Tips for Choosing the Right Therapist for Bipolar Disorder

How to start the search for a therapist and questions to help you choose the right therapist.

A young woman talks to a mental health professional.

Bipolar disorders are among the most common mood disorders. There are several different types of bipolar disorder, which all involve severe changes in mood—episodes of depression and mania—as well as changes in energy and activity levels. Symptoms vary depending on the type of bipolar disorder a person has, and the severity of symptoms can vary from one person to the next.

Bipolar disorder can have a profound impact on a person’s quality of life, including relationships, education, employment, and physical health. It’s important for people with bipolar disorder to seek treatment from a healthcare provider that specializes in mental health disorders. Treatment typically involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

Types of therapy and therapists

Mental health professionals have different levels of training and different areas of expertise—psychiatrists, psychologists, and clinical social workers can all provide therapy and counseling for people with bipolar disorders. Medications, however, must be prescribed by a psychiatrist, a provider with a medical degree and a license to practice medicine.

Psychotherapy is also referred to as “talk therapy.” There are numerous types of psychotherapy, and different types work better for different people. Some therapy approaches that are used to treat bipolar disorder include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), where patients work with a therapist to adjust patterns of thinking, address fears, and prepare for problematic situations.
  • Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT), which focuses on routines, sleep patterns, and addressing interpersonal issues.
  • Family Focused Therapy (FFT), where both the patient and the patient’s family members work with a therapist to improve communication and problem solving.

These are three examples, and there are other types of therapy. It’s important to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating bipolar disorder—different patients have different needs, and the choice of both therapy and therapist should reflect a person’s individual needs.

Finding a therapist

There are a number of ways to go about finding a therapist:

  • Recommendations from your healthcare provider.
  • State and county agencies, which may list mental health services on their websites.
  • Employee assistance programs, which may offer counseling or referrals.
  • Counseling services through a school or university.
  • If you are insured, your health insurance company’s website should have a listing of providers in your area.
  • An internet search for “find a therapist” should also provide some leads.

Choosing a therapist

Once you have a therapist in mind or a list of potential therapists, there are a few things you will want to consider:

  • What type of therapy do they offer?
  • What type of training, education, and years of experience do they have?
  • Do they have experience treating people with similar challenges to your own?
  • What type of treatment do they recommend for you? Does this treatment plan make sense?
  • How did you feel after talking to the therapist?
  • What is the cost and do they accept your insurance?
  • What are the goals of therapy, what is the timeframe for those goals, and how will progress be measured?

One of the most important things to consider is how you and a potential therapist get along—you want to work with someone you feel comfortable with, someone you feel safe talking to. In order for therapy to work, you must be honest with your healthcare provider and be confident that they will be able to help you. If you don’t feel that you are making progress, you want to feel comfortable enough to raise your concerns.

Remember, finding the right therapist might take some work, and you might speak with a number of providers before you find the one that is right for you.

Article sources open article sources

MentalHealth.gov. Mood Disorders.
MedlinePlus. Bipolar Disorder.
National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar Disorder.
National Alliance on Mental Health. Types of Mental Health Professionals.
David J. Miklowitz. Different Types of Therapy for Bipolar Disorder. National Alliance on Mental Health. April 12, 2019.
Gloria Oladipo. How To Find the Right Therapist: 10 Tips. PsychCentral. June 21, 2021.
National Institute of Mental Health. Psychotherapies.
American Psychological Association. How to choose a psychologist. October 17, 2019.

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