Intensive Psychotherapy Boosts Bipolar Disorder Outcomes

Adding it to meds helps patients achieve lasting recovery, study finds

THURSDAY, April 5, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Intensive psychotherapy helps bipolar disorder patients who are taking medications improve faster and stay well, a new U.S. study suggests.

Bipolar disorder, which affects 2.6 percent of Americans each year, is marked by severe swings between depression and mania.

The study, published in the April issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, included 293 patients taking part in the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD), funded by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The study was led by David Miklowitz of the University of Colorado. Some of the patients received nine months of intensive psychotherapy, while others were in a control group that received a three-session psychoeducational program called collaborative care.

During the course of the year, 64 percent of the patients who received intensive psychotherapy became well, compared with 52 percent of the collaborative care patients. The study also found that patients who received intensive psychotherapy became well an average of 110 days sooner and were one-and-a-half times more likely to be well during any month of the study year than patients in collaborative care.

"We know that medication is an important component in the treatment of bipolar illness. These new results suggest that adding specific, targeted psychotherapy to medication may help give patients a better shot at lasting recovery," Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, NIH director, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about bipolar disorder.

SOURCE: U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, news release, April 2, 2007
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