Bipolar disorder (sometimes still referred to as manic-depressive disorder) is a mood disorder characterized by dramatic variations in mood ranging from depressed to manic. Group therapy is an excellent option for individuals who struggle with bipolar disorder. You can read more about bipolar disorder here.
Yet even without going into more detail, we have to agree that first sentence is a lot to take in. The great dilemma for someone (including us as therapists) who doesn’t organize an understanding of who people are around labels and diagnoses is how to take seriously the very serious problems that come with bipolar disorder without relating to a person with that diagnosis as that diagnosis.
For some, bipolar can be life-threatening. It’s a serious matter requiring serious care, and any therapist who takes on a patient with bipolar has a responsibility to see that everything is in place that can be to minimize the risk of harm.
People are not their diagnoses. Taking a diagnosis seriously is not the same thing as relating to someone as damaged, crazy, weak, broken, or otherwise incapable of creating their lives. What we assume when we organize therapy for someone with bipolar disorder around their bipolar disorder is that the only benefit they could possibly receive from therapy is keeping their bipolar disorder under control. Of course, this couldn’t possibly be so.
What’s more, this perspective makes the mistake of forgetting that no one is a collection of disorders or diseases or issues. Human beings are complicated creatures capable of all sorts of things, chiefly among them (from our perspective) is growth!
So, why group therapy and bipolar?
Largely the answer is the same case made in many ways in favor of group therapy in other parts of this site. But we’ll add some merits to the list. Having a group of people who know you, know your moods and the warning signs is a great help with a disorder like bipolar where moods can shift, often suddenly and dangerously. Group therapy is a terrific context for creating a stable life with the consistency those with bipolar need. Finally, bipolar often comes with a debilitating stigma. Having a context where the struggles, often embarrassing, can be shared with others can help break the stigma.