Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

What is Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, ECT is considered the most effective treatment for major depression for people who have not found relief of their symptoms from medications or other forms of therapy. 

A medical procedure, ECT uses brief, low-energy electrical pulses to stimulate nerve-cell activity in the area of the brain that affects mood. Stimulating this area helps to alleviate symptoms of depression. The electrical impulses are delivered through electrodes placed on the scalp. Patients are given anesthesia to relax and ensure the procedure is pain-free. 

To Learn More Call (401) 455-6426


Contact Information:

ECT Program
Butler Hospital
345 Blackstone Boulevard
1st Floor Riverview Building
Providence, RI 02906
P: (401) 455-6426
F: (401) 680-4168

For consultations and to learn more about Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) please call (401) 455-6426 - along with the fax number (401-680-4168).  

Download ECT Client Referral Form (PDF) 

When is ECT recommended?

ECT is most commonly recommended for people who have not found relief of their symptoms from medications or other forms of therapy used to treat major depression. It is also recommended when other forms of treatment are not well tolerated by patients. ECT is also helpful in stopping a manic episode and in treating schizophrenia. ECT has shown to provide significant improvements more quickly than psychotherapy or medications in some patients with these disorders. 

ECT at Butler Hospital

Treatments are provided on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. For outpatient treatment, a family member, friend or health care worker must be available to help with transportation following the treatments. ECT is provided for both acute illnesses and on a maintenance schedule to prevent relapse. Suitability for ECT is evaluation by way of a consultation in conjunction with internal medicine and anesthesiology assessments.  

The ECT Program is located on the first floor of the Riverview Building on the Butler Hospital campus. Parking is available in Lot A2 and is free of charge. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any side effects?
The most common side effects include memory problems and headaches. Memory problems associated with ECT are often temporary and affect short-term recall of recent minor events. Any headaches are treated with standard pain medications, like acetaminophen. Rare side effects include dental injuries; however, precautions are taken during the procedure to reduce that risk. Side effects may be a result of the anesthesia, the ECT treatment, or both. 
Is ECT right for me?
The staff at Butler Hospital, in collaboration with you, your doctor, and family members or care providers when appropriate, will help you decide if ECT is right for you. They will discuss with you the potential benefits and risks of the treatment. A complete medical history and psychiatric evaluation are carefully conducted when determining if ECT therapy is right for you, and therapy is always done with a patient’s consent. 
How can I get ECT?

If you are interested in receiving ECT at Butler Hospital, a referral from your behavioral health care provider is needed. He or she can call (401) 455-6426 to arrange a consultation appointment with Butler’s ECT staff, or fax our Outpatient Referral Sheet to (401) 680-4168. Downloadable referral form is provided below. 

Download ECT Client Referral Form (PDF)

How many treatments are needed?
ECT usually consists of a series of six to 12 treatments. typically given two to three times per week. ECT is offered on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at Butler. A few patients may require more than 12 treatments for maximum benefit. 
Does insurance pay for ECT?
Most insurance companies cover ECT and usually require pre-authorization. Your health plan provider will be able to give you specific details about your coverage.