How to Find a Good Therapist for Bipolar Disorder


nov3-1When you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, therapy can be invaluable in helping you cope with the condition. You’ll need to take medication to manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder, but therapy can help you discuss and come to terms with thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and symptoms that impair your ability to function at work, at school, and at home.

Psychotherapy for bipolar disorder also helps with medication adherence, or staying on your medication. It’s not uncommon for some people with bipolar disorder to stop taking their medication for periods of time — an average of 41 to 42 percent of people with bipolar disorder have problems with medication adherence. That’s a problem because if you don’t take your medication, it won’t work.

But it’s important to find a psychotherapist who’s good for you. Just as you don’t get along well with some people in your personal or professional life, you’re not going to get along well with some therapists. Furthermore, you need to make sure that the therapist you choose has the right training and experience to help you.

How Therapy Can Help You with Bipolar Disorder

Medications like Seroquel are very important for controlling the symptoms of bipolar disorder. You will need to take medication for the rest of your life, and the better you are about taking your medication every day, the more control you’ll manage to gain over your bipolar disorder.

When you’re first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may not know much about it. Even if you have some idea of what the symptoms of bipolar disorder are, you may need some help figuring out which of your behaviors are symptomatic. Therapy can help you understand your symptoms and how they affect your behaviors and life. It can help you learn to recognize and anticipate changes in mood so that you can contact your psychiatrist for more or different medication if necessary, and take other steps to prevent or deal with a mental health crisis.

Therapy can help you learn about how your disorder is treated, and can help you adapt to having the disorder. Different types of therapy for bipolar disorder, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and social rhythm therapy, can help you establish and maintain a normal routine, improve your relationships with others, and change patterns of thinking that are counterproductive for you.

You may also need therapy to help with a co-existing mental disorder. About 60 percent of people suffering from bipolar disorder also have problems with substance abuse. Eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders are also common in people with bipolar disorder.

Choose the Right Therapist

nov3-2When it comes to choosing a therapist, look for one who has graduate-level training in counseling and psychology. Some post-graduate training in a particular therapeutic method can also be helpful. A qualified therapist may have a Master’s degree or higher in family therapy, marriage counseling, psychology, general counseling, social work, or another field.

He or she should have some experience treating people with bipolar disorder and should have training in cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, or social rhythm therapy. A licensed counselor is best; in order to obtain state licensure, a therapist must have a great deal of counseling experience, sometimes as many as 3,000 hours’ worth.

Unless you live in a very small or rural community, you should avoid going to a therapist whom you know socially. Your therapist should be only your therapist — not your friend, coworker, employer, employee, teacher, or relative. Some additional red flags to watch out for include:

  • Guarantees or promises.

    While your therapist should be able to tell you exactly how he or she plans to try and help you, he or she shouldn’t make any promises regarding your therapeutic outcome.

  • Your therapist is hard to relate to.

    You should feel comfortable and safe talking to your therapist. If, after the first few visits, you find yourself having trouble getting comfortable with the therapist, you may need to try another.

  • Your therapist isn’t open to feedback.

    You should be able to tell your therapist when he or she has offended you or hurt your feelings, and your therapist should be willing to admit mistakes.

  • Your therapist has not had therapy.

    Good therapists go through therapy themselves, so they have a firsthand understanding of the healing process.

Before you begin working with a new therapist, make yourself aware of the ethical guidelines therapists should follow. You should feel free to ask about ethical guidelines the first time you see a therapist. If you think your therapist isn’t following ethical guidelines, you can bring it up with him or her, or you can discuss the matter with another therapist or even a lawyer. Rest assured that most therapists mean well and will do their best to adhere to ethical guidelines.

If you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you need a combination of medication and therapy in order to control your symptoms. Look for a qualified therapist who has experience treating bipolar disorder, and don’t hesitate to hold out for someone you can feel comfortable with.