Research into the Lightning Process

There is a growing body of research on the Phil Parker Lightning Process® (LP) with 18 clinical studies published by 2021 including, the gold standard of research, a Randomised Controlled Trial, run in conjunction with the NHS and the University of Bristol.

Additionally, there have been 2 papers reviewing, describing and comparing the intervention to other approaches.

Importantly a Systematic Review has been published, a huge milestone in research terms, which brings together the results of all the studies to date. It concluded that there is ‘an emerging body of evidence supporting the efficacy of the LP for many participants with fatigue, physical function, pain, anxiety and depression.’

Research is important for providing clarity about the effectiveness of interventions, but it often takes years from designing a study, to ethics approval, funding, running a project, analysing the data and writing and publishing the results. And for many, the results are often written in an academic language that is difficult to understand.

On this page, we present the most important studies, with highlights from the papers for those who want the key facts and links to the papers for those who wish to read them in full.

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Randomised controlled trial: CFS/ME

‘Clinical and cost-effectiveness of the Lightning Process in addition to Specialist Medical care for pediatric Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: randomized controlled trial.’

The ‘Smile’ trial; a RCT run in conjunction with the NHS and the University of Bristol

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Two papers had previously been published on this study and you can find a link to them both here:

1. The feasibility and acceptability of conducting a trial of specialist medical care and the Lightning Process in children with chronic fatigue syndrome: feasibility randomized controlled trial (SMILE study)

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2. 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)

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A systematic review of the Lightning Process In Explore Journal

A systematic review of the evidence base for the Lightning Process

First systematic review into the Lightning Process.
Found a variance in quality of studies from good to fair and in reported patient outcomes.
All studies evidenced a level of benefit from the intervention, commonly for majority of participants.

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Lightning Process & Chronic Fatigue in Cancer Survivors

Does the Lightning Process Training Programme Reduce Chronic Fatigue in Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Survivors? A Mixed-Methods Pilot Study

Chronic fatigue is a common late adverse effect following oncological therapies.  This pilot intervention study evaluated the perceived efficacy of the LP training programme in 13 adolescent and young adult cancer survivors treated for sarcoma or Hodgkin lymphoma.

Results: Statistically significant improvements were documented for all the patient-reported outcome measure (PROM) questionnaires comparing the pre-and post-intervention periods. In interviews, participants emphasised that they now experienced both less fatigue and explicit improvement in their energy level and that the LP had not worsened their health or caused them any negative side effects and that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the intervention.

The researchers noted that ‘The reductions in the participants’ total fatigue scores were remarkable, since no changes in their overall level of fatigue, as subjectively expressed by the participants themselves, were reported over the preceding years.’

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Comparing LP with UK specialist medical care for paediatric Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

CBT repackaged or a novel treatment? The Lightning Process compared with UK specialist medical care for paediatric Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

UK specialist medical care (SMC) for paediatric Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME) includes behavioural approaches (Graded Exercise Therapy; Activity Management) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for fatigue (CBT-F). Treatment is suboptimal with a third of children not recovering after 6 months of SMC. Many families seek alternative treatments at personal cost, including the Lightning Process (LP). Evidence shows LP can improve patient outcomes, though this intervention is not widely known/understood.

Results: While overlaps with SMC approaches were identified, and CBT-F in particular, distinct elements of LP were its focus on language style, neurophysiological rationale, affective/physiological change technique and mode of delivery.

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Review of the Lightning Process approach to CFS/ME in JEP

‘Understanding the Lightning Process Approach to CFS/ME; a Review of the Disease Process and the Approach.’

Conclusions: This paper resolves the identified gaps in the research and clarifies the hypotheses behind this approach, which has been identified by the evidence base as providing successful outcomes for some. It is hoped this clearer understanding of the approach will assist researchers, clinicians and those with this disabling disease to identify some additional options for potential recovery.

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 Qualitative study: CFS/ME

Experiences of young people who have undergone the Lightning Process to treat chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis – a qualitative study

Overview: An independent study, published in 2012, found that of the 9 participants with CFS/ME “7 were satisfied and were much improved.

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Evaluation of a treatment strategy: Chronic Pain

‘Evaluation of a treatment strategy’

Conclusion: A structured cooperation between doctor and LP instructor has contributed to significant pain reduction and improvement in the quality of life for nine of the twelve youngsters in the project.The remaining three participants had not noticed any effect, either positive or negative.

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Multiple Scelerosis

Proof of concept study: MS

Proof of concept study: Multiple Sclerosis 

Abstract: The interim data shows that the LP provided benefit to all participants and there have been no incidents of negative effects.  The data suggests that it would be worth pursuing a full Randomised Controlled Trial

“The Proof of Concept study, although being in a small number of subjects, has produced some encouraging and worthwhile results over the 12 month period following participation in the Lightning Process.  They indicate that the Lightning Process provides measurable benefits to those with MS and suggests that further larger randomised studies would be beneficial to investigate the role the Lightning Process plays in the well-being and quality of life of MS patients.” MS-UK October 2014.

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Drug and alcohol misuse issues

4 research projects on drug and alcohol misuse issues and the Lightning Process

This mixed methods research project evaluated The Rediscovery Process (a version of the LP for alcohol and substance misuse). It was run in conjunction with London Metropolitan University and has now been completed and published. It consists of:
A preliminary RCT

An association study

A systematic review

A qualitative study,

For full details please visit the RCT research site.

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Outcome Measures Study

Study reporting on outcome measures of those taking the Lightning Process for a range of issues

Overview: Outcome measures data was collected from 205 clients who attended a Lightning Process seminar, using the RAND SF-36 form.

The indications are that the LP is making a significant positive impact, resulting in increased health status at 6 weeks, persisting at 3 months, and demonstrating improvements in all areas that were covered by the RAND SF36 questionnaire.

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Snapshot Survey of Lightning Process Outcomes and Experiences

Snapshot Survey

Overview: The snapshot surveys were completed by 1297 people who attended a Lightning Process seminar, in a variety of locations throughout the UK and Norway, between January 2007 and May 2010.

Results: 81.3% of clients report improvement after the LP course.  Read the full survey here and the survey focused on CFS/ME here. 

Me association

ME Association’s Survey 2010

ME Association’s 2010 Survey

A UK based charity survey (N = 4,217, female = 78% age range 11-66), asked respondents about their experiences of managing their ME. Perceptions of using 25 different approaches, including standard approaches, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) (n = 997), Graded Exercise Therapy (GET) (n = 906) and the LP (which was the third least used of the approaches, n = 101) were rated on a Likert scale.

The survey found that the LP received the highest percentage out of all the 25 approaches for those feeling they had ‘greatly improved’.

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Brighton & Sussex Medical School and Sussex & Kent ME/CFS Society’s Survey

Brighton & Sussex Medical School and Sussex & Kent ME/CFS Society’s Survey

Results: In this study the LP was identified as the ‘most helpful approach’.  In this survey of 457 members, tracking their experiences over two years, 44% of the society’s members found the Lightning Process “very helpful” and 36% “reasonably helpful”.

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