Qualitative study of the Lightning Process

There are many views about the Lightning Process (LP) as a alternative treatment for ME/CFS, and the Internet hosts a range of patients’ anecdotes – some reporting lightning cures, some reporting no success at all. The first published evidence of the experiences of young people with LP, from the Harvard University in Boston, has now appeared in the scientific literature and it makes interesting reading.

Twelve young people, members of the UK charity Association of Young People with ME, answered a call for their experiences of LP, and 9 completed the interview stages. Of these, 2 reported no improvement and 7 were improved; as the authors say, “The experience of effectiveness split the young persons in roughly 3 categories; instant healing, gradual improvement, and no improvement at all”.

While a qualitative interview study like this cannot tell us anything about clinical effectiveness (or indeed the scientific rationale for LP, about which we had something to say in the press some time ago), its 8000 words do, in fact, shed a valuable light on the experience of the process through the eyes of the young people – their experience of illness, their pre-treatment expectations, and their own lived experience of undergoing therapy. Positive aspects of the process reported by the youngsters included positive and encouraging staff, practical assignments, the one-to-one setting, and the setting of specific goals. Negative aspects included the secrecy surrounding LP, the high cost, the apparent lack of honesty about true success rates, and the perception that patients can be left feeling guilty and blamed if the treatment is not a success.

As this article points out, LP aims to address dysregulation of the central nervous system by breaking the ‘adrenaline loop’ that keeps the systems’ stress responses high. The core scientific question is whether this rationale stands up to scrutiny – and only experimentation can answer it.

 Reference: Experiences of young people who have undergone the Lightning Process to treat chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis–a qualitative study. Reme SE et al. Br J Health Psychol 2013 Sep; 18(3): 508-25.

Image courtesy of Ziemor/pl.wikipedia

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