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Light Box Therapy Program

The Drexel University Counseling Center is excited to announce that we have launched a pilot light box therapy program for all Drexel University students. Light box therapy is one way to respond to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and certain other conditions by exposure to artificial light. SAD is a form of depression that occurs at a certain time each year, usually in the fall or winter. The light box gives off bright light that mimics natural outdoor light, which is thought to potentially affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, possibly easing symptoms of SAD. Refer to the National Institute of Mental Health for more information about SAD.

Check Out a Light Box

Light boxes can be checked out in-person on a first come, first served basis. They are currently available in three locations and must be returned after usage.

  • Students currently in therapy at the Counseling Center can speak with their therapist and borrow one between Monday and Friday, from 8 a.m.–4 p.m.
  • All students can also check out a lightbox at the W.W. Hagerty Library.
  • In addition, students can check out a light box at the Center for Black Culture.

For Best Results

  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for using the light box.
  • Light box therapy requires time and consistency. Response usually starts in a few days, and by two weeks the symptoms should be improving.
  • It is best to utilize the lamps daily for approximately 30 minutes. If this is not possible, a regular routine schedule is best (e.g., every other day).
  • The morning, as soon as possible after waking, is the optimal time for light therapy.
  • During light box therapy, you should keep to a regular sleep schedule (going to sleep and waking up at regular times, for example, 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.).
  • The light should be projected toward the eyes at an angle to minimize aversive visual glare.
  • The typical recommendation is to sit approximately 6 to 24 inches from the light box.
  • To be effective, light from the light box must enter your eyes directly. You cannot get the same effect merely by exposing your skin to the light. Sleeping with the light box on will not be effective. During light box therapy sessions, you can still read, use a computer, write, talk on the phone, or eat.
  • Any student who is currently taking medication that can cause photosensitivity (common examples include tetracycline, erythromycin) should only use the light box with extreme caution.


  • Light box therapy is generally safe and easy to use. If side effects occur, they're usually mild and short lasting. Some people can experience mild headaches, nausea, dizziness, or eye strain when using the light box. These symptoms usually occur at the beginning of treatment and get better in a few days. Otherwise, they can be relieved by reducing the daily exposure time, or by sitting slightly farther away from the lights.
  • People with bipolar disorder should consult with a therapist or medical provider before using light therapy.
  • Do not look directly at the light box. If you have eye problems (e.g., retinal disease, cataracts, or diabetes), or worries about eye damage, please see your medical provider.
  • Light box therapy is only one means to treat depression brought upon by seasonal affective disorder. Please consult a mental health professional or other healthcare provider if you have concerns.
  • If you are curious to know more, email for more information.