TMS for Depression: Is It Right for You?

What to know about TMS

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, is a technique approved by the FDA to treat major depressive disorder (MDD). It works by delivering magnetic pulses to the brain area associated with mood and depression, thereby stimulating the brain cells. TMS is non-invasive, which means it is painless and does not require surgery. It is effective for patients resistant to antidepressants (known as treatment-resistant depression, TRD). Although it may sound like the perfect solution to MDD, TMS is not for everyone. There is a checklist to go through before proceeding with the treatment.

What’s on the checklist?

To ensure the quality results and minimize potential side effects, the following must be assessed by your mental health provider:

  • Do you have any medical devices or metal implanted in your body?
  • Are you pregnant or trying to become pregnant?
  • Have you tried any antidepressants in the past? If so, did it work?
  • Are you currently on any prescribed, over-the-counter, or herbal medications?
  • Do you/Have you had a brain injury or illness? (e.g., brain tumor, epilepsy, etc.)

Make sure to tell your mental health provider if you answer ‘yes’ to any of the points above. Note that this is not an exhaustive list. There may be more factors that could affect your option with TMS, so it is important to consult with your physician thoroughly.

What can I expect during a TMS session?

As mentioned above, TMS is a modern way of treating MDD using technology. It is painless, non-invasive, and does not require general anesthesia. You can expect to continue with your day immediately after the treatment, which makes TMS stand out from the rest of the treatment options for MDD. Before the treatment begins, you will be asked to remove any hair clips or jewelry on your head, ear, and around your neck. Then, your healthcare provider will place the magnetic coil on the side of your skull. The coil is what will deliver the magnetic pulses to your brain. Each pulse comes with a loud clicking sound, and you may feel some tapping sensation on your head while the pulses are being delivered. You will be given earplugs to wear throughout the session. You are also free to do any activity you enjoy, such as reading a book or browsing on your smartphone. Most patients who have had TMS treatment say that they experience light headaches and fatigue. However, these symptoms are not long-term and should go away with time. 


Your mental health provider will do what’s called “mapping” for your first TMS session. At this time, your doctor will adjust the intensity level to make sure it’s the right dosage for you. Usually, it takes a total of 30 days to complete the TMS treatment. Depending on your insurance plan, you may even get up to 36 days of coverage. The actual treatment takes 20-25 minutes, but the preparation takes up the rest of the time. You can think of this session as the ‘preparation stage’ before beginning the treatment.

The transformative 30-days

Day 1 of 30 will start after the “mapping.” Plan to take at least 45 minutes out of your day to commit to each session, as you will be required to come in every day for the next 30 days. If TMS works for you, you will see improvements after two weeks. After completing the 30-day treatment, you will have a TMS follow-up with your doctor. This follow-up will cover your experience with TMS, if there’s been any improvement, and what to do next.


If you are someone who’s been struggling with MDD even with many medications and countless psychotherapy sessions, you may consider speaking with your doctor about TMS treatment. Although there’s no sure way to eliminate MDD, TMS has shown some promising results. It is also covered by most insurance companies, so there is a good chance you can get help. Specialty Clinic of Austin can offer you the support you need and be there for every step of your journey battling through MDD. Get in touch with our clinic today and see how we can serve you.


  1. Rizvi, S., & Khan, A. M. (2019). Use of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Depression. Cureus, 11(5), e4736.
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, November 27). Transcranial magnetic stimulation – Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic.

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