Research | first report of study into use of Lightning Process to treat young people with ME/CFS | 19 September 2012

From the British Journal of Health Psychology, 19 September 2012 (epublished before print).

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

Silje Endresen Reme(1,*), Nicola Archer(2), Trudie Chalder(2)

(1} Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
(2) Department of Psychological Medicine, King’s College London, UK

*Correspondence should be addressed to Silje Endresen Reme, 450 Brookline Avenue, LW 731, Boston, MA 02215, USA (e-mail:

Publication History

Article first published online: 19 SEP 2012
Manuscript Revised: 24 JUL 2012
Manuscript Received: 4 JAN 2012


Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is a serious condition characterized by debilitating but unexplained fatigue. Treatment alternatives are few, and especially so for young people. The aetiology of CFS/ME is still unclear and controversial, but rehabilitative interventions seem so far most promising. The Lightning Process is a 3-day training programme that has recently become available, but no outcome studies have yet been published. It is a non-medical training programme that combines concepts from Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Life Coaching and Osteopathy. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of young people with CFS/ME after they had undergone the Lightning Process.

Design Qualitative research study.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with an opportunistic sample recruited through open advertisements of nine young people, aged 14–26, who had undergone the treatment, and three of their parents. Inductive thematic analysis was used to evaluate the content of the interviews.


Mostly positive experiences were reported of the Lightning Process. Two reported dissatisfaction and no improvement, while seven were satisfied and were much improved. Particular helpful aspects were the theoretical rationale, practical exercises, and the technique they learned. Less helpful aspects were the intensity and short duration of the treatment with little follow-up, the secrecy surrounding it, and feelings of being blamed if the treatment did not work.


As this is the first report of young people’s experiences with the Lightning Process, it will be important to consider the helpful and unhelpful treatment components for future refinement of interventions for CFS/ME.
Statement of contribution

What is already known on this subject? Treatment alternatives for people with CFS/ME are few, especially for young people. The Lightning Process is a popular treatment programme that has recently become available, but no studies involving the treatment have yet been published. Feelings of blame or dismissal in CFS/ME patients lead to withdrawal or disengagement from professionals.

What does this study add? The Lightning Process for young people with CFS/ME encompasses many positive aspects, particularly the practical aspects of the treatment programme. The more extreme position taken by the Lightning Process in denying the limitations of the illness seem to produce divergent results in various young people; some found it liberating and therapeutic, whilst others did not respond well to it and were left feeling guilty and blamed.

Ethics committee finally approves controversial ‘SMILE’ pilot study into Lightning Process and children with ME/CFS (6 January 2012)
Study involving children and the Lightning Process is unethical, says joint charity statement (5 August 2010)


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