Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) in Jacksonville

River Point is the first freestanding behavioral health center in Jacksonville and northeast Florida to offer ECT. This distinction means you don’t have to go to a hospital to receive the treatment you need. You receive ECT in a comfortable, familiar environment from caregivers you know and trust.

An older man sits on a sofa, hands to his face, and looks concerns as a doctor looks through her notes

Understanding ECT

If you have severe depression or another mental illness that hasn’t improved with medication, you may benefit from electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). At River Point Behavioral Health, we have nearly two decades of experience offering this highly effective treatment. Our ECT team includes a psychiatrist, anesthesiologist and nurse with specialized training and a compassionate approach.

ECT is a minimally invasive treatment designed to stimulate your brain, a bit like jump-starting a car battery. It affects the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in your brain) that control your emotions and mood. ECT helps them work more effectively, so you feel better.

ECT delivers electrical currents to your brain. The electrical stimulation produces a short, mild seizure. The seizure is intentional and not dangerous — it’s your body’s way of reacting to nerve changes in your brain.

Commonly asked questions about ECT:

Is ECT only for depression?

ECT is a common treatment for people with major depression whose symptoms have not improved with medication and psychotherapy. People who can’t tolerate the side effects of certain medications may also benefit from ECT. At River Point, we offer ECT for people in our inpatient and outpatient treatment programs. ECT is only for adults (18 and up).

ECT may also be appropriate for people with:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Catatonia
  • Dementia with severe agitation or aggression
  • Mania
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Suicidal thoughts

What can I expect during ECT treatment?

ECT isn’t right for everyone. We do a comprehensive health assessment to make sure you’re a good candidate. You receive a psychiatric evaluation and medical tests, such as a chest X-ray and electrocardiogram (EKG), to check your lungs and heart. If you have a heart problem, such as heart failure or an abnormal heart rhythm, you aren’t a candidate for ECT.

On the day of ECT treatment:

  1. We do urine tests to make sure there are no drugs in your system.
  2. You receive a muscle relaxant and anesthesia through a vein in your arm. You are asleep throughout the treatment, so you won’t feel any pain.
  3. A psychiatrist delivers carefully controlled electrical impulses to your brain. The procedure takes about 20 minutes.

After treatment, we bring you out of anesthesia in our recovery room. Your caregivers monitor you closely to make sure you feel comfortable and are ready to return home.

How many ECT treatments do I need?

Most people receive 12 ECT treatments, delivered three times a week for four weeks. Some people need ongoing maintenance treatments every few months if symptoms return.

Can I drive after ECT?

You can’t drive at all during the weeks you have ECT treatment and for several weeks after. Your physician will tell you if and when it is safe to drive again.

Does ECT cause side effects?

The most common side effects of ECT include:

  • Confusion: Some people wake up from anesthesia feeling a little disoriented. This is usually temporary. Your caregivers are by your side to help you adjust and recover.
  • Headaches: We may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medication to manage mild headaches from ECT.
  • Muscle aches: Your body or face may feel sore after treatment. Muscle aches are most common after the first few treatments.
  • Short-term memory loss: You may forget things that happened before treatment or have trouble remembering new information after treatment. Any memory issues are usually mild and temporary.

At River Point Behavioral Health, an ECT team is available 24/7 to address any unusual side effects or other concerns you may have. People undergoing ECT can come directly to our evaluation office at any time, with or without an appointment, for attentive care.

Is ECT different than transcranial magnetic stimulation?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is another treatment for severe depression. Your psychiatrist will determine if ECT or TMS is right for your needs.

Like ECT, TMS stimulates your brain. TMS:

  • Is less invasive than ECT and less likely to cause side effects
  • Requires more sessions (about 36) to experience relief from depression
  • Is not recommended for conditions such as catatonia or psychosis