Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) has emerged in the field of mental health as a dynamic and promising treatment modality, offering hope and relief for those suffering from the sometimes unyielding challenges of depression and other mental health disorders. For many, it represents not just another treatment, but a beacon of progress. However, like any new medical procedure, your first TMS therapy appointment may feel daunting, and you likely have a myriad of questions.

This comprehensive TMS FAQ is structured to address the most common inquiries that therapy-seekers might have before embarking on their TMS treatment journey. Whether you’re already scheduled for your first session with us at Clearwave Mental Health (we have four practices now in the state of New York) or just beginning to consider this form of therapy, this guide aims to demystify the TMS therapy experience and prepare you for the journey ahead.

1. What is TMS?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. It is typically used when standard depression treatments, like medications and psychotherapy, have been ineffective.

2. How should I prepare for my TMS therapy appointment?

Prior to your TMS session, there are a few basic steps you’ll want to ensure you’ve covered:

  • Make sure you know the location and schedule of the TMS center.
    Clearwave’s four locations are:

    1. Clearwave Mental Health – Psychiatric and TMS Center
    370 Violet Avenue, Poughkeepsie, New York 12601, United States

    2. Clearwave Mental Health – Psychiatric and TMS Center
    115 E Stevens Ave, Suite 108, Valhalla, NY 10595, United States

    3. Clearwave Mental Health – Psychiatric and TMS Center
    25 Smith St, Suite 314, Nanuet, NY 10954, United States

    4. Clearwave Mental Health – Psychiatric and TMS Center
    75 Crystal Run Rd, Suite 103, Middletown, NY 10941, United States
  • Familiarize yourself with any pre-appointment instructions.
  • Ensure any required paperwork, like medical history, is completed and ready for submission.

3. What should I avoid before my TMS therapy session?

While there are no strict dietary or medication restrictions before TMS, there are a couple good practices prior to your first appointment:

  1. Get a good night’s rest: 4hrs of sleep at the very least
  2. Limit alcohol consumption
  3. If you take benzodiazepines, please do not take them within 4hrs of your TMS appointment

4. Can I drive myself to and from the TMS session?

Yes, patients are able to drive to and from their TMS sessions.The treatment does not typically impair your mental function to a degree that would hinder driving skills. However, if you’re concerned, or if your TMS center advises against it for your specific treatment, you should make alternative transportation arrangements.

5. What should I bring to my TMS therapy appointment?

You should bring any pertinent medical records or documentation requested by the TMS provider. Additionally, it’s a good idea to bring a list of any current medications, including dosages, as well as a list of questions you might have for your TMS specialist.

6. Is TMS painful?

The sensation experienced during TMS is often described as a tapping or clicking sound, along with a mild to moderate tapping sensation on the scalp. It is generally well-tolerated, and most patients do not report significant pain.

7. How long does a TMS therapy session last?

The duration of a TMS session can vary, but a standard session typically lasts around 20 to 40 minutes, with treatments occurring five times a week for several weeks, depending on your TMS provider’s recommended protocol.

8. What happens during a TMS treatment session?

During a TMS treatment, an electromagnetic coil is placed against your scalp near the forehead. The electromagnet delivers a small electric current to a specific area of the brain that is thought to be involved in mood regulation, causing a brief magnetic field. This magnetic field then triggers a response in the brain’s nerve cells by inducing tiny electrical currents, leading to a change in brain activity.

9. What are the side effects of TMS?

The most common side effect of TMS is a mild to moderate headache or scalp discomfort during the procedure, especially during the first week of treatment. This is normally treated with over-the-counter ibuprofen. 

10. How effective is TMS therapy?

Clinical studies have found TMS to be an effective treatment for depression. It is often prescribed for individuals who have not received adequate benefit from the standard therapy, indicating its significant contribution to the mental health landscape.

Being armed with accurate information about what to expect at your first TMS therapy appointment can help you approach the experience with confidence and optimism. Remember, every patient’s treatment is tailored to their specific needs, and your TMS provider will be there every step of the way to guide you through the process. If you’re considering TMS as a potential treatment, your first step will likely be a consultation with a TMS specialist who can provide more detailed information specific to your situation. Clearwave Mental Health, in New York, is ready to help you along your TMS journey. Contact us to start your TMS therapy journey.