Can Therapy and Neurohacking Work Together?

Elizabeth R. Ricker
4 min readJan 25, 2022
Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

While I’ve always had a friendly stance toward therapy and medicine — my book has many strongly worded encouragements to would-be neurohackers with medical conditions that they should work closely with their doctors and health care providers — I have to confess that, before the book came out, I encountered lukewarm or even downright hostile responses from some psychologists. So, I assumed that, as a group, psychologists would be uninterested when my book came out. It was a pleasant surprise when psychologist-readers reached out with enthusiasm. Curious, I asked what they liked so much. It turned out that they were looking for ways to empower their clients even after sessions ended. They saw neurohacking as a way to teach their clients more self-agency. As long as their clients felt comfortable with sharing their at-home data, they also saw neurohacking as a way to gain visibility into their clients’ lives outside the session — helping them do their jobs better as therapists.

This not only thrilled me, it was a great relief. I’d always suspected that therapy and neurohacking could be a beautiful match. After all, I’d seen the accountability partner or “neurohacking buddy” paradigm work so well, so it seemed reasonable that a trained social support system — in the form of a mental health professional — would work as well or even better. That was part of why, in chapter 6, “Debugging Yourself” of my book, Smarter Tomorrow, I had recommended readers check for mental health issues that could be holding back their mental performance. The other reason was very simple: mental health and mental performance seem impossible to unhook from one another. Just as the brain’s limbic system (deeply involved in emotion processing) is right next to the hypothalamus (deeply involved in memory), your mental health interfaces your mental performance. I’ve always believed that if your mental health is worse than it could be, your mental health is the very first area you should target with your neurohacking. While I believe that all treatments should be subject to scientific testing — including those used in mental health — recent research has shown that the most powerful ingredient in effective therapy may be the relationship dynamic itself, even beyond the specifics of the treatment method.

Elizabeth R. Ricker

Author of “Smarter Tomorrow: How 15 Minutes of Neurohacking a Day Can Help You Work Better, Think Faster, and Get More Done” (Little, Brown Spark/Hachette).