Light therapy, or phototherapy, is the use of specific devices to treat changes in mood that are especially common during the fall and winter months. 

Woman using therapy light while on the computer in her office

While typically used as a treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or the “winter blues”, there is some evidence to suggest it might also be beneficial for people who experience low moods for other reasons. 
With regular use, most people who experience benefits do so within the first week or two.

Accessing Light Therapy at the University of Maryland

1 hour Loan without a Referral

Light therapy devices are available for loan at the Tech Desk of the Terrapin Learning Commons in McKeldin Library. These loans do not require a Health Center referral and can be rented for one hour, for use within McKeldin Library. This option is best for students who are looking to try the devices without a long term commitment.

28 Day Loan with a Referral 

Students may also also obtain a referral from the University Health Center, allowing for a 28 day rental from Tech Desk of the Terrapin Learning Commons in McKeldin Library. This option is best for students who are interested in using the device regularly. 

 

 

Obtaining a Light Therapy Referral

To obtain a referral for light therapy, please schedule an appointment at 301.314.8184. Students will meet with a health educator to determine, together, if light therapy is a good fit. From there students can take their referral to the Tech Desk of the Terrapin Learning Commons in McKeldin Library to begin their 28 day light therapy device loan. 

If you are currently receiving care from Behavioral Health Services at the University Health Center you may also talk to your therapist or provider about whether light therapy is right for you. 

 

Tips for Use

Positioning the Device

  • The device should be positioned at a 45 degree angle from the direction you are looking.
  • Place the device on a table or a desk.

When to Use the Device

  • We advise using the device early in the morning, as close to when you wake up as possible. 
  • We typically recommend not using the device in the afternoon or evening, as doing so can disrupt sleep. 
  • To start, use the device for 5-10 minutes. Over time you may increase to 15-45 minutes.

Cautions

Light therapy is a well-established treatment and carries a low risk of side effects.  However, we invite you to keep the following cautions in mind before and during use: 

  • You should not look directly at the light. 
  • If you feel uncomfortable, irritated, or experience headaches: try using the device at a lower setting, placing it further away from you, and/or using it for a shorter period of time. Experiment until you find what works for you. 
  • Follow all directions for use, included in the device’s box. 
  • People with a history or family history of bipolar disorder, cyclothymia, or mania and individuals taking any psychoactive (including antidepressants) or photosensitizing medications, should consult with a mental health care provider prior to use, and contact their provider immediately if irritability, reduced sleep, or other side effects occur.
  • People with eye conditions, such as macular degeneration, should consult their healthcare provider before use.