Transcranial magnetic stimulation is an innovative treatment from the forefront of medical science. It offers a safe and evidence-based alternative to antidepressant medications and talk therapy.
If you're considering TMS therapy, you might wonder how long a TMS course is, how many sessions you need, and the schedule. You can call us at GIA Miami for expert information and advice, or read this page to find out more.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is a non-invasive treatment that uses gentle magnetic pulses to stimulate specific brain cells that regulate mood and behavior. An evidence-based therapy, TMS can alleviate symptoms of many mental health conditions, including major depressive disorder (MDD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
TMS is a safe, painless brain stimulation therapy with few side effects. You stay conscious throughout the treatment and can drive to and from therapy sessions. TMS was cleared by the FDA for treatment-resistant depression in 2008 and OCD in 2018.
rTMS is a type of TMS therapy that uses trains of multiple magnetic pulses (as opposed to single pulses) to stimulate nerve cells. Because almost all mental health applications of TMS therapy use rTMS therapy, the terms are often used interchangeably.
Deep TMS therapy is a type of TMS therapy that stimulates brain cells in deeper brain areas. It uses specialized "H-coils" to access extensive neuronal pathways without needing to increase the intensity of the pulses.
Deep TMS has expanded the use of TMS therapy to treat symptoms of a broader range of mental disorders.
A standard course of TMS therapy is around 36 treatment sessions - daily sessions five times a week for six weeks, and then tapering off during the final weeks.
Research has shown that one course of TMS treatment can lead to long-lasting improvements in depressive symptoms, with up to 50% of clients living with major depression showing a sustained positive response a year after treatment.
Your treatment provider may offer you the chance to participate in maintenance sessions after your initial treatment course. Maintenance TMS treatments vary in schedule - you may attend two consecutive days of sessions a month or one session every two weeks. Maintenance treatments may be beneficial for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, where the risk of relapse is typically higher.
Every client is different. Some clients may notice small changes in a standard course of TMS after one to two weeks (5 - 10 sessions), while others start to see improvements in the fourth or fifth week (20 - 25 sessions). It's recommended that clients complete an entire course of treatment regardless of when they first see improvements.
Read more: How long does TMS Therapy last?
A 2018 study on clients with major depressive disorder investigated whether having twice-daily sessions - instead of daily sessions - affected treatment outcomes. Both groups had the same number of total sessions.
They found no adverse side effects from participating in two sessions a day and that the experience was tolerant for clients.
They also found that the twice-daily group experienced the same improvements as the once-daily group, but the changes happened more quickly. The twice-daily group also experienced a higher response rate (82.4% compared to 52.6%).
The results suggest that a twice-daily schedule is as effective as a daily schedule. It may also be more convenient for clients, offering a shorter treatment course and requiring fewer visits to a treatment center.
A 2011 study compared two different TMS therapy schedules for depression treatment. Both programs offered the same number of sessions, but one delivered them three times a week and the other five times a week.
The study found that while after four weeks, the five-session-a-week group showed more improvements in symptoms, the results were the same when both groups had completed their courses.
The results imply that the frequency of TMS sessions may not be relevant to treatment success.
There is currently no clinical consensus on the optimal schedule for TMS treatment. Research suggests that the total number of sessions is significant rather than their frequency.
However, specific schedules may suit different individuals for other reasons. Some clients may want to see the quickest improvements possible and prefer twice-daily sessions. Other clients may only be able to go to a center three times a week and opt for a longer TMS course. You should talk to your TMS therapist and treatment provider to find the best option for you.
TMS courses last several weeks - so what if you have to miss a session? Considering all the duties, responsibilities, and unpredictability of daily life, it's understandable that sometimes might come up.
Luckily, research suggests that modest nonadherence to standard schedules has no meaningful impact on outcomes. Researchers found that missing sessions or taking short breaks - even unanticipated gaps of up to 14 days - didn't necessarily affect a client's progress. At present, we can assume that occasionally missed sessions don't affect the effectiveness of TMS treatment.
Most clients will not notice improvements after one session - but that doesn't mean it's not working. TMS treatment is a calmative process, with each session contributing to the recovery process.
Some clients begin to see changes within one to two weeks of starting treatment, while others may wait four to five weeks. If you have to wait a little longer before seeing results, it doesn't make the treatment less effective - you can still see meaningful improvements in depression symptoms and other mental health concerns.
GIA Miami is a pioneer in non-invasive brain stimulation therapy and mental wellness treatment. We offer the most up-to-date technologies from the forefront of medical science, applying scientific advances to enhance and promote life-long wellness.
Our team contains world-leading experts in TMS therapy who carry out some of the most exciting research today. Our founder, Dr. Bonci, has co-authored several pivotal studies on TMS, particularly as a treatment for cocaine, nicotine, and gambling addiction.
As a client at GIA Miami, all this expertise is directed toward you. Our personalized approach allows you to work one-on-one with our incredible team, benefiting from their exceptional knowledge and experience.
We deliver our services with compassion and respect to every client, considering each individual's unique needs. Our outpatient facilities offer flexibility and convenience so that you can make recovery a part of your daily schedule.
Read more: How much does TMS Therapy cost?
TMS can be a life-changing treatment, especially for clients who have struggled with other treatment approaches. If you're living with a mental health condition or looking to improve your mental performance, contact us today. Our expert team can answer any questions and talk you through the options available.
Life wants you back - and we're here to help.
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