Background: This study reports the outcome of a randomized controlled trial of cognitive therapy (CT) for bipolar disorder. The treatment protocol differed from other published forms of CT for bipolar disorder through the addition of emotive techniques.
Method: Fifty-two patients with DSM-IV bipolar I or II disorder were randomly allocated to a 6-month trial of either CT or treatment as usual, with both treatment groups also receiving mood stabilizers. Outcome measures included relapse rates, dysfunctional attitudes, psychosocial functioning, hopelessness, self-control, and medication adherence. Patients were assessed during treatment by independent raters blind to the patients' group status.
Results: At posttreatment, patients allocated to CT had experienced less severe depression scores (Beck Depression Inventory and Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale) and less dysfunctional attitudes. After controlling for the presence of major depressive episode at baseline, there was a statistical trend toward a greater time to depressive relapse (p=.06) for the CT group. At 12-month follow-up, the CT group showed a trend toward lower Young Mania Rating Scale scores and improved behavioral self-control. The Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement scale, comparing the 18 months prior to treatment to the severity of illness status at follow-up, showed a substantial difference between groups in favor of CT.
Conclusion: Our findings corroborate previous bipolar disorder research in demonstrating the value of CT, particularly immediately post-treatment, and indicate some continuation (albeit diminishing) of benefits in the succeeding 12 months. These findings suggest that psychological booster sessions may be crucial for maintaining the beneficial effects of cognitive therapy.