Comprehensive treatment for anxiety, depression, and related mental health disorders typically involves a combination of therapy and prescription medication. If you have ever wondered what is Alpha-Stim, or if you are interested in learning more about how this treatment can benefit you or a loved one, our center in Nashville, Tennessee, may have the answers you’ve been seeking.

At Arbor Wellness, people whose lives have been disrupted by anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders may also receive a service called Alpha-Stim treatment. This type of care has been cleared for use in the United States for more than 40 years, but many people are not aware of its features and benefits.

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What is Alpha-Stim Treatment?

Alpha-Stim treatment is a type of cranial electrotherapy stimulation, or CES. Cranial electrotherapy stimulation, in turn, is also sometimes referred to as neuromodulation. 

The goal of Alpha-Stim treatment and other forms of cranial electrotherapy stimulation is to use gentle electrical pulses to ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Alpha-Stim treatment may also benefit people who have been struggling with insomnia or living with chronic pain.

The first version of the Alpha-Stim device debuted in the United States in 1981. It was created by Dr. Daniel L. Kirsch, who integrated his previous study of acupuncture into his research on the health benefits of electrical waveforms.

Through the decades, technological advances allowed Dr. Kirsch and his team to refine the functionality of the Alpha-Stim device while transforming it from an immobile tabletop model to a handheld instrument. The current version of the Alpha-Stim device is slightly larger than a standard cell phone.

How Does Alpha-Stim Work?

The Alpha-Stim electrotherapy device delivers low-level electrical pulses (or microcurrents) via clips that are attached to the client’s earlobes. The pulses that are delivered by the Alpha-Stim device follow a proprietary, patented waveform. 

A typical Alpha-Stim treatment session lasts about 20 minutes. The person who is receiving treatment should not feel any discomfort during the process.

Research suggests that Alpha-Stim treatment may activate groups of nerve cells that are associated with the production of two neurotransmitters, serotonin and acetylcholine. Serotonin can impact mood, sleep, and a variety of other body functions. Acetylcholine is involved with heart rate, blood vessel dilation, and other activities related to the nervous system.

Alpha-Stim treatment may also promote the development of alpha brain waves. Alpha waves are a naturally occurring type of wave that the brain produces when a person is awake, calm, and relaxed.

Alpha-Stim Benefits

There are many different benefits when it comes to Alpha-Stim treatment. Not only can the results show quickly, but they can treat various deferent mental health disorders including:


People who have been experiencing the symptoms of anxiety disorders may benefit from having Alpha-Stim treatment incorporated into their customized care plan. If a client’s brain functioning has been altered due to heightened sensitivity to stress, Alpha-Stim treatment may help them achieve a more balanced, relaxed mindset.


Alpha-Stim treatment can help “reset” a person’s brain waves. For clients who have been struggling with depression, this service can ease the emotional pain that is often associated with this disorder. One study that is posted on the Alpha-Stim website found that this type of treatment decreased thoughts of suicide among 67 subjects who had major depressive disorder and treatment-resistant depression. 

Mood Disorders

Alpha brain waves fall in the middle of the five most commonly occurring brain waves. Delta and theta waves are associated with drowsiness and deep sleep, while beta and gamma rays occur during moments of heightened focus and concentration. Treatment that leads to the development of alpha waves can produce elevated mood and a more serene state of mind.

Thought Disorders & Psychosis

Thought disorders & psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia are characterized by a diminished ability to correctly perceive one’s environment, express oneself, and interact with other people. Several studies suggest that various forms of cranial stimulation may reduce hallucinations and alleviate other symptoms of schizophrenia.


Experts estimate that chronic insomnia may affect 10%-15% of the adult population in the United States. Failing to get an adequate amount of sleep on a regular basis is associated with an increased risk for a variety of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, depression, and anxiety. Alpha-Stim treatment has been linked to improvements in amount and quality of sleep.

Is Alpha-Stim Safe to Use?

Alpha-Stim treatment is a non-invasive, non-addictive service. The Alpha-Stim website reports that the safety of cranial electrotherapy stimulation has been documented through 144 controlled studies. These studies involved more than 8,000 people.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved cranial electrotherapy stimulation devices for depression, anxiety, and insomnia treatment in 1979. Through the years, there have been no reports of significant safety issues related to the proper use of this type of treatment. 

The FDA originally classified CES devices as class III medical devices. This means that they were considered to be high risk devices that were subject to premarket approval before they could be sold. 

In 2019, the FDA reclassified CES devices that treat anxiety and insomnia as class II devices. This category includes medical devices that are viewed to pose moderate to high risk. Additionally, class II devices may need to adhere to certain controls, such as labeling requirements or performance standards.

According to a February 2021 article in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, one study reported that the most common side effects of CES are skin irritation, headaches, and vertigo. The authors of the February 2021 article noted that about 1% of CES clients experience these side effects.

Begin Alpha-Stim Treatment in Nashville

Arbor Wellness is a premier provider of comprehensive mental health services at the residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient levels. Customized care at our center in Nashville may include an array of therapies and services, including Alpha-Stim treatment. To learn more about Alpha-Stim treatment and our other programming options for depression, anxiety, and mood disorders, contact us today. Visit our admissions page to get started right away.

Don’t hesitate to contact us immediately. In the case of a medical emergency please contact 911 or visit your local emergency department.

We Work With Most Major Insurance

Did you know most major health insurance plans with out-of-network benefits can help cover most of the costs associated with our program? Click below to find out your coverage and treatment options right now.

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