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Can Therapy for Bipolar Depression Help Me?

Therapy for bipolar depression can help you not only manage your symptoms of this difficult illness but move forward into the quality life you create. Imagine having a conversation with someone who is safe and nonjudgmental.  What if that person fully listened, so you knew that you were heard and accepted? Imagine being able to explore what is wrong while placing the biggest emphasis on what is, and will be, right. Imagine, too, engaging in problem-solving with someone who gently guides and does not give you orders. Therapy for bipolar depression in general provides these conditions and more. Let’s explore what therapy is and how it helps bipolar depression.

Therapy for Bipolar Depression: Purpose and Types

Therapy for bipolar depression has a focused purpose: to help you develop skills to transcend depression and, while you’re doing that, to start living your best life right now. Within that greater purpose are other reasons therapy can help you with bipolar depression. In working with a therapist, you can:

  • Discover your triggers—events, situations, and people that might start a downward mood spiral
  • Develop coping skills to use to get through a day and beyond
  • Increase awareness of changing moods so you can prevent, or minimize, swings
  • Follow your treatment plan more easily
  • Decrease negative behaviors that are perpetuating depression symptoms

Research shows that bipolar depression responds well to therapy. There are numerous types of therapy, and when it comes to depression, they’re not all equal. Four therapeutic approaches have been deemed particularly helpful for bipolar depression:  

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy
  • Family Therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy is a counseling approach that focuses on thoughts and actions. Understanding, reframing, and modifying thoughts changes the ideas that contribute to bipolar depression. Working with a cognitive behavior therapist, people identify automatic thought patterns that perpetuate depression and, the best part, learn to replace them with healthier ones. This works very well to replace self-defeating thoughts. (“I’m worthless,” becomes “I have strengths, like caring, that I can use in my life.”)

Dialectical behavior therapy is a type of CBT that is designed to help people manage moods and conflicts. Thoughts and actions are key, just as they are in CBT, but they’re shaped to address emotional behavior. While DBT was initially designed to help people deal with borderline personality disorder, it can help with bipolar depression, too. Skills like mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and communication help people turn around despair and lack of motivation and create a better life experience.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy is a structured approach that helps people take control of their lives. Bipolar depression makes it difficult for people to stick to routines, schedules, and methods of organization. This lack of routine, in turn, worsens depression. It can be a self-perpetuating downward spiral. In interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, people develop skills needed to create and keep a regular schedule for their days. All major activities are incorporated into the schedule: waking up in the morning, going to bed at night, eating, exercising, self-care breaks, cleaning—anything you do can be incorporated into the schedule. It empowers by setting people up for success.

Family therapy is therapy for the person living with bipolar depression and their family. Ideally, everyone in the household will attend the sessions. Extended family members sometimes attend as well. This type of therapy helps family members build communication skills, discuss family goals, express concerns safely, learn positive problem-solving skills, and be educated about bipolar depression and its treatments.

Getting the Most Out of Therapy for Bipolar Depression

Therapy for bipolar depression can help you immensely. People do have different degrees of success with it. To ensure that therapy is helpful for you, consider these factors:

  • Therapy should be done in addition to taking bipolar disorder medication; it isn’t a replacement for medication
  • Perhaps the most important component of therapy is the relationship you have with your counselor; if you don’t connect well, it’s okay to find a different counselor
  • Approach it as a partnership, with both you and your therapist taking an active role
  • Practice; do your homework because doing the work is how you advance
  • Patience; it can work, but it’s a process. Be kind to yourself and celebrate even small successes

Therapy for bipolar depression can indeed help. Combined with medication, it’s effective in overcoming bipolar depression.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, June 14). Can Therapy for Bipolar Depression Help Me?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-depression/can-therapy-for-bipolar-depression-help-me

Last Updated: June 15, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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