Considering psychological treatment

Psychological treatments are not an alternative to medication. However, when used in conjunction with the person’s medication certain psychological treatment programs have shown additional benefits, particularly in helping to prevent relapse, reduce symptoms and improve daily functioning. However, these well researched psychological treatment programs are not always available.

Some people with bipolar disorder report that they have found more informal psychological treatment or counseling helpful (e.g. when the person wants help with some of the losses or changes that have occurred, wants to learn ways to deal with stress or warning signs).  What is of primary importance when seeking psychological treatment is that the health practitioner (psychologist, counselor or psychiatrist) you or the person chooses is knowledgeable about bipolar disorder and how to treat it.

Psychological treatment may be most helpful when the person is relatively well and wants to find ways to prevent relapse and deal with the illness. There is currently no psychological treatment to help reduce symptoms when a person is acutely manic. However, psychological treatment can help to reduce symptoms and enhance functioning when a person is depressed. 1, 2

If you think psychological treatment may be helpful for the person, discuss this option with them. Encourage them to discuss this possibility with their doctor or mental health team.


  1. Miklowitz DJ, Otto MW, Frank E, et al. Psychosocial treatments for bipolar depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2007; 64: 419-27.
  2. Miklowitz, DJ, Otto MW, Frank E, et al. Intensive psychosocial intervention enhances functioning in patients with bipolar disorder: Results from a 9 month randomized controlled trial. Am J Psychiatry 2007; 164, 1340-1347.