There are various psychotherapeutic techniques which exist in the treatment of bipolar disorder, at first it will be best to understand what psychotherapy is and how it works.
Psychotherapy used by psychotherapists as part of the treatment plan for patients with mental health issues. There are many varying techniques used in psychotherapy that use techniques like relationship building, simple dialogue, learning communication and behaviors that work to improve the symptoms of bipolar disorder and help the patient deal with relationships.
Most forms of psychotherapy use only spoken conversation. Some also use various other forms of communication, such as written, therapeutic touch, art, etc. Psychotherapy occurs within a structured encounter between a trained therapist and the patient(s).
There are at five well tested and widely used psychotherapy techniques for bipolar disorder. Their benefit is increased when used in tandem with medications. The approaches are:
Psychotherapy for Prodrome Detection
In this form of psychotherapy, the psychologist meets with the patient regularly over a certain period. During sessions, they discuss the patient’s personal experience as well as signs preceding manic and depressive episodes in the past. They then create a plan of action should these symptoms reappear. The therapist helps the patient maintain a weekly diary on the disorder, increasing it to a daily diary if symptoms appear regularly. Though simplistic, this form of psychotherapy is very effective for understanding the triggers and symptoms of bipolar disorder and goes a long way in educating the patient about the disease.
Psycho-education is the education of a person in areas that serve the goals of treatment and rehabilitation. It involves teaching the patient about their problem, how to treat it and how to recognize signs of relapse so they can get treatment before heir problem worsens or recurs. In this form of therapy, the patient is educated about:
- Bipolar disorder basics
- Triggering factors
- Symptoms of onset
- Forms of treatment
- Risks associated with treatment
This form of psychotherapy helps the patient understand the disorder and helps them avoid things or situations which may aggravate their disorder.
Cognitive therapy works on the premise that a part of the psychological distress due to distorted thoughts and stimuli that can cause emotional stress. This theory has been well researched and is known to be an effective defense against bipolar disorder. It is especially effective psychotherapy in patients who experience disruptive negative thoughts. Cognitive therapy helps the patient recognize thought distortions and techniques for correcting them.
The treatment does not aim to change the patient’s outlook on everything but to deal with the ones that cause the patient stress and lead to relapses. Communication is key to ensuring that the patient and therapist are clear on the negative thoughts, disruptive assumptions, and stressful inferences. The patient learns to check their thoughts and realize the reality of the situation.
Interpersonal/Social Rhythm Psychotherapy
Useful psychotherapy for bipolar disorder, this dealing stresses maintaining a day to day to-do list and constancy in individual relationships. Social Rhythm is based on the idea that disruptions in daily routines and problems in interpersonal relationships can cause a recurrence of the manic and depressive episodes that characterize bipolar disorder.
It is the job of the therapist to help patients understand how their social relationships and roles are affected by their routines and that their moods can be affected by changes in these routines. The therapist helps identify what stimuli cause relapse and teaches the patient how to manage stressful events and maintain positive relationships.
Family Focused Therapy
Family Focused Therapy (FFT) combines two forms of psychotherapy by including psycho-education and family therapy. They focus on family dynamics and relationships and use them to determine how they contribute to changes in bipolar illnesses. Sometimes called ecological therapies, this form of treatment is used to identify problems and conflicts solely in the family circle that contribute to the patient’s stress and illness as well as problems in the family that crop up because of the illness. They focus on these conflicts and teach the family how to resolve them. All family members learn about the illness, treatment and support measures.
Research has proved that these psychotherapy techniques go a long way in treating bipolar disorder and are usually used in conjunction with medications designed specifically to tackle bipolar disorder.