Finding the right therapist for bipolar disorder depends on the factors that someone considers most important. This may involve experience in treating others with the condition and a treatment style that aligns with their preferences.
Other considerations may include a certain gender or age range, along with cost-related factors, such as whether a therapist accepts insurance. A convenient location is also a factor.
Treatment consists of a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
This article discusses how to find the right therapist for bipolar disorder, including what questions to ask and where to get referrals. It also examines types of therapy, costs, and what to look for in a therapist and lists support groups.
Online directories, such as Psychology Today, can provide a person with a list of candidate therapists in their area. Medical centers are another resource because they are frequently associated with medical schools. Although the therapists are on staff in the hospital, they may also have a private practice.
The candidates’ websites may help with screening, as they have information on credentials and specialty board certifications.
An initial consultation can help people determine if a therapist’s style and approach align with their preferences. This face-to-face meeting can let them check if the therapist is someone with whom they feel comfortable.
Asking the right questions
It helps to compile a list of questions regarding any matters that a therapist’s website does not address. Prioritizing the questions may also help narrow the choices. An individual may ask the questions over the phone or during the initial consultation.
Sources of referrals include someone’s:
- primary care doctor
- family members
- support group members
Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, treatment can enable people to live fulfilling lives. The usual treatment involves a combination of medications and psychotherapy, but self-care can also help.
Doctors recommend long-term, continuous treatment, as it can help decrease the severity and frequency of mood swings. Because medications have side effects, it is important for a person to understand their benefits versus risks. Someone may need to try different medications before identifying the one that provides them with the most benefits with the least side effects.
- antipsychotics, such as aripiprazole (Abilify)
- mood stabilizers, such as lithium (Eskalith, Eskalith-CR, Lithobid)
- antidepressants, such as sertraline (Zoloft), in conjunction with the above options
Talk therapy is another term for psychotherapy. It can help individuals:
- accept their condition
- develop coping strategies for dealing with stress
- identify warning signs of an episode
- follow a medication schedule
- have better relationships and communications with family members
The following lifestyle habits, in combination with professional treatment, can help manage symptoms:
- maintaining consistent sleeping and waking schedules
- avoiding the use of alcohol and harmful drugs
- getting regular exercise and eating a nutritious diet
- minimizing stress
- taking medication as a doctor prescribes
- developing a support network of family and friends
- frequency of psychiatric interventions
- issues with medication adherence
- presence of co-occurring medical conditions, psychiatric conditions, or both
The authors estimated the direct healthcare cost for all causes ranged from $11,051 to $46,971 per person annually. All causes include treatment of bipolar disorder and co-occurring health conditions.
When looking for a therapist, the International Bipolar Foundation recommends asking questions relating to experience, approach, availability, and cost.
- “Do you specialize in bipolar disorder? If not, what is your specialty?”
- “How many years of experience do you have?”
- “Do you specialize in a certain age group, such as older adults or teenagers?”
- “Do you keep up with the latest research and advancements on bipolar disorder?”
Style or approach
- “What is your approach to medication?”
- “What is your overall philosophy in your practice?”
- “Will you collaborate with the rest of my healthcare team?”
- “Do you use certain methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy?”
- “What are your goals in therapy?
Questions may include, “What is your schedule like?” A person can see if the therapist’s openings are compatible with their own schedule, which would enable them to make appointments.
An additional question involves, “Are you available during off hours?” This would let someone know if it is possible to get help in an emergency.
- “What insurance do you accept?”
- “What are your charges?”
- “What is your recommended frequency and duration of treatment sessions?”
Finding the right therapist involves various considerations. Aside from experience, a person may have a preference in regard to specific credentials, such as:
A convenient location may be especially important for someone with transportation limitations. Also, because treatment expenses can be costly, having a therapist who accepts an individual’s insurance can help reduce fees.
Additionally, people may be more comfortable with a therapist who falls into a certain age range or gender. Lastly, as treatment styles vary, it can help to find a therapist whose approach is compatible with their needs.
Support groups include:
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance can locate a support group in a person’s area.
- National Alliance on Mental Health offers peer-led groups where participants can share experiences with others.
- Postpartum Support International is a support group for individuals with bipolar disorder during pregnancy or after giving birth.
The criteria for finding the right therapist for bipolar disorder will differ among people. Experience treating the condition would likely be a top priority for many, but some may prefer a certain treatment style, gender, or age range.
Other considerations may include credentials, costs, and location.
Research indicates that direct healthcare expenses for individuals with bipolar disorder and co-occurring health conditions can be costly. For this reason, a person will wish to find out if a therapist accepts their insurance.
Compiling a list of questions to ask potential therapists can help narrow the choices.
Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, treatment can help someone live a fulfilling life.