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Dr David Tuller: The Lightning Process Strikes Again


Senior Member
Thank you, David! This one made me nearly choke on my coffee! Thoroughly enjoyed it!


Trial By Error: The Lightning Process Strikes Again

27 AUGUST 2020

By David Tuller, DrPH

The Lightning Process was founded more than two decades ago by Phil Parker, a British Tarot reader and specialist in auras and spiritual guides. The LP, as it is often called, could be described as “a neuro-physiological training programme based on self-coaching, concepts from Positive Psychology, Osteopathy and Neuro Linguistic Programming,” as Parker and colleagues did in a 2018 paper. It could also be described as a potpourri of woo-woo. Take your pick.
Parker has recently built upon this scientific foundation with a new paper: “A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base for the Lightning Process.” This one was published by Explore: The Journal of Science & Healing, a journal in the Elsevier stable. Per its website, the journal addresses the scientific principles behind, and applications of, evidence-based healing practices from a wide variety of sources, including conventional, alternative, and cross-cultural medicine.” That sounds a bit more promising, although Wikipedia expresses some reservations about the journal–not that I’m citing Wikipedia as a valid reference or anything.

Parker has been enabled in this further effort to glaze the LP with a scientific-sounding veneer by senior author Lisa de Rijk, a visiting research fellow at King’s College London as well as a Neurolinguistic Programming “master trainer,” change consultant, and applied psychologist, according to her Linked In profile. The third author of the new review has a KCL degree but does not appear to have a current affiliation.

These ties between a prestige institution like KCL and the unproven LP are not surprising. Professors Sir Simon Wessely and Trudie Chalder, both among KCL’s leading lights, have spent years–decades, really–spouting unproven claims about the powers of CBT and GET to cure patients with what they have preferred to call CFS. These two experienced investigators recently collaborated on yet another problematic and deceptive study. As Virology Blog reported earlier this month, this study made causal inferences about the effectiveness of CBT while noting that the lack of a control group made it impossible to make causal inferences about the effectiveness of CBT. Among other methodological problems.

Professor Chalder was also part of a team that studied CBT to treat so-called dissociative seizures—that is, seizures with no identified organic cause. The intervention had null results for its primary outcome of seizure reduction at 12 months. The KCL press release touted the study as a success based on secondary outcomes of questionable meaning and did not mention that the primary outcome failed. In the same press release, Professor Chalder hailed the intervention’s “effectiveness”—a misrepresentation of the findings.

I could go on, but I won’t. The point is that an affiliation with KCL is no guarantee of academic rigor or intellectual integrity. At least in the domain of psycho-behavioral research on complex illnesses, the KCL brand seems more likely to signify poor methodology, ethical lapses, and willful misinterpretation of unimpressive data. UC Berkeley epidemiology students who turned in work of such low caliber would get smacked down pretty quickly.

I could be wrong–I often am!–but I think Americans are generally unaware of the LP. None of the friends I’ve asked have heard of it. I first did a few years ago when I read about the trial being conducted by Professor Esther Crawley, Bristol University’s methodologically and ethically challenged pediatrician and rainmaker. This disaster of a trial, for adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome, was published three years ago by Archives of Disease in Childhood, a major BMJ journal.

In not retracting the study, BMJ placed its reputational interests above its obligation to safeguard the medical literature and the health of children. That failure led to Virology Blog’s open letter to BMJ’s editorial director, Dr Fiona Godlee, decrying her decision to let the findings stand. More than 70 experts from Harvard, University College London, Columbia, Berkeley and other leading institutions signed the open letter.