What are the major goals of outpatient treatment for bipolar affective disorder (manic-depressive illness)?

Updated: May 30, 2019
  • Author: Stephen Soreff, MD; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Outpatient treatment for patients with bipolar disorder, or manic-depressive illness (MDI), has 4 major goals, as follows:

  1. Look at areas of stress and find ways to handle them: The stresses can stem from family or work, but if they accumulate, they propel the person into mania or depression; this is a form of psychotherapy

  2. Monitor and support the medication: Medications make an incredible difference, and the key is to obtain the benefits while avoiding adverse effects; patients are ambivalent about their medications—although they recognize that the drugs help and prevent hospitalizations, they also resent that they need them; the goal is to address their feelings and allow them to continue with the medications

  3. Develop and maintain the therapeutic alliance: This is one of the many reasons for the practitioner to deal with the patient’s ambivalence about the medications; over time, the strength of the alliance helps keep the patient’s symptoms at a minimum and helps the patient remain in the community

  4. Provide education (see Patient Education): The clinician must help educate both the patient and the family about bipolar illness; patients and families need to be aware of the dangers of substance abuse, the situations that would lead to relapse, and the essential role of medications; support groups for patients and families are of tremendous importance

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