The Anxiety & Depression Association of America estimates that major depressive disorder (MDD) affects more than 21 million adults in the U.S. Unfortunately, nearly half of those experiencing depression are not receiving treatment, and access to care is a major obstacle for many.

Antidepressant medication can cause unwanted side effects. In some cases, it does not fully alleviate symptoms. Antidepressant alternatives offer hope for those whose mental health concerns have not been resolved with traditional treatment.

If you have been diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression or prefer to avoid medications, there are other evidence-based therapies that may help. Many non-traditional depression treatments are developed to address depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health concerns.

Non-invasive alternative depression treatments are intended to be used as needed and do not require a long-term or lifelong commitment.

Are Antidepressant Alternatives Safe?

Non-invasive treatments that are FDA-approved and evidence-based with trackable outcomes are generally considered safe. When seeking treatment, rely on certified providers who care for clients in a clinical setting.

Some of the most highly recommended alternative treatments include:

  • Neurofeedback
  • Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  • Ketamine-assisted healing and therapy
  • Stellate ganglion block

These treatments may be provided as an alternative to therapy and medication or in addition to traditional treatments.


Neurofeedback is a non-invasive treatment that is FDA-approved for stress reduction. Stress, depression, and trauma can interfere with the electrical activity in the brain and cause under or over-stimulation. Neurofeedback works to retrain the brain by exposing it to regulating and reorganizing brainwave frequencies.

The computerized feedback program assists the brain in learning how to function normally again. Clients receiving neurofeedback may feel relief from depression symptoms immediately, and the results can be long-lasting.

Neurofeedback may be recommended to treat the following conditions:

  • Anxiety, stress, and trauma
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Postpartum depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Brain injuries

Neurofeedback is like a workout for the brain. Each session helps the brain grow stronger as it relearns how to regulate itself without medication. Starting or continuing with psychotherapy while receiving neurofeedback is recommended.

Benefits of Neurofeedback

This antidepressant alternative is safe and has minimal side effects. Other benefits include:

  • Sessions take up to one hour
  • Promotes better sleep
  • Improves memory and mental clarity
  • Stabilizes emotions
  • Improves attention span and impulse control
  • Reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety

Neurofeedback does not directly stimulate the brain. Instead, it trains the brain through exposure to visual stimuli. Exactly how many treatments or how frequently treatments are needed depends on several factors. However, many people experience improvement after a single session of neurofeedback.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) is one of the most widely used antidepressant alternatives. It is FDA-approved for the treatment of major depressive disorder and other conditions, including anxious depression.

Clients receiving dTMS wear a cushioned helmet fitted with a magnetic coil that sends pulses to activate specific areas of the brain. These pulses help to regulate the brain’s natural production of neurotransmitters to support mental stability and improved mood.

Conditions dTMS is FDA-approved to treat are:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Smoking addiction
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Anxious depression

It is also used off-label as a treatment for chronic pain and other mental health concerns like PTSD and schizophrenia.

Benefits of Deep TMS

Over 60 clinical studies from around the world support the use of dTMS for the treatment of depression. Deep TMS is considered the “go-to” treatment for people with treatment-resistant depression. Clinical trials have found that three out of four major depression clients experienced a 51% remission rate with dTMS.

Other benefits of dTMS include:

  • Non-invasive
  • Short sessions (about 20 minutes) with no downtime needed for recovery
  • Limited treatment plans lasting five to seven weeks
  • Well-researched and science-backed
  • FDA-approved for the treatment of depression

Combining dTMS with other alternative therapies like hyperbaric oxygen treatment may offer faster and more complete results.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is an effective, non-invasive treatment that is FDA-approved for 14 various applications. This treatment can improve brain health by encouraging the flow of blood and oxygen to damaged areas. HBOT is also used to reduce inflammation and kill harmful bacteria.

To receive treatment, clients relax in a room or chamber that is filled with 100% oxygen. As pure oxygen is carried throughout the body by red blood cells, it improves circulation and promotes healing.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is recommended for certain off-label conditions, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Drug rehabilitation and withdrawal symptoms
  • Inability to focus
  • Chronic fatigue

The improved blood flow from HBOT helps to address mental health on a physical level. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan or as an alternative to traditional therapies.

