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Former Madigan doctor shares new mental health therapy

NeuroStim TMS shows promise in treating anxiety disorders

Kyle Jiganti, a TMS technician at Touchstone Life Center, takes the role of patient as Dr. Kris Peterson demonstrates the process of administering TMS therapy. Photo credit: John Ferri

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With his salt and pepper hair, square jaw, and handsome good looks, you might figure Dr. Kris Peterson as a retired Army colonel. When you combine this (strength and confidence) with the soft-spoken psychiatrist's easy-going demeanor, you can see how patients find it easy to connect, to trust him with their deepest anxieties and fears.

The calming vibe is apparent when you arrive at Peterson's Lakewood offices, Touchstone Life Center, where cool, grey walls and understated furnishings create a quiet, relaxed feel that permeates the two-story space. During a discussion there about his career and the exciting new NeuroStim Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy he recently introduced, Peterson's bright blue eyes are animated and engaged. You can sense his humble pride and obvious feeling of caring -- for his patients and his chosen field.

Born and raised in Tacoma, Peterson attended Lakes High School and went on to the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York. An internship and residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. led to a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, after which Peterson served as an Army psychiatrist in South Korea before being stationed at Madigan Army Medical Center. There, he created the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry program and became Chief of the office of Psychiatry, a post he held for more than seven years.

Even after years of clinical practice and research, Peterson's excitement and energy for his work are evident. And that level peaks a bit when talk finally arrives at his latest avenue of treatment, NeuroStim TMS. "As a provider, I'm really excited about this," Peterson confirmed.

Touchstone provides child, adolescent and adult psychiatric evaluation and treatment services for conditions including military and civilian trauma, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Separation Anxiety Disorder. With his emphasis on treating service-specific conditions such as separation anxiety for children with parents on deployment, and PTSD for returning soldiers, TMS therapy is just one more tool in serving that population, according to Peterson.

TMS already has proved promising in treating anxiety and depression, and it does so noninvasively. Using a sort of wand device, a clinician carefully applies short pulses of electromagnetic fields directly to parts of the brain associated with mood and emotion.

Peterson partnered with investors to introduce the NeuroStim TMS treatment to the Puget Sound area, with his Lakewood office and another location in Bellevue currently offering the procedure.

"TMS is an important advance in mental health that has proven results in the treatment of treatment resistant depression," Peterson explained. "I am happy to have it as part of my practice to help people who have suffered from depression and anxiety. I do think that there will be further advances in this area of transcranial magnetic stimulation. We are learning a lot."  

The TMS treatment chairs are like what you'd find in the dentist's office, padded and comfortable, putting you in the perfect ergonomic position to relax. Treatment, when demonstrated on the arm, feels like a quick tap, not painful. When the multiple, repeated pulses of a treatment session are administered to the brain, common side effects are scalp discomfort and headache, which usually subside after the first week of treatment.

Initial results of the treatment are promising. So far, TMS is indicated only for those with treatment resistant depression. Patients who have had little to no improvement with medication and therapy have seen good results with TMS in clinical trials and in Peterson's experience so far. Long-term antidepressant effects of TMS have been shown to last beyond 12 months following treatment.

As for the future of TMS in his practice, Peterson noted: "There have been recent gains in treatment of anxiety disorders and my hope is that we will see more effective treatments for PTSD coming out of this in the future."

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