Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a safe and effective therapeutic modality for a rapidly expanding range of neuropsychiatric indications. Among psychiatric conditions, it is presently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treatment-resistant unipolar major depressive disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, 2 highly prevalent conditions with a considerable public health impact. There is also mounting evidence for its clinical utility in numerous other neuropsychiatric conditions.
Nonetheless, many mental health providers, as well as primary care and other providers, remain unfamiliar with its clinical use. In this primer, we seek to describe in nontechnical terms how the magnetic field is applied to the brain, the unmet needs that may be remediated with TMS, the present state of evidence for clinical effectiveness, particularly in major depressive disorder, the safety profile of TMS, what patients experience during TMS, and some recent developments that serve to advance the use of this still novel intervention. TMS is poised to assume an important place in the armamentarium of interventions to better serve our patients, especially those with serious, chronic conditions with high rates of resistance to more conventional treatments.
Consequently, it is essential that mental health providers gain as adequate a working knowledge of device-based interventions such as TMS as they currently have of psychopharmacological and psychosocial interventions. Among other potential benefits, this information should aid the process of obtaining informed consent from patients who are candidates for these treatments. (Journal of Psychiatric Practice 2020;26;423–