TMS Therapy for Depression

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TMS therapy for depression has helped many people live much healthier and more satisfying lives. Using principles that were first established more than a century ago, modern TMS devices harness the power of electromagnetism to ease psychological distress and improve mood. 

TMS for Depression: How Does it Work?

TMS stands for transcranial magnetic stimulation. TMS therapy for depression employs electromagnetic pulses to stimulate cells in specific areas of the brain.

There are three main types of TMS therapy, which are differentiated primarily by the speed with which the electromagnetic pulses are delivered:

  • Single pulse (spTMS) therapy: This type uses a device that emits pulses one at a time, with a pause of a few seconds following each one.
  • Paired pulse (ppTMS) therapy: Patients receive two pulses almost (but not quite) simultaneously. This process is repeated, with a brief pause between each set of two pulses.
  • Repetitive TMS therapy: Often referred to as rTMS therapy, this version features the rapid delivery of a series of pulses. 


You may also see references to deep TMS (or dTMS) therapy. This refers to a more recently developed technology that is able to send electromagnetic pulses farther into the patient’s brain.

One of the many benefits of TMS therapy for depression is that it is a noninvasive technique. Although the electromagnetic pulses that are generated by a TMS device can reach into the patient’s brain, the process itself does not involve surgery or the insertion of any physical objects. No sedation or anesthesia is required, and patients remain awake and alert throughout the entire process.

Here’s a quick overview of how TMS therapy for depression works:

  • Before a patient’s first TMS therapy session, they will usually participate in an assessment to ensure that this service is right for them. This initial consultation may also involve measurements taken by the treatment professional to determine the optimal placement location for the coil that will deliver the electromagnetic pulses.  
  • At the outset of a typical TMS therapy session, the patient will be seated in a comfortable chair. 
  • Before the process begins, the TMS professional will place a small electromagnetic coil against the patient’s scalp in the area that they had previously identified, which is usually on or near the patient’s forehead. This coil will usually be either round or shaped like a figure eight.
  • Depending on which type of TMS device is being used, the electromagnetic coil may be attached to a helmet- or cap-like apparatus that the patient will wear during the session. 
  • When the coil is properly positioned, the therapist will activate the device. This will start the delivery of the electromagnetic pulses. The speed of the pulses can vary depending on which type of TMS therapy the patient is receiving.
  • When the device is activated, the patient will likely hear a clicking sound, and they may also feel a light tapping at the point where the coil is in contact with their skin. 
  • The pulses that are emitted from the coil will pass through the patient’s skull and reach a few centimeters into their brain.
  • Within the brain, the electromagnetic pulses will stimulate nerve cells, usually within the cerebral cortex. Located near the top and front of a person’s brain, the cerebral cortex controls a variety of vital functions, such as learning, remembering, and thinking. This area of the brain is also associated with mood and emotions.
  • Experts are not entirely sure why this is effective, but this neural stimulation can lead to a reduction of depression symptoms and a host of additional benefits. 


When the TMS therapy session has concluded, the patient should not be experiencing any distressing or disorienting effects. Once a session has ended, patients should be able to drive, return to work, and fully engage in all other typical aspects daily life.

How Long Does TMS Take to Treat Depression?

Questions about how long TMS therapy for depression takes can refer to the individual sessions themselves or the number of sessions that a person will need to complete. Here are the answers to both:

  • A single TMS therapy session usually lasts 20 to 40 minutes. A patient’s first session may last the longest, as it may involve measurements and mapping to ensure that the coil is placed in the optimal location.
  • A full course of TMS therapy for depression usually consists of 36 sessions. During the first six weeks of treatment, the patient will attend five daily sessions. Over the next three weeks, they will take part in two sessions per week.


Before you begin to receive TMS therapy for depression (or for any other medical or mental health concern), the professional who will be providing the service should discuss the schedule with you and answer any questions you have about the procedure. They should also encourage you to make them aware of any side effects that you experience between sessions.

TMS side effects are relatively rare, and aren’t usually cause for concern. The most commonly reported effects are discomfort on the scalp where the coil was placed, pain in the jaw, lightheadedness, headaches, and muscle twitches. 

What Other Depressive Disorders Does TMS Treat?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration first approved a TMS device in 2008. At that time, TMS was authorized to treat the symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD). Through the years, TMS has also been used to help people who have a range of other depressive disorders, including:

  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Treatment-resistant depression (TRD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) 
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Substance use disorders (addictions)

Contact Conscious Health About Our TMS for Depression

If untreated depression has been preventing you from living the life you deserve, Conscious Health is here to help. 

At our mental health treatment center in Los Angeles, California, you can take part in a variety of innovative evidence-based services, all provided by compassionate professionals within a serene and highly supportive environment. 

We understand that every person who struggles with a depressive disorder is impacted in a unique way, and we will work closely with you to develop an individualized plan that reflects the full scope of your needs, goals, and expectations.

To learn more about TMS therapy for depression or any other aspect of our programming, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact Us page or call our center today.

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