I recently completed a 10-session therapy course for bipolar suffers and can attest to the help that such courses can offer.
The course first looked at the causes of bipolar disorder, what medical treatments are available, then moved on to the individual experiences involved, including identifying triggers and relief behaviours.
Each of the sessions lasted for three hours, including a mid-session tea/coffee break, and comprised not only individual self-assessment exercises but also group discussions where we shared our experiences – the frustrations and the benefits – of our bipolar lives.
I’m sure you can understand that the ‘frustrations’ far outweighed the ‘benefits’.
But even after only 12 weeks after the end of the course I find it difficult to remember any of the material we explored, suggesting that repeat, follow-up sessions would be advantageous. Naturally, no such sessions exist because there’s no funding for them in the Australian mental health system.
Emily Griffiths and David Smith from the department of psychological medicine at the University Hospital of Wales have briefly outlined in Mental Health Practice some of the findings their own research has uncovered into psychoeducation.
Psychoeducation, they say:
involves providing clients and their families with accurate and reliable information about their diagnosis to empower them to better manage their illness.
In the course I attended there was no space for family members, nor do I think they would have been invited – self-disclosure amongst peers is fraught enough with risk; disclosing our experience of our illness to non-sufferers would have potentially generated emotional responses no one would have welcomed. As it was, of the two facilitators our group had only one was a psychologist; the mental health-trained nurse seemed less flexible and less able to comprehend – other than academically/intellectually – our psychic pain.
Griffith & Smith’s group sessions involve:
- Diagnosis of bipolar disorder
- Causes of bipolar disorder
- Rôle of medication
- Rôle of lifestyle changes
- Relapse prevention and early intervention
- Psychological approaches
- Women and bipolar disorder
- Advice for family and carers
They go on to point out that the mood disorders research team at their department has developed an online interactive psychoeducational tool for bipolar disorder, currently undergoing clinical trial with a view to becoming a cost-effective way of delivering high quality education to large numbers of bipolar sufferers. You can find the tool at BeatingBipolar.org.
You can also find out more about the Hospital’s bipolar programme at bep-c.org.
Source: Griffiths, S. & Smith, D. 2010. Psychoeducation intervention for people with bipolar disorder. Mental Health Practice, 13, 9, pp. 22-23.