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Acceptability of home-based transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in major depression: a qualitative analysis of individual experiences

Rachael M. Rimmer (School of Psychology, University of East London, London, UK)
Rachel D. Woodham (School of Psychology, University of East London, London, UK)
Sharon Cahill (Department of Psychology, Regent’s University London, London, UK)
Cynthia H.Y. Fu (School of Psychology, University of East London, London, UK)

Mental Health Review Journal

ISSN: 1361-9322

Article publication date: 23 January 2024

Issue publication date: 1 February 2024




The purpose of this paper was to gain a qualitative view of the participant experience of using home-based transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Acceptability impacts patient preference, treatment adherence and outcomes. However, acceptability is usually assessed by rates of attrition, while multifaceted constructs are not reflected or given meaningful interpretations. tDCS is a novel non-invasive brain stimulation that is a potential treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD). Most studies have provided tDCS in a research centre. As tDCS is portable, the authors developed a home-based treatment protocol that was associated with clinical improvements that were maintained in the long term.


The authors examined the acceptability of home-based tDCS treatment in MDD through questionnaires and individual interviews at three timepoints: baseline, at a six-week course of treatment, and at six-month follow-up. Twenty-six participants (19 women) with MDD in a current depressive episode of at least moderate severity were enrolled. tDCS was provided in a bifrontal montage with real-time remote supervision by video conference at each session. A thematic analysis was conducted of the individual interviews.


Thematic analysis revealed four main themes: effectiveness, side effects, time commitment and support, feeling held and contained. The themes reflected the high acceptability of tDCS treatment, whereas the theme of feeling contained might be specific to this protocol.


Qualitative analysis methods and individual interviews generated novel insights into the acceptability of tDCS as a potential treatment for MDD. Feelings of containment might be specific to the present protocol, which consisted of real-time supervision at each session. Meaningful interpretation can provide context to a complex construct, which will aid in understanding and clinical applications.



Since submission of this article, the following author has updated their affiliation: Cynthia H.Y. Fu is at the Centre for Affective Disorders, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK.

tDCS devices were provided by Neuroelectrics, Flow Neuroscience, and University of East London. Rachael M. Rimmer acknowledges support from UEL Excellence PhD studentship. Cynthia H.Y. Fu acknowledges support from the Rosetrees Trust (A1950, CF20212104), Baszucki Brain Research Fund, Milken Institute (BD00029), Flow Neuroscience (NCT05202119), NIMH (R0110090221). Funders had no role in the data collection and analysis, interpretation of the data, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. All authors declare that there are no additional conflicts of interest.


Rimmer, R.M., Woodham, R.D., Cahill, S. and Fu, C.H.Y. (2024), "Acceptability of home-based transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in major depression: a qualitative analysis of individual experiences", Mental Health Review Journal, Vol. 29 No. 1, pp. 79-91.



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