Benefits of HBOT

Hyperbaric chamber therapy is convenient and comfortable. The client enters the chamber and lays on a comfortable bed, where they can watch television, read, listen to music, or take a nap while they breathe in pure oxygen. Sessions typically last 60 to 90 minutes.

Other benefits of HBOT include:

  • Reduces chronic pain
  • Improves cognitive function
  • Improves sleep
  • Boosts immune system
  • Helps regulate neurotransmitter levels
  • Promotes brain neuroplasticity
  • Reduces anxiety

Each individual is different, but many HBOT clients report feeling improvement in their symptoms after just a few sessions. Some people need more frequent treatments over several weeks before they experience the benefits.

Ketamine-Assisted Healing

Ketamine-assisted healing is one of the most cutting-edge antidepressant alternatives available today. There are several formats for ketamine treatment. Each is tailored to the client’s specific needs. The substance may be delivered with a transdermal patch, nebulizer, IV, pill, or nasal spray.

In all cases, this treatment is used under the guidance of a trained psychotherapist. When combined with psychotherapy, ketamine has been found effective for reversing the chemical imbalances that cause mental health concerns, such as depression.

Ketamine-assisted healing is used as an off-label treatment for several disorders, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

A typical ketamine-assisted treatment lasts around three hours. The client relaxes in a calm environment as the certified provider administers the medication. Most clients notice the effects of the ketamine in about 20 minutes. It takes up to two hours for the effects to completely dissipate.

Some clients experience distressing emotions during treatment. A therapist helps to minimize emotional discomfort and guide the client through the experience. As the effects of ketamine wear off, the client and therapist work together to process any emotions, memories, or experiences triggered by ketamine.

Benefits of Ketamine-Assisted Treatment

Ketamine has been well-researched as a treatment for depression. The FDA approved a nasal spray form of the medication for adults with treatment-resistant depression.

Other benefits of this treatment include:

  • Promotes neuroplasticity for changing negative thought patterns
  • Does not require specialized devices
  • Results can be fast
  • Promotes production of glutamate to help regulate mood

Ketamine IV therapy, IM injections, and esketamine nasal spray are only available in a clinical setting. Some patients report symptom improvement after only one session.

A study on male patients found that those who received six injections of ketamine over a two-week period reported significant improvement in their depression. They noticed positive effects after their first treatment, and those effects lasted for up to one month.

Stellate Ganglion Block

Stellate ganglion block (SGB) is a relatively new method for treating depression, but the protocol was first used by doctors nearly 100 years ago to help patients with chronic pain. It is considered a safe, routine practice when performed by a trained, board-certified doctor. The procedure involves an injection of anesthetic medication into the stellate ganglion — a bundle of nerves located in the neck.

SGB therapy returns the flight-or-fight response to a pre-trauma state. It is most effective for people who experience depression related to trauma and other forms of severe stress. Along with psychotherapy, SGB treats mental health disorders on all levels, including neuro-psychological, physiological, and spiritual levels.

Stellate ganglion block is used to treat:

  • Pain (chronic pain, orofacial pain, post-surgical pain, and phantom limb pain)
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Cluster headaches
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Stress-related depression

Benefits of Stellate Ganglion Block

There is no “magic cure” for mental health disorders, but SGB, in conjunction with psychotherapy, can offer profound improvements for people with depression. Benefits of SGB include:

  • Minimally invasive
  • Effects may be felt within 30 minutes of injection
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved memory and focus
  • Decrease in anxiety and hypervigilance
  • No downtime required

Some clients experience an emotional release with SGB treatment. Working with a psychotherapist during and after an SBG session helps ensure clients have an opportunity to resolve difficult emotions with professional guidance.

Finding the Right Antidepressant Alternative

Antidepressant alternatives aren’t only available to people with medication-resistant depression. Alternative non-invasive, innovative treatments can help many people improve their mental health and find relief from symptoms.

To learn more about these treatments, call Plus By APN at 424.644.6486 or fill out our confidential online contact form.


  • Mandal, Suprio et al. “Efficacy of ketamine therapy in the treatment of depression.” Indian journal of psychiatry vol. 61,5 (2019): 480-485. doi:10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_484_18