What is Bipolar Disorder? - Manic, psychosis, treatment and therapy psychology with Kati Morton
Psychoeducation Therapy for Bipolar Disorder
Knowledge is power when it comes to bipolar disorder. Understanding the disease through this type of bipolar therapy is an important first step in managing it.
By Regina Boyle Wheeler
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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When you’re diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it’s important to learn as much as you can about this complex problem and how it affects you and your family. Psychoeducation is a type of therapy that can help you better understand bipolar illness and develop the coping skills needed to avoid a potentially harmful mood swing.
The potential benefits of psychoeducation are clear. Learning to understand the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder and recognize early warning signs of an impending mood shift can make the course of the disease milder over time, says David Miklowitz, PhD, professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior in the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at UCLA.
The Role of Psychoeducation in Bipolar Therapy
In a recent review of medical literature, Dutch researchers looked at 34 studies on the use of psychoeducation therapy in people with bipolar disorder. They found that this type of bipolar therapy improved patients’ overall knowledge of their disease and treatment, increased their willingness to stay on medication, and helped prevent relapses when given to patients in remission. The researchers concluded that psychoeducation should be a part of standard bipolar treatment.
The topics addressed during psychoeducation therapy sessions may include the following:
- Recognizing that bipolar is a chronic condition with a high recurrence rate
- Identifying and avoiding personal triggers
- Education about medication, including both side effects of drugs and the risks of stopping treatment
- Training on the early warning signs of a mood swing
- Training on how best to manage symptoms
- Education about the risks of street drugs, alcohol, and coffee
- Recognizing the importance of maintaining healthy habits and routines, especially sleep
- Teaching good stress-management techniques
- Education about suicide risk
- Education about the complications that pregnancy can pose to a bipolar woman
- Coping with the stigma of having bipolar disorder
Approaches to Psychoeducation Therapy
There are four different types of psychoeducation therapy sessions:
- Group therapy:Several individuals with bipolar disorder receive this bipolar therapy together.
- Individual therapy:A therapist conducts one-on-one sessions with the patient. Miklowitz says individual psychoeducation is usually done as part of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
- Multiple family groups:Many bipolar patients and their families go through sessions together.
- Individual patient and family:One patient and his or her family receive bipolar therapy.
At the UCLA Child and Adolescent Mood Disorders Program (CHAMP), the individual patient and family approach is used. Miklowitz says the whole family is included in therapy because bipolar disorder affects everyone, not just the person with the illness, and sometimes people are more comfortable sharing family business in a private setting rather than with a multi-family group.
“Most people with bipolar disorder are treated only with mood-stabilizing medications and never get exposed to any coping strategies for managing the illness,” says Miklowitz. At CHAMP, family members and the patient are taught what the early warning signs of a mood shift look like. Then they learn to recognize the patient’s personal warning signs, based on past episodes.
Finally, an individual plan is developed to cope with mood worsening. The patient is taught what he can do to help himself, such as getting more consistent sleep, cutting out substance abuse, and reducing family conflicts, says Miklowitz. The family learns what to do when warning signs appear and how to encourage a person to stay on medication. The therapist will also teach good communication and problem-solving skills to create as much stability within the family as possible.
Miklowitz says effective psychoeducation therapy takes about six to nine months to complete and is generally more effective than a brief course of two or three sessions. “You get what you pay for,” he adds.
Finding a Psychoeducation Therapist
Finding a psychotherapist who specializes in psychoeducation can be a challenge. Miklowitz suggests turning to psychiatrists or psychologists in your area who specialize in bipolar disorder. They may be able to help find appropriate therapists. He also suggests contacting the , the , and the .
It may take effort to find a therapist trained in psychoeducation, but the benefits of starting bipolar treatment with this approach, including giving you a stronger foundation for long-lasting results, are key to managing a lifelong illness.
Video: Childhood Bipolar Spectrum Disorder: Multifamily Psychoeducational Psychotherapy
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