Different Types of Therapy for Bipolar Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM5) defines bipolar disorder as changes in mood, ability to function, and energy levels. These changes can range from mild to severe in mania, depression, or both.

Nearly 3% of Americans meet the criteria for bipolar disorder.

The DSM5 criteria for mania include three of the following symptoms for at least one week:

  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Inflated ego
  • Talked fast and a lot
  • Distracted easily
  • Engaged in risky activities
  • Uncontrolled racing thoughts

The DSM5 criteria for depression states a person must have five or more of the following in two weeks:

  • Feel depressed most of the time
  • Lose interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Move around without purpose
  • Feel tired or lack energy
  • Feel worthless or hopeless
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts about suicide or past attempt

Does Bipolar Treatment Work?

Bipolar disorder can be treated successfully using various methods. Many people choose to incorporate medicine into their treatment plan, which can enhance your therapy results. You can receive medication from a psychiatrist at the mental health center.

Research studies show that 64% of people who attend therapy and take medication for bipolar disorder “become well” faster than those who do not use the combination therapies.

So, what are the therapies that improve people’s lives with bipolar disorder? Keep reading to learn more about the most common.

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of talk therapy in which your therapist will teach you how to recognize negative thought patterns. The theory behind CBT is that our thoughts lead to feelings, and feelings influence how we behave.

Negative thought patterns produce unhealthy feelings and behaviors. Therefore, changing negative thoughts to positive ones can lead to happier feelings and healthier behaviors. CBT is the most popular, successful psychotherapy used in America today.

Because bipolar disorder can affect the entire family, including family and friends in some therapy sessions, like psychoeducation, is essential.

2. Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT)

Everyone has a biological clock. Technically it is called the circadian rhythm or circadian biological processes. The habits we live by are what sets our internal clock. For example, if you go to sleep at 10 pm each night and wake up at 5 am each morning, you eventually won’t even need an alarm clock to wake you. Your body will adjust to that sleep schedule; even on weekends, when you want to sleep to 9 am or later, you can’t.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy helps someone with bipolar disorder get on a routine and set a schedule to help balance their moods. The routine will include a set time to take medications, sleep hygiene, morning activities, etc. It also helps manage stressors, whether daily or significant life events.

3. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT for bipolar disorder teaches you how to better manage your moods by using newly learned skills such as being mindful, tolerating stress, regulating emotions, and being interpersonally effective.

You can learn to anticipate consequences and evaluate how your actions will affect you and others. This helps you avoid immediate reactions and assess what you want to happen in the situation. It teaches you to be present at the moment, accept reality, and make wise decisions.

4. Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP)

For those with unipolar or bipolar depression that is severe and other treatments have not led to improvements in your mood, you may qualify for ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. Ketamine is approved to treat severe, treatment-resistant depression. When combined with psychotherapy, the benefits are extended even longer.

Some people experience symptoms of suicidality with bipolar disorder. Ketamine is a treatment that shows great success in helping people overcome their suicidal thoughts. Preventing suicide is one of the main goals of KAP.

Ketamine must only be administered by a psychiatrist in a clinical environment. They understand dosing and, for bipolar, how to avoid inducing a manic phase.

5. Family-Focused Therapy (FFT) 

Friends, family, and other people in your life are affected by your mental health disorder. They may not understand bipolar disorder or how to help you maintain recovery. Family-focused therapy bridges the gap by providing education to you and your family and teaching you new ways to handle your bipolar disorder symptoms.

Psychoeducation is a must for you and your family. Your therapist can teach you why you have bipolar, how it affects your brain, and how to control it. The more knowledge you have about bipolar, the better. In family therapy, you can apply this knowledge to the skills you learn as a family system. For example, setting healthy boundaries, determining family roles, communication, and creating schedules and routines.

Tips for Managing Bipolar Disorder

While in therapy, you will be given suggestions on things you can do every day to manage your bipolar disorder better. These are tips to make your life easier, not more complicated. Examples of tips may include:

  • Get quality sleep every night using positive sleep hygiene, such as turning off all the lights, don’t leave electronics turned on, and preparing for sleep the same way at the same time each night
  • Exercise, even if it is for ten minutes, getting your heart beating faster keeps your body functioning correctly and increases endorphins, the neurotransmitters responsible for pain relief and feeling good
  • Eat well and avoid junk food since most feel-good neurotransmitters like endorphins and serotonin are in the gut and the brain. What you eat influences those neurotransmitters.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs, which may temporarily ease your symptoms, but your bipolar disorder will become harder to control over time, and your symptoms will become more severe. Having a substance use disorder and bipolar disorder makes daily functioning impossible.

How to Get Therapy for Bipolar Disorder

One simple step is all that stands between you and the therapy you deserve, a phone call. When you call our treatment team, you will be on your journey to better mental health and a more enjoyable life.