Trying ECT Therapy

By Amy Gardner|Updated August 3, 2022

Curious If ECT Might Be Right For You?

Beyond Psychotherapy

When it comes to mental health treatment, much of the discussion is often centered around psychotherapy and medication. While these treatment methods prove effective for many people, others may find that these don’t seem to impact their symptoms.

Available Treatments

For that reason, it’s important to become aware of other available treatment options, such as brain stimulation therapy. This article will focus specifically on Electroconvulsive Therapy ECT, its effectiveness, the risks and benefits, and seeking support if you think you may be a good candidate for ECT treatment.

What is Electroconvulsive Therapy?

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is a brain stimulation therapy used to treat major depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, particularly when other treatment methods have not been effective. ECT is a procedure that involves administering electrical pulses to the brain while an individual is under general anesthesia.

How Does It Work?

ECT produces a brief seizure, which creates changes in the brain that can significantly alleviate symptoms associated with severe mental illness.


No one is entirely sure how ECT works to improve symptoms in individuals with severe mental illness. Several theories are that the electrical currents in ECT might trigger new brain cells to develop, shift the activity of current brain cells at the synapses, and increase neurotransmitters such as dopamine or serotonin.

Required Sessions

Individuals typically undergo between 6-12 sessions of ECT depending on how their symptoms are responding to the treatment. ECT has been proven to be an effective treatment method for individuals with severe mental illness.

Is It Effective?

According to extensive research, ECT significantly reduces symptoms of depression for 80% of individuals. ECT may also be considered a treatment option for people with Bipolar Disorder who are not responding to other types of treatment.

Risks and Benefits

While ECT may be a beneficial treatment option for some people, it also comes with several significant risks.

Side Effects

Following an ECT procedure, an individual might experience side effects from general anesthesia, including nausea, headache, and confusion.

Short-Term Memory Loss

There is also a link between ECT and short-term memory loss in some individuals who display difficulty remembering events from the weeks or months leading up to the ECT treatment. Most people find that their memory problems subside after a few months, while others may experience more long-term challenges with ECT.


It is important to weigh these potential risks with the benefits of the ECT treatment. Individuals who don’t experience symptom relief from medications or are unable to tolerate medication might consider ECT.

Some common questions about this topic include:

What is the ECT used for?

Is ECT therapy painful?

What are some of the negative side effects of ECT?

What is the most common side effect of ECT?

What ECT does to the brain?

Does ECT damage the brain?

Is ECT worth the risk?

Does ECT lower IQ?

Does ECT erase memories?

What is the success rate of ECT?

Alternative Treatments

Additionally, this type of ECT treatment can improve symptoms more quickly than medications, which may take several weeks to work. This delay can be particularly harmful to individuals who are experiencing psychosis or suicidal ideation, thus ECT can be a better option.

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free, confidential, and available 24/7.

Considering ECT Therapy

If you are interested in exploring ECT as a potential treatment option, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. They can help you to determine whether you might be a good candidate for this ECT treatment.

Brain Stimulation As A Last Resort

Typically, ECT is considered after an individual has not seen an improvement in their symptoms from medication or therapy. Therefore, these methods may be recommended first before considering ECT. Even after trying other treatment methods, if you continue to experience severe depression and psychosis, ECT may be a good fit for helping to manage these debilitating symptoms.

Online Therapy

If you’re experiencing depression and need some help but aren’t quite convinced about ECT, our online therapists can help you at anytime to determine if ECT is right for you.


Online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy, and a University of Zurich study found that it can be more effective in the medium and long term. Their study found that depression could no longer be detected in 53% of online therapy users by the end of treatment (compared to 50% of in-person therapy users). At three months post-treatment,t this number increased to 57% for those who had used online therapy (and decreased to just 42% for in-person therapy).


Part of this success is due to the virtual nature of online therapy. As the therapy itself is conducted online or over the phone, clients from the get-go learn how to cope outside of an office setting. Those who attend in-person therapy may feel improvement during sessions, but some have difficulty in continuing to implement newly learned strategies outside of the office. Additionally, BetterHelp’s platform is incredibly convenient, able to be accessed anytime and anywhere – you’ll need an internet connection to get started.

Please continue reading below to find reviews of some of our board-certified therapists from people seeking help with depression.

Counselor Reviews

Jarad Ringer

“Jarad has helped me so much with depression and anxiety and complicated relationship issues. He helps me see my situation with far more clarity and how to move forward with strength. He understands anything we discuss immediately and with care and a sense of humor when appropriate. I look forward to our sessions and drawing upon his vast knowledge of many topics pertinent to my issues. There is no judgment, and I finally have a safe and productive space to make sense of things.”

Curious If ECT Might Be Right For You?

Jo-Ann Anstett

“Jo-Ann has been an amazing counselor in every way! From the first session on, I felt completely comfortable talking to her about everything and always felt heard, understood, and well advised in everything. She has helped me learn how to handle my depression and other issues in life better through listening, talking things through, and equipping me with practical and applicable tools that I could use for specific situations and issues. She has continually cheered me up, made me feel like she believes in me, and has been so kind and caring while not shying away from the more difficult questions, really getting me to look at things closer and discover the roots of my problems. I am incredibly grateful for having her as my counselor and can wholeheartedly recommend her!”

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