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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

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What Is TMS Therapy?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a procedure to treat treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. During the treatment, our specialists will place an electromagnetic coil against your forehead. Currents pass through the coil to stimulate nerve cells in the part of your brain that regulates mood. We give TMS as a series of approximately 30 treatments spaced out over several weeks.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved TMS in 2008 to treat major depressive disorder. Today, researchers at Huntsman Mental Health Institute continue to study how we can increase the effectiveness of TMS and use it for other treatment-resistant conditions.


Both TMS and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) are effective, safe treatments for treatment-resistant depression, or depression that hasn’t improved with medication or psychotherapy.

During ECT, an electrical current induces a brief seizure. In contrast, TMS stimulates the brain using a magnetic field and doesn’t involve a seizure.

ECT has a higher risk of side effects than TMS. But it may be more effective than TMS for some patients. You may also experience the positive effects of ECT more quickly. Your care team can help you understand which treatment is right for you based on your needs, overall health, and preferences.

Candidate Criteria for TMS Therapy

TMS may be appropriate for people with major depressive disorder or persistent feelings of sadness or loss of interest in activities who have tried two or more depression medications and psychotherapy without symptoms improving.

Pros & Cons of TMS Therapy

Like all medical treatments, TMS therapy has pros:

  • Little to no downtime after the therapy
  • Low risk of side effects

You may also experience some cons:

  • Higher cost or lack of insurance coverage for the procedure
  • A slight delay in treatment benefits, with most people experiencing the results of treatment within 4–6 weeks

What to Expect During Your TMS Procedure

There’s no special preparation for TMS and no anesthesia. You can expect the following experiences:

  1. You will sit in a reclined, dentist-like chair and remain awake and alert.
  2. A specially trained technician will place a small device containing a magnetic coil against your forehead.
  3. You may hear a clicking sound or feel tapping sensations as the device delivers focused magnetic stimulation to the front portion of your brain.

The entire appointment typically lasts around 15 minutes. You can return to work or home the same day as TMS therapy. You can resume your usual activities immediately and drive yourself to and from your appointment. Most patients have TMS therapy sessions five days a week for four to six weeks.

TMS Success Rate

TMS is successful for about 50-60% of patients with treatment-resistant depression. Your care team can discuss other treatment options if TMS doesn’t work for you.

Is TMS Safe?

TMS is a safe treatment. It doesn’t require anesthesia or other medications and is noninvasive

How Long Does TMS Last?

Many people find that the effects of TMS last long-term. Your care team may recommend continuing depression treatment with medication and psychotherapy after TMS.

Your depressive symptoms may reappear after TMS therapy. In these cases, your psychiatrist may recommend additional rounds of TMS. Your care team will discuss ongoing care with you. 

Can TMS Make Depression Worse?

TMS typically doesn’t make depression worse. Some people don’t experience a significant improvement in depression symptoms after treatment, but treatment doesn’t worsen symptoms.

TMS Side Effects

TMS may come with certain side effects. Mild headaches are the only side effect of treatment for most people. Headache pain is usually temporary. Over-the-counter medications typically relieve the discomfort. 

TMS Therapy Cost

The cost of TMS can vary. Our staff can help you figure out your out-of-pocket costs before you start treatment.

Is TMS Covered by Insurance?

More insurance companies cover TMS than in the past, although many still don’t. Our staff will contact your insurance company to try to obtain authorization for TMS. 

Does Medicaid Cover TMS Therapy?

Medicaid may cover a percentage of TMS therapy, depending on your plan and qualifications.

What If TMS Doesn’t Work?

If TMS isn’t effective for you, our team offers several other treatment options:

Why Choose Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI)?

HMHI specialists are the only providers in the state to offer the full range of neurostimulation treatments for treatment-resistant mood disorders. Our experts have decades of experience in neurostimulation and psychiatric treatments. We are one of the highest-volume programs in the Mountain West region, providing more than 3,500 TMS treatments annually, and continually offer new treatment options through clinical trials. The Treatment Resistant Mood Disorder Clinic is part of the National Network of Depression Centers, a large group of centers dedicated to evidence-based treatment for depression and bipolar disorder.

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Make a Referral

The Treatment-Resistant Mood Disorders Clinic offers comprehensive, evidence-based therapies to decrease symptoms and improve quality of life. Refer a patient by filling out our referral form, or learn more by calling 801-587-3297.