As with any chronic illness, a person with bipolar disorder may occasionally have a reappearance of acute phase symptoms as well as difficulty managing daily activities. It is common for people with bipolar illness to have periods of high functioning interrupted by periods of low functioning. For instance, people with bipolar disorder often have success at work, but may need support to maximize their funcitoning. There are several ways to address this - some of the more common approaches include family therapy, group therapy, skills-based programs and psychoeducation.
It is very important to understand that no family member caused their loved one's bipolar illness, since it is a medical condition. The quality of support and the reliability of personal relationships may affect the course of the illness. At the same time, the person's illness may cause concern for himself or herself as well as increased general stress for the family.
Family pyschoeducational therapy can be helpful in these situations by focusing on improving communication among family members, helping the person with bipolar illness understand the benefits of consistently taking their medication and learning strategies to prevent relapses. In this type of treatment, family members can feel supported and the individual with the illness can learn new ways for maintaining recovery.
Group therapy can also provide needed support and helpful skills for the person with bipolar disorder. In group therapy, people learn they are not alone with the illness; they receive important emotional support; learn skills for coping with medications, interpersonal and work-related issues; and learn ways to cope with stigma from others. Maximizing work or social functioning is a core aspect of recovery and skill-based interventions - for example, school and job training can help with this.
Overall, psychoeducational treatments help the person and his or her family members to better understand bipolar illness so that recovery can be reached sooner. In these types of approaches, individuals with the illness and their family members can expect to discuss topics such as accepting the illness, identifying early warning signs of difficulties about to happen, learning to cope with mood changes, understanding medications and where to find self-help groups and accessing employment or training resources.