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Types of Bipolar Disorder Therapy and How Bipolar Therapy Helps

Several types of bipolar disorder therapy have been studied and have proven benefits to the patient. Learn about them and how bipolar therapy helps.

When bipolar disorder therapy is added to medication, the treatment is almost always more successful than medication for bipolar alone. While many types of bipolar therapy have been tried and many are successful, four types of short-term bipolar disorder therapy have been researched with positive results.

  • Prodrome therapy – nine sessions wherein the therapist and patient come up with, and rehearse, a personalized action plan to be used if symptoms of a bipolar episode appear. The patient carries this plan on a laminated card for easy reference. In a study, 50% of patients who did not receive the bipolar therapy relapsed in a year whereas only 20% of patients who received the therapy relapsed.1
  • Psychoeducation – approximately 21 sessions of education about bipolar disorder and related topics. One study shows those who received the education had one third as many hospitalizations as those who didn't, over the course of two years.2 (The treatment program manual used in this study is available for purchase through Amazon.3 )
  • Cognitive therapy – 14 sessions with a skilled therapist focus on subjects like medication adherence, early detection and intervention, stress, co-existing conditions and depression. Some programs make use of written "contracts" outlining what a patient will do when specific bipolar symptoms occur. One study showed about 30% fewer patients relapsed over the course of a year than those who didn't receive this bipolar disorder therapy.4
  • Family-focused therapy – about 21 sessions that includes components of Prodrome, psychoeducation and cognitive bipolar therapy, but also includes the family in all steps (read about living with someone who is bipolar). Also teaches communication skills within the family and prepares the family for what to do in the case of a relapse. Studies have found patients who have received this bipolar disorder therapy have fewer depressed and manic episodes over the course of a year.5

What to Think About When Choosing Bipolar Disorder Therapy

The above bipolar therapies are evidence-based, meaning their techniques have been defined and have been scientifically studied. Other types of bipolar disorder therapy may also be helpful for some people. When getting bipolar disorder therapy, remember:

  • Ask if it is an evidence-based method
  • Ask if the therapist is specially-trained in the bipolar therapy technique
  • Ask if the therapist is specially-trained to work with bipolar disorder
  • Consider a workbook. Some bipolar therapies, like cognitive therapy, have comprehensive workbooks available to walk a patient through the process even if a qualified therapist can't be found.
  • Consider bipolar group therapy. Bipolar help and support groups can often be found for people with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. Bipolar group therapy is useful for many people as it provides social support and reminds them they are not alone.

article references


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next: Natural Bipolar Treatments: Treatment of Bipolar Without Medication
~ all bipolar treatment articles
~ all articles on bipolar disorder

Last Updated: 27 March 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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