Lightning Process as treatment for ME – what are the figures?

In Norway, the Lightning Process is marketed specifically towards ME patients. How many Norwegians have taken the course? How many ME patients have improved using the method? Here are some figures that may indicate the success rate.

The Lightning Process (LP) is alternative treatment. The method itself consists of choosing the «pit» or the life you love and saying Stop! to symptoms.

In order to participate in a course, you must apply. You get screened for suggestibility and must convince the instructor that you are sufficiently motivated. It is required to put aside analytical thinking.

Participants are told that in order for the method to work they must tell themselves and others that they have recovered. This is an integrated marketing tool and also affects surveys.

How many Norwegians have taken the course?

By 2009, 2,500 Norwegians had taken the course. In 2012 the number was 5,000.

That is an average of 1,000 Norwegian participants each year from 2007 – 2012. Now, 10 years later, it can therefore be estimated that the number is approximately 15,000.

More than 90%?

The company Aktiv Prosess was started by LP instructors Live Landmark and Vibeke C. Hammer. On their website from 2009 it says that «…more than 90% of the participants become free from their condition».

In 2008, they conducted a customer survey and claimed that «The results from our first 226 participants show that a full 96% of our course participants report a significantly increased quality of life after the course».

The data collection was carried out by Aktiv Prosess which at the time had two employees; Hammer and Landmark. The survey says nothing about the participants’ state of health or diagnoses, or whether any of them had ME. Negative feedback is also not included in the report. Considering that participants are taught to tell themselves and others that they are recovered, it can be difficult to say otherwise when the instructor calls and ask you. Therefore, the results of the survey are not credible.

In 2009, Landmark stated to the Norwegian Health Information (NHI): – The most recent figures from our own evaluation show that as many as 92.5% get a significantly increased quality of life after LP.

In 2010, Landmark wrote in the newspaper Nordlys: «Today I have a good life. We see the same with approximately ninety percent of the more than one thousand participants Aktiv Prosess has had on our courses. Ninety percent of the children are back to school.»

ME patients’ experiences

The LP instructors’ claim that 90% get better is not true when it comes to ME patients.

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 experienced improvement or great improvement – i.e. 34 people. The survey also shows that 48% got worse or much worse.

In an article about CFS/ME patients’ different experiences with the Lightning Process in the journal Sykepleien, it is stated that: «The analysis is based on the descriptions of 22 informants where 13 reported a positive effect and nine reported none or negative effect».

Norway’s National Research Center in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NAFKAM’s survey from 2015 amongst 76 Norwegians, 8 of those who met the Canadadian diagnostic criteria (which the Norwegian Directorate of Health recommends) had a positive effect. 5 got worse or much worse.

The Norwegian research foundation Fafo researchers Anne Kielland and Arne Backer Grønningsæter wrote about the project “TjenestenogMEg” in the journal Psykologisk. In the survey with 660 participants, 62 had tried LP. 5 were very or fairly satisfied with the results.

The LP organization Recovery Norway (RN) has (per March 2023) published 62 stories about ME and LP on their website. Only 30 of these are named Norwegians with a confirmed ME diagnosis. The rest are without a confirmed ME diagnosis, people from other countries, anonymous stories and repetitions; stories told 2 and 3 times.

Number of ME patients with a positive effect

The number of documented ME patients who have had a positive effect is – according to

ME Association, 2012: 34

Sykepleien, 2012: 13

NAFKAM, 2015: 8

Fafo, 2022: 5

and Recovery Norway, 2023: 30.

It is impossible to say whether those who have had a positive effect have participated in one or several of these surveys. There are probably also participants who had a positive effect, but who are neither members of RN nor have taken part in any surveys.

It is estimated that 15,000 Norwegians have ME. If 10% have tried LP and if it is true that 90% get better – there should be 1,350 former ME patients who have recovered with the help of LP. Where are they?

What the figures are used for

The LP instructors’ claims of a 90% positive effect are used for marketing and in lobbying to influence politicians, healthauthorities and welfare and disability benefits authorities. The aim is to get the course approved as part of the public health service.

In 2013, Landmark sent an e-mail to then Labor Minister Anniken Huitfeldt and claimed that «The results can be documented – and are considered highly significant».

Landmark also believes that the ME diagnosis should not be eligible for permanent disability benefits.

In an article in the Norwegian medical journal Tidsskriftet in 2016 (English text), Landmark describes her own customer satisfaction survey from 2008 as «generating of hypothesis».

Landmark’s «motivational lecture» is literally an hour-long advertisement for LP in which she shares her own recovery story. The live lecture has been published online under the title «Fra Press til Prestasjon» (From Pressure to Achievement). Landmark has written a book about her personal story, and also holds lectures for medical students, medical doctors and nurses.

RN is also involved in marketing and lobbying activities for LP. RN consists of a large proportion satisfied LP participants. Those who have had no or negative effect from the method are not allowed membership. The head of RN, MD Henrik Vogt, recruits members on social media.

In an application for ethical approval of a Norwegian LP study, it is claimed that «… published experiences indicate significant and rapid improvement in fatigue, function, quality of life and activity level».

The LP study’s consequences for ME patients

In this study, 120 newly ill ME patients will be treated with LP. The research fellowship in the study, Live Landmark, will treat the participants herself and will be involved in approving study participants. Landmark was one of the co-founders of the organization which will contribute with «user participation»; RN. After the course, the study participants will complete a questionnaire and, among other things, answer questions about whether they are recovered(!).

When the study received ethical approval in 2021, the decision was appealed. RN then sent a submission to the National Research Ethics Committee for Medicine and Health Sciences (NEM) and attached 61 «recovery stories». Only a portion of these were about persons who had a confirmed ME diagnosis. Several had experienced fatigue or burnout – which is not the same as ME. Six stories were told by LP instructors. Several of the stories were told 2 or 3 times and 15 were anonymous.

The researchers Kielland and Grønningsæter write about the LP study: «The ME sufferers’ Catch 22 will be a NAV [Welfare and disability benefits authority] that over-generalizes results from a suboptimally designed study. A NAV that can withhold disability benefits until the day the patients are able to convince a course instructor that they are highly motivated to change their minds in line with the purpose of the course. Because only then they can join a course that the majority of our respondents found very unhelpful.

A NAV that also does not necessarily grant disability benefits if you take the course. Because if the course didn’t make you recover, it can be argued on the course’s premises that you weren’t motivated or willing enough to change.»

Negative experiences

It is documented that there are a few ME patients who have had a positive effect from LP among the estimated 15,000 Norwegians who have taken the course, but they are not many.

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:

It is not without reason that the NICE guidelines for ME/CFS specifically warn against offering LP to ME patients.

Written by

Nina E. Steinkopf

Former HSEQ Chief Executive

Now: ME-patient and writer

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