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What Is TMS Therapy?

Learn about transcranial magnetic simulation (TMS) therapy and how it’s used as an effective treatment by mental health professionals.

As the field of mental health has evolved, so have the therapies used to treat a spectrum of disorders. Transcranial magnetic simulation (TMS) is one of the therapies that has continued to be researched, tested, and applied over time. According to the Mayo Clinic, TMS uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression.1 The treatment is also commonly referred to as repetitive transcranial magnetic simulation (rTMS) because it involves delivering repetitive magnetic pulses. But what more should you know about this therapy and how it is used by practitioners in the field? Below, we outline some basic information about TMS therapy and its application.

What Is TMS Therapy?

TMS therapy was first introduced in 1985.

Though the physical principles of TMS—that a pulse of electric current passing through a wire coil generates a magnetic field—were discovered in the late 17th century, the first reliable transcranial magnetic brain simulator wasn’t introduced until 1985. Anthony Barker and his team of colleagues at The University of Sheffield, England, initially developed TMS to be used as a diagnostic tool to produce an evoked potential in muscle tissue by activating neurons in the motor cortex.2 It was then discovered that TMS emits a quick, powerful, and painless magnetic field that can stimulate nerve cells in a targeted region of the brain—like the one associated with depression.

The procedure is entirely noninvasive.

TMS therapy requires no sedation or anesthesia and is relatively pain-free. Often used to treat depression in individuals who have not improved with medication, TMS is considered a safe and effective treatment option. Patients undergoing TMS therapy are usually treated several times a week, each session lasting roughly 40 minutes. Though some side effects—such as headache or tingling—may follow treatment, reactions are considered mild to moderate.1

TMS therapy is an FDA-approved treatment for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a TMS device that treats patients with medication-resistant depression. More recently, in June of 2019 a TMS therapy device used to treat individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) was approved by the FDA, as well. This marks the first FDA-approved noninvasive medical device for the treatment of OCD, aimed at patients who have not responded to traditional forms of treatment.3

Treatment is effective … but not proven to be permanent.

Though patient outcomes for TMS therapy have demonstrated efficacy, there is no research that shows outcomes are permanent. Therapy is meant to be ongoing and continued even when the patient starts to exhibit no symptoms of depression or OCD. However, it is not yet known if maintenance TMS sessions will benefit depression in the long term and prevent the recurrence of symptoms.1

Earn Your Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Empower Others to Transform Their Lives

If you are looking to make a difference in the lives of others and further your career in the mental health field, Walden can give you the support you need to succeed. When you enroll in Walden’s CACREP-accredited MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, you can gain the confidence, qualifications, and critical thinking skills to help clients cope with daily life and overcome their greatest challenges. Explore the latest counseling theories and tools for preventing, diagnosing, and treating mental health disorders, through courses led by faculty who are leaders in their fields and active American Counseling Association members. With a general program and five specializations to choose from—including Forensic Counseling, Addiction Counseling, and Military Families and Culture—you can focus your online education on the topics that matter most to you and your career. Whatever you decide, Walden’s clinical mental health counseling master’s program can give you the tools you need to advance in the field and improve the mental and emotional health of others.

At Walden, an accredited university, you can earn your degree online while you continue to work full time. That means you can better maintain a work-life balance while you strengthen your skill set. With online learning, there’s no need to completely rearrange your schedule or commute to campus—you can take classes at whatever time of day works best for you as you earn your master’s in mental health degree and advance your career in a meaningful way.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, as well as an array of psychology and counseling degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) as a mental health counseling program under the 2001 standards. CACREP is a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), and CACREP accreditation is a requirement for licensure in many states.

The MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is designed to prepare graduates to qualify to sit for licensing exams and to meet the academic licensure requirements of many state counseling boards. Walden Enrollment Specialists can provide guidance on licensure issues, however, it remains the individual’s responsibility to understand and comply with all state licensure requirements. Walden makes no representations or guarantee that completion of Walden coursework or programs will permit an individual to obtain state licensure.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,