We have discussed the LIGHTNING PROCESS before:

Now, the BBC reports that it is promoted as a treatment of Long-COVID. Oonagh Cousins was offered a free place on a course run by the Lightning Process, which teaches people they can rewire their brains to stop or improve long Covid symptoms quickly. Ms Cousins, who contracted Covid in March 2020, said it “exploits” people.

Ms Cousins had reached a career goal many athletes can only dream of – being selected for the Olympics – when she developed long Covid. By the time the cancelled 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo were rescheduled for 2021, Ms Cousins was too ill to take part. When she went public with her struggles, she was approached by the Lightning Process. It offered her a free place on a three-day course, which usually costs around £1,000.

“They were trying to suggest that I could think my way out of the symptoms, basically. And I disputed that entirely,” the former rower said. “I had a very clearly physical illness. And I felt that they were blaming my negative thought processes for why I was ill.” She added: “They tried to point out that I had depression or anxiety. And I said ‘I’m not, I’m just very sick’.

In secret recordings by the BBC, coaches can be heard telling patients that almost anyone can recover from long Covid by changing their thoughts, language and actions. Over three days on Zoom, the course taught the ritual that forms the basis of the programme. Every time you experience a symptom or negative thought, you say the word “stop”, make a choice to avoid these symptoms and then do a positive visualisation of a time you felt well. You do this while walking around a piece of paper printed with symbols – a ritual the BBC was told to do as many as 50 times a day.

In some cases the Lightning Process has encouraged participants to increase their activity levels without medical supervision, against official advice – which could make some more unwell, according to NHS guidelines. Lightning Process founder, Dr Phil Parker, who’s not a medical doctor but has a PhD in psychology of health, told us his course was “not a mindset or positive thinking approach,” but one that uses “the brain to influence physiological changes”, backed by peer-reviewed evidence. The coach on the course the BBC attended said “thoughts about your symptoms, your worry about whether it’s ever going to go – that’s what keeps the neurology going. Being in those kind of thoughts is what’s maintaining your symptoms. They’re not caused by a physical thing any more.”


As I pointed out previously, The Lightning Process  (LP) is a therapy 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”.

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.

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 reflect the natural history of the condition and are no evidence that the LP works.

Is there any evidence supporting the LP specifically for long COVID?

My Medline search retrieved just one single paper. Here is the abstract:

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Long COVID (LC) is now prevalent in many countries. Little evidence exists regarding how this chronic condition should be treated, but guidelines suggest for most people it can be managed symptomatically in primary care. The Lightning Process is a trademarked positive psychology focused self-management programme which has shown to be effective in reducing fatigue and accompanying symptoms in other chronic conditions including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Here we outline its novel application to two patients with LC who both reported improvements in fatigue and a range of physical and emotional symptoms post-treatment and at 3 months follow-up.

Well, that surely convinced everyone! Except me and, of course, anyone else who can think critically.

So, I look further and find this on the company’s website:

Do you know how it feels to…

  • …be exhausted and tired no matter how much rest you get?
  • …be stuck with re-occurring pain, health symptoms and issues?
  • …get so stressed by almost everything?
  • …feel low and upset much of the time?
  • …want a better life and health but just can’t find anything that works?

If any, or all, of these sound familiar then the Lightning Process, designed by Phil Parker, PhD, could be the answer that you’re looking for.  There are lots of ways you can find out more about the suitability of the Lightning Process for you, have a look through below…


Let me try to summarise:

  • The LP is promoted as a cure for long-Covid.
  • There is no evidence that LP is effective for it.
  • The claim is that it has been shown to work for ME.
  • There is no evidence that LP is effective for it.
  • A 3-day course costs £1 000.
  • Their website claims it is good for practically everyone.

Does anyone think that LP or its promoters are remotely serious?

10 Responses to Almost anyone can recover from long Covid: just pay a lot of money for the ‘Lightning Process’ – no, please don’t; I was joking!

  • A welcome post on this particular SCAM.

    It’s extraordinary how Parker has been able to make a good living exploiting the desperate and vulnerable.

    It’s appalling that he has been helped by the NHS (currently, as the radio programme says, being piloted by the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Centre for Integrative Care) and health agencies in other countries.

    His nonsense, which has no scientific basis, also got a spurious credibility from a badly-run trial funded by public money (SMILE), a trial which unbelievably was promoted by the SMC, London.

    • Interesting. The NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Centre for Integrative Care was formerly the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital. The re-branding itself is as good an indication as any that homeopathy works no better than placebo for any health condition.

      I find it irksome that NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde is funding this, while all of a sudden last year their list of permitted emollients that GPs may prescribe, has excluded the emollient that works best for my dry atopic skin, which I have had on prescription since 1994, and which costs no more that the less effective one that I am now prescribed, which has remained on the list.

  • Not only ‘appalling’ but highly unethical unless this innovative treatment was approved by the relevant NHS Ethics Committee.

    Was it?
    How do we know?
    Can John cite a website which sets out this NHS offer?

    I will follow it up!

    Many thanks.

  • > Does anyone think that LP or its promoters are remotely serious?

    Medical doctors. Lots and lots of MDs. People with LC and ME/CFS are often recommended to try this (or other variants, such as The Switch and other types of “brain retraining”) by MDs. Nord said “I think it’s a wild claim to say there’s nothing wrong with your body”, and this is exactly what most of us are told, it forms the basis of the biopsychosocial rehabilitation model that has been tried on chronic illness for decades, yet somehow still being ‘tried’ in pilot feasibility/acceptability studies to this day.

