Demystifying ECT – A Patient’s Perspective


Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is a potent therapeutic tool that was first used in the 1930s to treat severe cases of mental illness.  Originally known as “shock therapy,” the practice once associated with films like “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” has evolved and is resurfacing as a highly effective treatment for those suffering with medication resistant depression.  According to the American Psychiatric Association, its success rate is 80 percent; almost double that of treatment with medication alone.  Today the views on ECT are varied, from clinicians who are skeptical about its effects and concerned about brain damage to those who believe it is the most efficacious and safe psychiatric treatment available.

ECT is frequently a life-saving treatment, which is often withheld from patients until late in the course of their illness. ECT could cut down on patients’ suffering if it were offered earlier in their treatment plan, if not for continuing and pervasive stigma. The stigma exists because of misconceptions about the brutal way it was administered decades ago, i.e. without anesthesia. Today, ECT is modernized, humane and painless. Unfortunately, there is limited information available to the health care community and to the general public about how current ECT is used.

Carol Kivler has received more than 50 ECT treatments over a 10 year period.  For her, ECT provides the only option to treat periodic bouts of medication resistant depression.  In this presentation, Carol will discuss her own experiences as a patient who has successfully been treated with ECT numerous times.  She will discuss her initial reaction to her doctor’s recommendation and well as her preparation, treatment and recovery from ECT.


To educate, create acceptance and provide an overall understanding around utilizing ECT as an effective and viable treatment option for mental illness.  To present a case study of someone who has undergone the procedure multiple times and how it has impacted her mental, physical and emotional health, as well as her quality of life.

Presentation Highlights Include:

  • Discussing how patients prepare for treatment and what occurs during treatment.
  • Reviewing the effects of treatment on the brain and side effects experienced after ECT.
  • Opening the door for discussion and understanding of modern ECT usage.
  • Promoting acceptance of ECT as a viable and efficacious treatment option.
  • Regaining and resuming a full, productive life.