Cognitive Therapy for Bipolar Disorder

Cognitive therapy for bipolar disorder can be extremely helpful in assisting both child and adult clients in predicting and managing their moods. This is in combination with mood stablizers anti psychotics or medications prescribed by psychiatrists.

This kind of therapy helps clients to cope with the symptoms when they are present but also on helps them to deal with their return. Below are some examples.

Cognitive therapy for bipolar disorder often can help clients to understand their symptoms.

Essentially the first steps in treatment with a client are to help them to understand the illness as well as to recognize the symptoms of their particular mood states. Obviously if you are to get better you need to understand when you are not well. I do this with both children and adults. I do it with everyone who I can involve, parents, spouses, family members etc.

This step is especially important for children because parents and other adults have a really hard time wrapping their head around the fact that this is not behavioral. If your child is angry and belligerent between 4-9 every night, silly, annoying to everyone and won’t go to bed please understand that they are manic . They are not “being bad” or “ acting out”. You are not bad parents your child is sick.

This step is also important to significant others in the life of an adult. If your loved one or partner cannot get out of bed, cannot go grocery shopping and cries all day long- they are not lazy, they are not weak, they are depressed!

Reaching the goal of understanding symptoms can be done with journaling and mood charts. I often will outline the symptoms on paper and continuously refer back to them. Why? Bipolar Disorder does not go away. Even when stable on your meds, it is likely that someone with bipolar will continuously struggle with mood episodes and they need to get pretty proficient at recognizing them.

Cognitive therapy for Bipolar Disorder can help clients to challenge their negative or unrealistic thoughts and manage their symptoms.

If the client is not stable we can start to use the language of their symptoms to assist them with monitoring the effect of their medicine.

If the client is stable we can help the client to recognize what may be triggers for their moods and avoid those triggers. This will be important in different phases in treatment to prevent or manage future episodes.

Here is an actual example of mood symptoms written down by one of my clients:

How do I know when I am experiencing depression?

    I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning

    I don’t want to cook

    I feel hopeless and overwhelmed; I can’t deal with small tasks

    I start to worry about my marriage and husband leaving me

    I start to think I am a loser and I will never be able to accomplish anything

    I eat a lot more

What might be a trigger for my symptoms?

    Work stress

    Not sleeping

    Credit card bills being ignored

    Family trouble

This particular client was able to learn that when she is thinking “I am a loser and can’t accomplish anything” she was likely depressed. Cognitive therapy for bipolar disorder helped her to learn how to recognize and challenge this thought. This is not a real thought, this is a depressed thought. She learned that when she does not feel depressed y she doesn’t t have this thought. Cognitive therapy taught her the skills to recognize and challenge thoughts that are unhelpful.

Cognitive therapy for bipolar disorder can help family members to understand and manage the illness.

In the case of the client above, for example, the husband was able to learn that when his wife was depressed she was likely to worry about him starting to leave her. He was able to do things differently during these times in a way that was sensitive to this issue.

Long Term Management

In future phases of treatment, cognitive therapy for bipolar disorder remains and important way to assist the client in managing their illness, their relationships, and their behaviors that might contribute to the illness. These are only a few examples of how cognitive therapy for bipolar can be helpful!There are many ways this approach can be combines with others to effectively treat bipolar patients.


Cognitive therapy for bipolar disorder is not helpful for children and teens that are not stable. In my practice I will tell parents we cannot expect your child to make progress or benefit from therapy until they are stable on their meds. Depending on the severity of the adults cycling and illness they may also need to be stabilized on their meds first prior to benefiting from cognitive therapy for bipolar disorder.

Pages about Bipolar Disorder

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Parents with  bipolar disorder

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Causes of depression

Depression in Teens

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Panic Attacks 

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Panic and heart attacks

Treatment for panic attacks

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Depression in women

Exercise and depression

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Seasonal affective disorder

Reverse seasonal affective disorder

Depression in men

Relationship Issues




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Check out our online facebook support community for parents of kids with mood disorder. 

Medical information obtained from our website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.

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