    “If you push exercise in a way that is not controlled and very, very carefully managed, you can actually make the underlying condition worse. So it really worries me that someone who is not medically qualified, would be asking patients to exercise just on the idea that they’ve changed their mindset about it.”

    Is exactly the premise of the common CBT/GET model that has been used for years on various chronic illnesses, which rejects the premise of PEM, the worsening of symptoms that is widely reported in LC and ME/CFS. MDs routinely say exactly this to hundreds of thousands per year, whether it’s because of Long Covid, ME/CFS, dysautonomia or any other chronic illness. Even the “unless very carefully managed” is the argument made by the PACE researchers about why their treatment model is so often reported to be harmful, or for CBT useless at best, a textbook No true Scotsman fallacy.

    If you look at the PACE trial manual, this is the literal premise, their explanation for the treatment model. This treatment model, a combination of GET, to address deconditioning, and CBT, to address “false illness beliefs” is the same thing as the LP using slightly different words. The lack of objective improvements (in PACE the average improvement on the 6MWT was 35m after a full year of a weekly exercise program) is often dismissed by trialists because patients are “reasonably active anyway”. So they know the deconditioning hypothesis is false, but when said with authority it becomes an indisputable argument, backed by a “doctor knows best” mindset.

    The LP is routinely promoted at GP conferences in many countries. It’s very popular, mostly because it’s largely the same thing as the generic CBT+GET model that has been common for years. It has been applied from day one, and still to this day, on Long Covid despite zero evidence of efficacy and widespread reports of being ineffective, harmful or amounting to gaslighting. It’s hard for professionals to criticize something nearly identical to another thing they have been taught is legitimate, on the basis of mind-body-brain woo and whatnot.

    Many of the promoters of the PACE, CBT+GET, model have said good things about the LP. In fact one of the researchers on PACE did a study (Esther Crawley, the SMILE study) of LP, which showed no benefits but was touted as effective anyway. It’s promoted at many ‘fatigue’ clinics in the UK and in other countries, especially Norway. When the 2021 NICE guidelines on ME/CFS were updated, specifically banning the LP, some of the comments from the UK medical associations specifically criticized this, in large part because it’s largely identical to the common CBT+GET model and they know this. It’s a generic model after all, sharing the same roots.

    Medicine has been adopting alternative medical pseudoscience more and more over the years, to widespread approval. This is the natural consequence. About the only people who criticize this are patients, we almost never see MDs say anything critical of this. As best as I know there are only a handful of medical professionals in the world who have criticized it, including you.

    This combination of “there is nothing wrong with those patients” and “the mind can create any and all illness and undo it” has reached a critical level in the medical profession, it’s been around for long enough that it can no longer be criticized, it’s considered an indisputable fact. The line between scientific and alternative medicine has been quietly removed, the only remaining difference being official pseudoscience vs commercial, although in LP we find both, as it’s a for-profit company whose product is commonly peddled by MDs.

  • Another annoying SCAM that treats complex syndromes as psychosomatic with woo-woo methods.
    There is one that is on a much larger scale and clinicians promote it.
    The TMS SCAM of Dr Sarno and his pain healing book empire that was rebranded as
    PRT recently- Pain Reprocessing Therapy promoted and researched by Dr Schubiner and other scientists and practitioners including clinicians.
    An online 21hr certification for about 900$ will get you the credentials to treat pain patients with this SCAM that even some clinicians promote based on this study:
    with a secondary analysis
    and recently this one
    more than 1000 registered PRT practitioners around the world, and there are still a lot of TMS “therapists” that are stuck in the past as well.
    Dr Schubiner also promotes EAET(For a 500$ 15hr online course to become a practitioner)

  • Thanks for this blog.

    The Royal New Zealand College of GPs has provided a platform for LP promotion at a series of GP training events. The man in charge of a unit providing GP education, Bruce Arroll of the Goodfellow Unit, is a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of neurolinguistic programming. He has written clinical guidelines encouraging the use of the Lightning Process for children.

    Efforts to move the RNZCGP away from what is effectively faith healing, pointing out the very poor evidence base for LP, have fallen on deaf ears. We can’t even get a response.

    For more information on this, see [URL=”″]RNZCGP GoodFellow Unit MedCases CPD Sept 2023: Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis[/URL] on the Science for ME forum.

    Richard Vallee is right, the mainstream medicine approach of cognitive behaviour therapy aiming to disabuse people of their false illness beliefs when applied to people with ME/CFS and Long Covid is almost identical to the Lightning Process, is similarly lacking in evidence and is similarly harmful. The approach of Graded Exercise Therapy has a similar belief foundation, aiming to help patients realise that they are not really sick and that it is their thoughts that are holding them back. People despair when they are unable to think their way to health. They despair when doctors and family tell them they just need to have a positive mindset. They despair when they are denied support out of a belief from doctors and family that support would facilitate the false thinking. The despair, coupled with the awfulness and incapacity of the disease itself and the lack of support, too often leads to suicide. It leads to people losing trust in health care services and not seeking care for treatable health issues.

    Both the Lightning Process and other similar approaches are causing substantial harm around the world.

  • After two years of suffering, my close friend recovered from LongCOVID using the lightning process.

    Ms. Cousins characterization of the LP seems to deeply contradict all of the LP materials published (books, youtube videos, etc). Unlike many medical practitioners, the LP accepts that there are one or more underlying physiological issues causing the illness (say, a persistent virus) despite the lack of positive diagnostic tests. The LP espouses that, in many cases, the body has the capability to heal itself. However, due to the burden of chronic disease and sometimes other factors, many negative patterns develop that reinforce the pathological state and even worsen a patient’s condition. The LP seeks to help put the person into a better physiologic state to overcome the disease.

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