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Treating Depression with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy

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By Dr. Michael Genovese, Chief Medical Officer, Behavioral Health Services, Acadia Healthcare

Traditionally, talk therapy and psychotropic medication are the two most commonly used tools in a therapist’s arsenal to treat mental illness. But no two people are alike, so the treatment that works for one person may not be effective for another.

So what happens when traditional treatment doesn’t work?

It’s important to know that there are other treatment options available that can help restore a patient’s mental health. If you’re a first responder suffering from depression, and traditional treatment modalities are no longer offering relief, you may be a good candidate for transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

In a person suffering from depression, certain areas of the brain charged with regulating mood may not be functioning properly. TMS is a noninvasive, outpatient procedure that uses a pulsed magnetic field to stimulate those areas. The electromagnetic energy stimulates neurons in the brain to balance the production of three neurotransmitters that regulate mood: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

The patient remains awake and alert throughout the procedure. The TMS process is pain-free and includes three steps:

  1. Patients are seated comfortably in a chair.
  2. A magnetic coil that lies inside of a small, curved device will be placed lightly on the head.
  3. The device will produce focused magnetic stimulation onto targeted areas of the brain.

This FDA-approved treatment lasts less than 40 minutes, after which you can resume your normal daily activities right away. Most patients will engage in TMS therapy five times over the span of four to six weeks.

TMS is a drug-free alternative treatment that provides relief without any of the uncomfortable side effects that are common with antidepressant medications.

Tens of thousands of people have found relief from symptoms of depression since trying TMS, and yet scientists and medical professionals are still working to fully understand just why this treatment works.

What is known, however, is that TMS is most effective when it is used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that also includes other types of support.

About the Author: Dr. Michael Genovese is the chief medical officer, behavioral health services at Acadia Healthcare and clinical advisor to Treatment Placement Specialists®, an initiative of Acadia Healthcare. Acadia operates a network of 576 behavioral health facilities with approximately 17,300 beds in 39 states, the United Kingdom and Puerto Rico. Dr. Genovese also serves as the medical director of the Officer Safety and Wellness Committee of the FBI National Academy Associates, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Arizona and medical director of the Camden Center in Menlo Park, California. He is the former chief medical officer of Sierra Tucson. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, a member of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Dr. Genovese writes, speaks, teaches and consults widely in the disciplines of pharmacology, neuromodulation and pharmacogenomics.​ To contact the author, email For more articles featuring insight from industry experts, subscribe to In Public Safety’s bi-monthly newsletter.


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