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Bipolar Psychosocial Treatments

Bipolar psychosocial treatments, including different types of "talk" therapy, can be a valuable adjunct to medications for the treatment of bipolar disorder. Common bipolar psychosocial treatments may include cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, and psychoeducation.

Psychosocial Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

As an addition to medication, psychosocial treatments -- including certain forms of psychotherapy (or "talk" therapy) -- are helpful in providing support, education, and guidance to people with bipolar disorder and their families. Studies have shown that bipolar psychosocial treatments can lead to increased mood stability, fewer hospitalizations, and improved functioning in several areas. A licensed psychologist, social worker, or counselor typically provides these therapies and often works together with the psychiatrist to monitor a patient's progress. The number, frequency, and type of sessions should be based on the individual treatment needs of each person.
Psychosocial interventions commonly used for bipolar disorder include:
Researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) are studying how these interventions compare to one another when added to medication treatment for bipolar disorder. More detailed information about each psychosocial treatment is as follows:
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people with bipolar disorder learn to change inappropriate or negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with the illness.
  • Psychoeducation involves teaching people with bipolar disorder about the illness and its treatment, and how to recognize signs of relapse so that early intervention can be sought before a full-blown illness episode occurs. Psychoeducation also may be helpful for family members.
  • Family therapy uses strategies to reduce the level of distress within the family that may either contribute to or result from the ill person's symptoms.
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy helps people with bipolar disorder both to improve interpersonal relationships and to regularize their daily routines. Regular daily routines and sleep schedules may help protect against manic episodes.
As with medication, it is important to follow the bipolar psychosocial treatments to achieve the greatest benefit from a bipolar disorder treatment plan.
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