Bipolar disorder can be a challenge to the person living with the illness, as well as those closest to them. People with bipolar do better when family members are part of their ongoing counseling treatment. Family members are better equipped to support their loved one when they are receiving steady support and encouragement themselves. Research shows that everyone benefits from greater participation in the process.
A study of 220 plus veterans living with bipolar disorder or another significant mental illness showed how important it is that everyone has a stake in treatment. Willing family members with a history of little involvement were asked to take part in three educational sessions and three patient counseling sessions. An overwhelming 85 percent of family members chose to participate in at least a single session with the patient, and over 50 percent attended at least one family support meeting. The result was measurable recovery for the patient, especially with reduced paranoid ideation.
People with bipolar may have trouble accurately recognizing their own mood shifts. In such cases, trusting close family members to intervene is critical. When family members are participating in patient treatment sessions and getting encouraged in group meetings, the entire dynamic takes a more positive direction.
Of course, this support is only as effective as the strength of the relationships. This is one reason why it’s important for clinicians to assess family dynamics early on. Even if there are complex relational issues within the home, family participation in patient counseling and family support groups can improve the situation. And the more chronic the bipolar symptoms, the greater the need for treatment with the entire family involved.