If you’re struggling to overcome anxiety or a phobia, you’ll want to schedule a session at this time.
Real Simple health writer Amanda MacMillan covered the research of SMU clinical psychologist Alicia Meuret in the latest issue of the magazine and web site.
The article, “This Is the Best Time of Day to See Your Therapist,” published Oct. 16.
Meuret is director of the Anxiety and Depression Research Center at SMU, with expertise in discussing the differences between fear and anxiety and when each is helpful and adaptive and when they are harmful and interfere with our lives.
An associate professor in the Clinical Psychology Division at the SMU Department of Psychology, Meuret received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Hamburg based on her doctoral work conducted at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. She completed postdoctoral fellowships at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University and the Affective Neuroscience Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.
Her research program focuses on novel treatment approaches for anxiety and mood disorders, biomarkers in anxiety disorders and chronic disease, fear extinction mechanisms of exposure therapy, and mediators and moderators in individuals with affective dysregulations, including non-suicidal self-injury.
The article “This Is the Best Time of Day to See Your Therapist,” cites new findings from Meuret’s research, which found patients undergoing exposure therapy for anxiety fared better when sessions were held in the morning when levels of the helpful natural hormone cortisone are higher in the brain.
By Amanda MacMillan
If you see a therapist for anxiety or a phobia, you might make more progress in sessions scheduled for the morning hours. Cortisol, a hormone that regulates stress and fear, is highest at this time of day—and a new study suggests this could make a real difference in overcoming emotional difficulties.
The new research, conducted by researchers at Southern Methodist University and the University of Michigan, focused specifically on a treatment known as exposure therapy. During exposure therapy, patients work with mental-health professionals to put themselves in situations that would normally cause panic or fear. The goal, with repeated exposures, is to diminish those stress responses over time.
“For example, a patient may think that standing in an elevator could cause him or her to lose control or faint, suffocate, or may create physical symptoms that would be intolerable,” explained Alicia E. Meuret, PhD, director of the SMU Anxiety and Depression Research Center, in a press release. “By having them stand in an elevator for a prolonged time, the patient learns that their feared outcome does not occur, despite high levels of anxiety. We call this corrective learning.”