If you’re staring down another year, wondering how you’re going to manage your depression, it’s time to make a change.
Have you been curious about alternative depression treatment options? Is your search history filled with things like “What does transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) feel like?” and “TMS therapy near me Mill Creek”? You need to put your worries to rest and understand what TMS therapy will look like. Here’s a walkthrough of everything you need to know from start to finish:
Your Pre-Treatment Evaluation
Often, clinics will offer a suitability quiz online or a free phone consultation even before the initial consultation to ensure eligibility and that they treat your particular needs. TMS is an excellent therapy that most are eligible for, but if you fall into the small population that isn’t, the TMS providers can recommend more suitable alternatives.
Questions they may ask include:
- Do you have a history of seizures?
- Do you have any permanent metal in your body within twelve inches of your head? Braces and dental fillings don’t count, but anything generally in your head or neck region must be removed or disclosed.
It’s always a good idea to disclose:
- If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant.
- If you’re currently taking any medications or receiving other treatments
- If you have any other disorders or medical conditions, especially mental health problems, brain damage, or brain-related injuries.
Once the clinic confirms you’re safe for TMS, you’ll schedule your initial consultation. Before you visit, verify your insurance coverage and approvals process.
The Initial Consultation
When you arrive, the clinic staff will confirm your insurance information and help with your intake paperwork. You will then sit one-on-one with your TMS provider to start your customized TMS journey. Your provider will want to know more about your medical history during this session. You can plan on answering questions about your lifestyle, current symptoms, and previous and ongoing treatments. They will want a baseline to assess whether the treatment has the desired effect, so providers will collect mental health questionnaires relevant to your diagnosis.
The initial consultation provides an opportunity for you to decide if TMS is the right fit for you. This is a great time to bring up any questions or concerns to make you feel more comfortable. TMS providers should willingly answer all of your questions. There should also be a discussion surrounding the science behind TMS and what the treatment process looks like. If you and the provider agree that TMS is the right fit, then it will be time to discuss the next steps and your treatment plan.
Navigating The TMS Sessions
Next, you’ll have your first session. TMS is non-invasive, so you don’t need any IVs, medications, or other prep before sessions. Other than ensuring you’re healthy and hydrated, there aren’t significant reasons not to start TMS at your first appointment.
- Check Coil Placement
TMS specialists will check measurements and run a few tests to ensure correct coil placement on your scalp for therapeutic responses. They will store these measurements for future sessions, so you shouldn’t need to perform them again unless there’s a change.
- Map Your Individualized Treatment Plan
Based on your evaluation, the clinician will create a personalized treatment plan. This will include TMS session frequency, intensity, and duration and overall treatment length. They will also determine which brain regions they’re targeting and why, if you want to ask about the details.
You will be awake and alert the whole time. But you can relax and recline in a comfortable treatment chair, similar to a dentist’s chair, without any horrible teeth drilling or scraping.
The provider will administer pulses to the brain regions they’re targeting through the coil placed on your scalp. You can watch TV, listen to music, or get comfortable and shut your eyes during the session. Your first consultation and session can take anywhere from 60-120 minutes. Subsequent sessions usually only take 20-25 minutes from start to finish since the clinic already has your settings and protocol recorded.
Routine Monitoring And Adjustments
Throughout the treatment course, your TMS team will routinely monitor your progress. They can adjust the intensity of the magnetic pulses to ensure you will receive the maximum therapeutic benefits. Communicate any changes to your mood, behavior, or symptoms and if you experience any side effects. Potential side effects can include:
- Mild headaches
- Minor scalp discomfort
- More rarely, a little fatigue
Most side effects resolve within the first week of treatment, and you can treat any discomfort with acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin.
After completing your planned sessions, your TMS provider will conduct a post-treatment assessment. This is to check outcomes and determine the overall effectiveness of your therapy. They can help guide you further along your mental wellness journey. They can also recommend steps to take to maintain positive results. Read more about those tips here. If you’ve been seeing a counselor or talk therapist, keep up with your appointments based on their advice.
Long-Term Maintenance And Follow-Up
For some, TMS is the final push to achieve remission. For others, you may need maintenance therapy to keep your symptoms at bay. Mental health is an ongoing process.
Starting TMS therapy is a significant step toward reclaiming your mental wellness. Hopefully, demystifying the process will empower you to make an appointment today. Remember, TMS experts are with you each step of the way and guide you to a more balanced life.