Along with various medications, therapy is a main part of bipolar disorder treatment. While medications attempt to balance the neurological and hormonal features of bipolar disorder, therapy attempts to help the bipolar patient deal with and function in the world. Not only does therapy help bipolar patients understand their condition, but it also offers them support, which is especially important in times of severe mood swings.
In fact, studies have revealed that bipolar patients who get therapy and comply with their medication experience more stable moods, are better able to function in their daily lives and, consequently, have fewer incidences of hospitalization.
Types of Therapy for Bipolar Disorder
When it comes to getting therapy for bipolar disorder, patients can choose any one or combination of:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This type of therapy works to alter negative patterns of thought and behaviors that are associated with the depressive states of bipolar disorder. In cognitive behavioral therapy, patients keep journals to identify negative thought patterns, learn relaxation techniques to calm negative feelings and are encouraged to face activities they used to avoid.
- Family Therapy: After talking with a bipolar patient, a therapist may recommend family therapy to help the patient’s family understand the disorder. Family therapy not only educates the family about bipolar disorder but also gives them tools and techniques for dealing with severe mood swings. Through family therapy, both the bipolar patient and the family are able to vent concerns and learn how to effectively manage this condition.
- Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT): As a newer form of therapy, IPSRT focuses on helping bipolar patients strengthen their interpersonal relationships. Similarly, it helps bipolar patients find and maintain a solid, feasible daily routine so they can regularize their lives and, therefore, minimize mood swings. Keeping a regular sleep and eating schedule are important to balancing hormones, which can affect the outburst of manic or depressive episodes.
- Psychoeducation: This method of therapy involves teaching patients about bipolar disorder so that they can identify symptoms of mood swings and prevent them from becoming full-blown manic or depressive episodes. Often, psyhoeducation is paired with family therapy, as symptom recognition is important for both the patient and those with whom he lives.
The type or combination of therapies that a bipolar patient needs depends on his individual case, including the medications he is on, his family situation and whether or not he suffers from other conditions. Researchers are still studying which type of the above therapies is most effective in bipolar disorder treatment.
Choosing a Therapist
While getting therapy can be an important part of the treatment for bipolar disorder, choosing the right therapist is essential to making the therapy sessions effective and helpful for the patient. Before you start sessions with any therapist, use these tips to help you find the right therapist for you:
- Choose a certified therapist who has experience with bipolar disorder: In addition to checking her credentials, make sure that the therapist you choose specializes in bipolar disorder. Therapists who specialize in this condition will be up-to-date with the latest techniques to treat bipolar disorder.
- Make sure you feel comfortable around her: Because you will be sharing intimate details of your life with your therapist, choose someone who puts you at ease. Good therapists are easy to talk to and are good listeners. Being comfortable around your therapist is one of the biggest factors to keep in mind as you choose between therapists.
- Pick a therapist who is close and affordable: While finding someone with whom you are comfortable is one of the most important aspects of choosing a therapist, location and cost are essential to appointment compliance. In fact, people tend to miss therapy appointments because they can’t afford them or because the office is too far away. Set yourself up to succeed by choosing a therapist you can afford and who is located close to you.
- Research the therapist’s methods: This means that you should find out what type of therapy she practices (i.e., behavioral, family, interpersonal and social rhythm, etc).
- Shop around: While you may like the first therapist you find, check out a few just to be sure. You may also consider getting recommendations for good therapists from people you trust. While the therapist they recommend may not treat bipolar disorder, he might be able to recommend esteemed colleagues for you to check out.
National Institute of Mental Health (2007). Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved July 19, 2007 from the NIMH Web site: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/bipolar.cfm#bp6.
Psychology Today (2007). How to Choose a Therapist. Retrieved July 19, 2007 from the Psychology Today Web site: http://psychologytoday.com/pto/choosing_a_therapist.html.