Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that can be used to help manage bipolar disorder.

Psychotherapy may involve a one-on-one interaction with a therapist. It may also involve group sessions that include the therapist and other people with similar issues.

Although there are many approaches, they all involve helping people manage their thoughts, perceptions, and behavior. Psychotherapy is also a resource for finding healthy ways to deal with problems.

Usually, the core treatment for bipolar disorder is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. CBT is one of the more common types of psychotherapy.

CBT is used to treat bipolar disorder by:

  • addressing depressive symptoms that occur as part of periods or episodes of depression
  • addressing feelings of guilt or other negative thoughts and beliefs about manic episodes
  • addressing feelings of losing friends or relationships

This can reduce overall distress and decrease manic or depressive episodes. It can also create awareness of one’s mood, emotions, physical sensations, and common indicators of a manic episode.

This awareness can help you plan accordingly for manic episodes by:

  • setting an appointment with a psychiatrist
  • engaging in behaviors that facilitate relief, such as proper sleep and self-care
  • making practical plans to mitigate risk associated with bipolar disorder, such as giving money and credit cards to a trusted friend if you have a history of spending behaviors

CBT can be used in a number of ways, including:

  • managing symptoms of mental health conditions
  • preventing behaviors that can result in those symptoms
  • learning effective coping techniques to help control emotions and stress
  • acting as an alternative treatment until a good regimen of medications is discovered

The primary goal of CBT is to teach you ways to approach thoughts differently so when they do come, you don’t have to buy into them or let yourself believe your negative thoughts.

CBT works to identify thoughts that contribute to your emotional distress and influence you to behave in negative ways.

For instance, believing others are judging you contributes to social anxiety and could lead you to avoid others, thus losing opportunities to form social relationships and develop beneficial sources of social support.

Once you learn to identify these thoughts, you can learn to challenge them by generating alternative explanations and seeking evidence for them. These approaches then lead to more realistic or balanced thoughts, less emotional distress, and behaviors that are more appropriate to your context.

Looking at thoughts more objectively can relieve the experience of difficult negative emotions because thoughts and emotions are shown to be linked and to impact each other.

The therapy is generally short-term and directly focused on eliminating or managing specific problems. It involves contributions from you and the therapist.

During a CBT session, you and the therapist will work together to:

1. Determine the problem

This can be mental health condition symptoms, work or relationship stress, or anything else that’s bothering you.

2. Examine the thoughts, behaviors, and emotions associated with these problems

Once the problems are identified, you will work with the therapist to begin looking at how you’re reacting to the thoughts around these problems in order to affect your emotions and actions.

3. Spot negative or inaccurate thoughts, behaviors, and emotions

There are a number of ways you can perceive or deal with something that worsens a problem. This can include thinking negatively about yourself or focusing on the negative aspects of a situation or occurrence.

4. Change your reaction

During a session, you and the therapist work together to replace these with more objective, realistic, or balanced thoughts. This can include attempting to view a situation more objectively, which can generate positive thinking or at least strengthen your coping skills in challenging situations.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective for nearly everyone in various situations.

Psychotherapy can be accessed in many settings, including hospitals and private practices. CBT is one of the more common types of therapy. Many employers offer psychotherapy through their employee assistance programs.

There are no direct physical side effects to psychotherapy.

However, if you decide to try CBT, you must be prepared to talk openly with a therapist or even a group of people. Some people may find this uncomfortable.

CBT is a popular treatment that can be applied to a wide range of issues, including the management of bipolar disorder.

Treatment with CBT focuses on identifying problems and your reactions to them. It then helps you replace these reactions with more objective, balanced thoughts. This can create self-awareness and strengthened coping skills.