TMS: The Promising Depression Treatment You’ve Never Heard Of

TMS: The Promising Depression Treatment You’ve Never Heard Of

Flexibility requires an open mind and a welcoming of new alternatives.

Deborah Day

Are you (or is someone you care about) struggling with severe depression that hasn’t improved, no matter what you’ve tried?

Last week, we reviewed the available treatment options that are out there.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at the most promising treatment you’ve (probably) never heard of.

Read on for our answers to 6 questions you might be asking about TMS:

What does it stand for?

TMS stands for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

What is it?

TMS is an alternative treatment for depression.

A “brain stimulation” technique, TMS delivers highly-targeted, MRI-strength magnetic pulses to the left prefrontal cortex (the mood-regulating region of the brain).

This gently stimulates neurons (i.e., nerve cells), which triggers the release of neurotransmitters (e.g., serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine). The result is stabilized neurotransmitter function, and a reduction in depression.

What are the benefits?

TMS is FDA-approved, which means it’s also covered by most insurances.

It’s time-limited, which means you won’t be in treatment forever. (More like 4 to 6 weeks!)

It’s non-systemic, which means it doesn’t circulate throughout the body, like medications do.

It’s non-invasive, which means it doesn’t involve surgery or other procedures.

It’s non-sedating, which means you can get right back to your day following each treatment session.

It’s complementary, which means it can be incorporated into your existing emotional wellness care plan to boost the effectiveness of self-care, therapy, and/or medication.

It’s a gentle alternative to other brain stimulation interventions, such as ECT.

And, best of all, it’s effective:

  • 1 in 2 patients respond with a 50% reduction in depression symptoms
  • 1 in 3 patient experience complete remission of symptoms

Can it help me?

If you meet the proper criteria, there’s a good chance it can.

TMS is for adults diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) who haven’t benefited from prior treatments.

There are just a few contraindications to TMS. If you have an active or inactive implant (e.g., deep brain stimulator, cochlear implant, vagus nerve stimulator), then TMS wouldn’t be a good choice for you.

The best way to determine if TMS is right for you is to schedule a complimentary consultation. If it turns out that another option may make more sense for your needs, we’ll help get you connected.

What’s the process like?

TMS treatment consists of 36 sessions over a 4- to 6-week period.

In the first treatment session, you’ll be introduced to your treatment technician, who’ll perform a test that establishes your motor threshold. Next, the technician will determine the precise site on your scalp where the magnetic coil will be placed. Altogether, this process lasts about 90 minutes. By the time you leave, we’ll have your customized treatment protocol all ready to go.

After that, your treatment sessions will be the same each time:

You’ll spend each 18- to 20-minute session relaxing in a treatment chair as the TMS device gently delivers magnetic pulses to specific areas of your brain. These pulses feel like tapping on your scalp and shouldn’t ever be uncomfortable. (If at any point they are, your technician can adjust the strength as needed.)

Most people experience only very minor side effects (or none at all). These can include mild headache or scalp discomfort at the site of stimulation during or after treatment. (Any discomfort is easily alleviated by over-the-counter pain medication.)

And because you’ll remain awake and alert throughout the TMS session, you can be out the door and on with your life right away!

What’s unique about TMS at Sonder?

1) Our technology:

At Sonder, we’re proud to partner with NeuroStar, the company that secured FDA approval for TMS treatment of depression.

2) Our team:

We know it can be overwhelming to facilitate communications among your different health care providers. And when you’re living with depression, that’s the last thing you need!

At Sonder, every therapist, psychiatrist, and TMS technician work together under one roof. So, you can relax, secure in the knowledge that each member of your emotional wellness team is collaborating to help you feel your best.

3) Our process:

We know considering a new treatment option can feel daunting, so we’ve streamlined the process for you!

The first step is to complete our simple online request form.

Once you do, we’ll reach out to schedule your complimentary consultation.

During the consultation, a Sonder patient consultant will gather information about your history and insurance, answer any initial questions you have, and determine whether TMS may be a good fit for you.

If it sounds like you’re a candidate for TMS, you’ll then meet with our psychiatrist, John G. Luehr, MD, who’ll conduct a thorough assessment.

Once you’re cleared for treatment, we’ll seek any insurance authorization that may be needed, schedule you, and begin your treatment!

Eager to learn more about TMS? We’ll be sharing more about this exciting approach in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you

Enjoy this post? You might also like:

Therapy 101: 7 Signs You Might Benefit from Therapy
Therapy 101: How to Prepare for Therapy
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Interested in learning more about TMS?