A randomized, controlled, pilot study of dialectical behavior therapy skills in a psychoeducational group for individuals with bipolar disorder

J Affect Disord. 2013 Mar 5;145(3):386-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.05.054. Epub 2012 Aug 1.


Background: Bipolar disorder (BD) is a chronic and disabling psychiatric disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of mania/hypomania and depression. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) techniques have been shown to effectively treat borderline personality disorder, a condition also marked by prominent affective disturbances. The utility of DBT techniques in treating BD has been largely unexplored. The purpose of this research was to conduct a pilot study of a DBT-based psychoeducational group (BDG) in treating euthymic, depressed, or hypomanic Bipolar I or II patients.

Methods: In this experiment, 26 adults with bipolar I or II were randomized to intervention or wait-list control groups and completed the Beck depression inventory II, mindfulness-based self-efficacy scale, and affective control scale at baseline and 12 weeks. The BDG intervention consisted of 12 weekly 90-min sessions which taught DBT skills, mindfulness techniques, and general BD psychoeducation.

Results: Using RM-ANOVA, subjects in BDG demonstrated a trend toward reduced depressive symptoms, and significant improvement in several MSES subscales indicating greater mindful awareness, and less fear toward and more control of emotional states (ACS). These findings were supported with a larger sample of patients who completed the BDG. Furthermore, group attendees had reduced emergency room visits and mental health related admissions in the six months following BDG.

Limitations: The small sample size in RCT affects power to detect between group differences. How well improvements after the12-week BDG were maintained is unknown.

Conclusions: There is preliminary evidence that DBT skills reduce depressive symptoms, improve affective control, and improve mindfulness self-efficacy in BD. Its application warrants further evaluation in larger studies.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology
  • Bipolar Disorder / therapy*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods*
  • Self Efficacy
  • Treatment Outcome