Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Effective for Bipolar Disorder


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Effective for Bipolar DisorderWhen someone begins treatment for bipolar disorder, I always recommend therapy along with medication because we know from studies that the combination of the two treatments works better than either alone.

However, most people think about psychotherapy (talk-therapy) when the word therapy is mentioned. That is not a bad thing. Psychotherapy has helped many people with and without bipolar disorder lead fuller, happier lives.

But another option that is effective for many people is cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy has only been applied to bipolar disorder in the last decade, but it has been used to treat depression even longer. Studies on its effectiveness in bipolar disorder are preliminary, but so far the evidence suggests it is effective.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is different than traditional therapy in that it is short-term and doesn’t involve delving into historic issues. Cognitive behavioral therapy is about the here and now and is about giving you tools to deal with the symptoms of bipolar disorder that you are experiencing today.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an analytical process that encourages people to look at their behavior, feelings, and motivations to learn what triggers these situations and what can be done to handle them.

For example, in cognitive behavioral therapy:

  • The patient is asked to explore their distorted thinking such as “I am god” when manic or “I am worthless” when depressed.
  • Patients are encouraged to develop interpersonal routines such as sleeping and waking at the same time each day.
  • Patients work to understand the warning signs of oncoming mood episodes and learn how to cope with these symptoms to avoid episodes where possible (relapse prevention).
  • Patients are aided in exploring what triggers episodes or specific emotions.

Cognitive behavioral therapy may be delivered one-on-one or in groups.

For Whom Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

It is my belief that anyone can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy in some way; however, statistically, people with fewer than six mood episodes have been shown to have greater success with this therapy. Also, people who are in the midst of a crisis—either mania or depression—may not be in a place emotionally or intellectually to optimally benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. Some degree of stability should be attained before attempting this therapy (medication and traditional psychotherapy may help achieve this).

It is recommended that specialists in cognitive behavioral therapy deliver the treatment for greatest success. If therapy is not available in your area, workbooks are available to walk you through the therapy although this likely won’t be as beneficial as a live therapist (and likely won’t be bipolar-specific).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is About Tools

Cognitive behavioral therapy is not a magic bullet for mental illness but it is an assortment of tools that can help you battle the illness every day. It helps you deal with the symptoms that may linger in spite of treatment with medication or while searching for the right medication.

Find out more about cognitive behavioral therapy from Simon Fraser University’s Core Information Document on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or visiting Healthline’s page on cognitive behavioral therapy.


Related Continuing Education Courses:


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Assessing Substance Abuse in Patients with Chronic Pain

“Pain is perfect misery, the worse of all evils; and excessive, overturns all patients.” John Milton, Paradise Lost

Chronic pain refers to pain that lasts longer than would be expected for a particular injury, disease, or syndrome. In some cases, the cause of chronic pain cannot be satisfactorily treated or removed. Estimates by the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) project that one-third of Americans suffer from some type of chronic pain condition. Furthermore, chronic pain is credited with being the primary cause of disability in this country.

Despite the prevalence of chronic pain as a public health issue, many mental health professionals have limited knowledge about the assessment and management of pain. Some clients, as well as clinicians, believe that use of narcotic pain medications to treat certain pain syndromes leads to addiction. This belief contradicts findings suggesting the actual risk of iatragenic addiction to opiate medication for pain patients is more likely to be less than one percent. However, fear of addiction may cause some individuals to endure inadequately treated pain and accept a significant loss of quality of life. Bostrom reported survey findings that ninety-two percent of respondents believe pain is a fact of life; that eighty-two percent believe it is too easy to become reliant on pain medication; that seventy- two percent believe that medication will not be effective with consistent use, and that forty-six percent avoid medication until pain becomes unbearable. Accordingly, it is important for mental health practitioners to assess pain in their clients, understand actual risk factors for misuse of common drug therapies for pain, and identify appropriate interventions for pain management as a priority.

Assessing Substance Abuse in Patients with Chronic Pain

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This 3-hour online continuing education (CE) course, Assessing Substance Abuse in Patients with Chronic Pain, will demystify the diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain, the role and limitations of pain medications, and how to identify when pain relieving drugs may be harmful to clients. Participants will understand how to conduct a complete evaluation of clients with a pain disorder, chronic pain syndrome and co-morbid psychiatric diagnoses. Although the majority of chronic pain patients do not abuse pain medications, mental health practitioners need skills to assess when active substance abuse is present and develop appropriate treatment objectives. This course will also give special attention to specific clinical challenges for mental health professionals who treat clients with chronic pain, including suicide assessment and treatment non-adherence.

“For all the happiness mankind can gain, is not in pleasure, but in rest from pain.” John Dryden (1631-1700)

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