, published in the journal Psykologisk, with 660 participants, showed that 62 patients had tried LP, and 5 were very or fairly satisfied with the results.
Such figures seem to reflect the natural history of the condition and may be totally unrelated to LP.
The LP instructors’ claims of a 90% positive effect are used for marketing and for lobbying. Their aim is to influence politicians, health authorities, and welfare and disability benefits authorities. They want to get the LP course approved as part of the public health service.
The company ‘Aktiv Prosess’ was started by LP instructors Live Landmark and Vibeke C. Hammer. In an article in the Norwegian medical journal Tidsskriftet in 2016, Landmark describes her own customer satisfaction survey from 2008 as «generating a hypothesis». Landmark has also written a book about her personal story and holds lectures for medical students, medical doctors, and nurses. Now she is trying to run a clinical trial which, many experts believe, is far from rigorous and set up to produce a positive result.
Positive experiences with LP have received massive media coverage for 15 years. Anecdotes are recycled in the media and give the impression of being a higher number than reality. We rarely hear about those who deteriorated: https://lp-fortellinger.no/ (English language link here).
The NICE guidelines for ME/CFS specifically (and in my view rightly) warn against offering LP to ME patients.