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A study of cognitive therapy for relapse prevention for bipolar affective disorder

15 Aug
A British pilot study assessed the effectiveness of a cognitive-behavioral therapy specifically designed to prevent relapses and improve social functioning in patients with bipolar affective disorder (this diagnosis used to be called manic depression).

The clinical trial at London’s Institute of Psychiatry randomized 103 patients with bipolar disorder, who experienced frequent relapses despite the prescription of commonly used mood stabilizers, into a cognitive-behavioral therapy group or control group. Both groups received mood stabilizers and regular psychiatric follow-up. In addition, the cognitive-behavioral group received an average of 14 sessions of CBT training during the first 6 months and 2 booster sessions in the second 6 months. The study found that during the 12-month period, the CBT group had significantly fewer bipolar episodes, feewer days in a bipolar episode, and fewer number of admissions for this type of episode.

The CBT group also had significantly higher social functioning. During the 12 months, the CBT group revealed less mood symptoms on the monthly mood questionnaires. Furthermore, there was significantly less fluctuation in manic symptoms in the CBT group. The CT group also coped better with manic prodromes (early warning signs) at 12 months.

The study concludes that cognitive-behavioral therapy specifically designed for relapse prevention in bipolar affective disorder is a useful tool in conjunction with mood stabilizers. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Citation: Lam DH, Watkins ER, Hayward P, Bright J, Wright K, Kerr N, Parr-Davis G, Sham P. A randomized controlled study of cognitive therapy for relapse prevention for bipolar affective disorder: outcome of the first year. Archives of General Psychiatry 2003 Feb; 60 (2): pp. 145-52.
Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award