Bipolar Disorder Treatment May Benefit from Addition of Psychotherapy

woman laying on a couch while talking to a therapist
woman laying on a couch while talking to a therapist
An overall reduction in symptoms with both therapies was noted.

Intensive psychotherapy in conjunction with pharmacotherapy may be beneficial in young people with bipolar disorder, according to research published in Bipolar Disorders.

Researchers from New Zealand aimed to assess the difference between interpersonal and social rhythm therapy and specialist supportive care in 100 adolescents and adults with bipolar disorder. Study participants were randomly assigned to one treatment method for 78 weeks; investigators followed these participants for an additional 78 weeks; follow-up evaluations were conducted at 26-week intervals throughout the study.

Study participants in both groups were primarily female (75.5% and 76.5%, respectively) and had bipolar I disorder (75.5% and 80.4%, respectively). Of these, 49 participants were assigned to the interpersonal and social rhythm therapy group; 51 were assigned to receive specialist supportive care.

Researchers did not identify significant differences between therapies. Mean change in depression and mania was “significantly different” at all 3 follow-up data points, with cumulative recurrence rates of 53% and 49% for interpersonal and social rhythm therapy and specialist supportive care, respectively. Time to recurrence was not significantly different in either group.

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“This follow-up study suggests that the benefits of providing intensive psychotherapies in conjunction with pharmacotherapy for young people with [bipolar disorder] may go beyond the period of active treatment,” the researchers concluded. “Further research is required to compare the intervention with treatment as usual.”


Inder ML, Crowe MT, Moor S, et al. Three-year follow-up after psychotherapy for young people with bipolar disorder [published online December 22, 2017]. Bipolar Disord. doi:10.1111/bdi.12582