Psychotherapy, often referred to as talk therapy, is a major component of treatment of bipolar disorder and other mental conditions. It can help people with bipolar disorder and their loved ones in a number of ways, including learning more about the illness, gaining a deeper perspective on the condition’s effect on the patient, as well as its effect on people close to the patient.

How Psychotherapy Fits In

Psychotherapy often plays an important role in the overall management of bipolar disorder. It is almost always used in conjunction with other therapies, including  medication and lifestyle improvements, such as better diet and exercise.

How Psychotherapy Works

There are a number of different types of psychotherapy, each focused on a distinct area, but generally this method of treatment attempts to improve patients' understanding of their own situation, thoughts and behavior or their relationships with others.

This can be done one-on-one with a therapist or it can involve whole groups of people who have similar issues or conditions. Psychotherapy involves discussing these issues in either setting, and is normally the patient who does most of the talking.

Types of psychotherapy include:

  • Single: This therapy involves a patient and therapist in a one-on-one private setting, often in the therapist’s office.
  • Group: Group therapy involves several people with similar conditions, or who are going through the same ordeal, such a loss of a loved one or divorce.
  • Couples: Couples therapy involves a patient and his or her romantic partner. This therapy helps resolve issues in a relationship, or can help in a relationship where one person has bipolar disorder or some other mental illness.
  • Family: Family therapy involves family members of someone with bipolar disorder or another condition. This type of therapy helps an entire family cope with an array of ordeals.

Who Can Benefit from Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is widely used in a number of settings and can be used on people from a variety of age groups and backgrounds. Different types of psychotherapy are available to best suit a person’s needs.

Side Effects of Pyschotherapy

Though psychotherapy does not directly cause physical side effects, people who opt to use it will have to be prepared to discuss their issues—even ones that are painful—candidly with at least one other person, or possibly a whole group. 


Psychotherapy is offered by a number of entities, including hospitals and private offices. It is not uncommon for it to be available to employees as part of a benefits package through their workplace. In this setting it is often known by the acronym EAP, which stands for employee assistance program.

Highlights of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a widely available treatment that focuses on helping people understand their thoughts, behaviors and relationships and how it impacts their mental health and overall life.

What The Expert Says

Dr. Soroya Bacchus, a psychologist practicing in California, sees psychotherapy as an essential component in the treatment of bipolar disorder.

“Every patient needs education about bipolar illness, about medication and its side effects, and about managing time, sleep, and structure to protect against future episodes,” she said. “This basic information is the first step in preparing the patient to cope with bipolar disorder.”

Dr. Bacchus believes communication must go both ways between psychotherapist and patient.

“It is essential to know how the patient feels about the information, indeed whether the patient accepts it at all, and to gauge how much of a collaborative and productive relationship there will be between psychiatrist and patient.”

According to Dr. Bacchus, psychotherapy works best as a long-term therapy with an individual therapist and that it is best to begin after a bipolar person's moods are stabilized.

“We call the stabilized mentality 'euthymia,'” Bacchus said.

Dr. Bacchus said it is important to use medication and psychotherapy hand in hand.

“To do one without the other is a waste of time and can be dangerous – you can have a suicidal event,” she said.