SALEM — The Center for Life Management relaunched its transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy program at its Salem facility this past summer after a hiatus of a few years, and program coordinators want to get the word out about the mental health treatment option ahead of an open house on Oct. 24.
Todd Donovan, 50, of Chester had struggled with major depression, voices in his head and suicidal ideation for most of his life. He’s had depression since he was 8 years old, and he estimates he attempted suicide about four times.
Over the years, Donovan had been hospitalized for depression about six times, tried 11 different medications and even tried electroconvulsive therapy in 2008. Nothing worked.
The only thing that he says seems to work is regular sessions seated in a chair with a powerful magnet that pulses at a targeted region of his brain for 20 minutes.
“What I’ve discovered is when I did this therapy five years ago I got remission after session number 22,” Donovan said.
Donovan first went to Concord Hospital when it began its program and later transitioned to CLM. After CLM stopped offering it for the past few years, he went to a physician in Belmont.
Aside from the magnetic therapy maintenance once every four to six weeks, Donovan is also on two low-dose medications — an antidepressant and an antipsychotic. He says he’s in full remission.
“It keeps me very high functioning,” Donovan said.
The program at CLM was relaunched May 22.
“We’re seeing phenomenal results,” said Kathleen Raymond, CLM director of operations.
Raymond said she was moved when one patient’s spouse said, “My wife is coming back to me.” Other patients have begun recommending the treatment to family members.
Each person interested in receiving the treatment is screened over the phone and screened again more thoroughly in-person with doctors Michelle Saidel and Ken Brown. An hourlong mapping session helps to identify the target area of the brain that controls mood, and the first treatment session is completed immediately after that.
A device manufactured by NeuroStar saves the brain map info of each patient and produces a magnetic field similar to what’s produced by an MRI. It sends 100 pulses in a 4-second period, pauses for 15 seconds, and repeats that pattern over a 20-minute session.
The idea is the magnetic field helps to activate the natural function of neurotransmitters in the left prefrontal cortex.
Patients come in for 36 sessions of acute treatment for five days a week over a six-week period. After that, they can come back for less frequent maintenance sessions.
Donovan said the treatment is covered by his health insurance, though he said insurance companies often require a patient to have tried up to four or five medications first.
CLM requires patients to complete 12 psychotherapy sessions, and there are exclusions for people with seizure conditions and metal plates in their heads. The treatment is also only approved for patients 18 and older.
When CLM first launched the magnetic therapy program in early 2011, the center had an older device that took nearly 40 minutes to complete a single session. The program was suspended in 2016, according to Raymond.
New equipment has cut that time in half. CLM currently has five staffers on the program. Raymond said they hope that as more patients start using the treatment, CLM will be able to hire more staffers and extend the hours they can make it available.
During an open house on Oct. 24 from 3 to 5 p.m., members of the public will be able to see the equipment and learn more about how the treatment works.