Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is utilized worldwide for various severe and treatment-resistant psychiatric disorders. Research studies have shown that ECT is the most effective and rapid treatment available for elderly patients with depression, bipolar disorder and psychosis. For patients who suffer from intractable catatonia and neuroleptic malignant syndrome, ECT can be life saving. For elderly patients who cannot tolerate or respond poorly to medications and who are at a high risk for drug-induced toxicity or toxic drug interactions, ECT is the safest treatment option. Organic causes are frequently associated with late-life onset of neuropsychiatric conditions, such as parkinsonism, dementia and stroke. ECT has proven to be efficacious even when these conditions are present. During the next decade, research studies should focus on the use of ECT as a synergistic therapy, to enhance other biological and psychological treatments, and prevent symptom relapse and recurrence.