A critical update on psychological interventions for bipolar disorders

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2009 Dec;11(6):494-502. doi: 10.1007/s11920-009-0075-0.


Although pharmacotherapy is the mainstay of treatment for bipolar disorder, the combination of evidence-based psychological interventions and drug treatment enhances overall effectiveness, mostly by further protecting patients from relapse/recurrence. In recent years, well-designed controlled studies have added weight to evidence favoring specific psychotherapy modalities for bipolar disorders. However, critical issues that may limit the benefits of psychotherapy in day-to-day clinical practice have emerged. In this article, we critically examine the effectiveness of psychosocial approaches to bipolar illness by reviewing the literature, which has been substantially enriched during the past 5 years. Recent studies further support the fact that psychoeducation and cognitive-behavioral therapy are effective in bipolar disorder, especially the early stages. Family interventions based on a psychoeducational model are also effective. Intensive psychotherapies may be more effective than short, managed care-based ones. Group psychoeducation seems to have long-lasting effects and to be cost-effective. Future studies should focus on neurobiological markers of response to psychotherapy and tailor interventions to specific subtypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Family Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Recurrence