I’m continuing to transition to an earlier practice, seeing people for counseling sessions as early as 7A. Like many, with age, I’ve become more of a morning person (insert luxurious fantasy of sleeping in). When building my practice, a couple folks shot me dirty looks when I first offered them early sessions, but now they’ve become a hot commodity. Clinically speaking, I’ve been finding morning sessions to be incredibly productive. I decided to do some research, and learned that this observation has some scientific backing.
A research study conducted by the Southern Methodist University and University of Michigan in 2016 confirms that psychotherapy, especially when treating anxiety or phobia, can be more beneficial in the morning hours. Specifically, researchers found that patients who often had panic attacks experienced 30% more improvement in symptoms following morning sessions.
Why? A stress response. While we often think of stress hormones as “bad,” some, like cortisol, actually help regulate stress and fear. Cortisol makes us aware and alert, acting as a messenger between the brain and body. Cortisol is significantly higher in the mornings, further boosting therapy’s efficacy through an increase of attention, memory retention, and more alert focus. When these messengers are actively firing at their highest capacity, we are better able to overwrite old, unproductive fears.
Embracing corrective perspectives and learning about therapeutic interventions sets us up to react in a different way throughout the day. In essence, we are attempting to retrain our brain. If you are going to prioritize your mental health, why not schedule psychotherapy when your brain is most apt to work in your favor?