If You Take Medication for Bipolar, Do You Really Need Therapy?

Last Updated: 1 Mar 2022

Even if you are taking medication for bipolar and seeing a psychiatrist, you may want to consider therapy for additional support and coping skills.

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Seeking Psychiatric Treatment

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big believer in psychiatric treatment for mental health.

I believe that if something is wrong with your heart, you go to a cardiologist; and, when you have a mental health condition, you go to a psychiatrist.

It’s that simple.

They are the specialists who help those with health conditions.

However, if you are seeing a psychiatrist and, for example, they’re prescribing and managing your medications for you—perhaps it’s a complex cocktail that took you a long time to get on—that is what psychiatrists do specialize in.

Once you get to a place where you’re doing well, do you really need therapy? That is a question that I get asked sometimes.

And the answer is: probably.

Maximizing Best Outcomes with Bipolar Treatment

So, what we know is that when it comes to handling bipolar disorder, people who take medication and go to therapy typically fare better than those who do either one alone.

Of course, you want to maximize your best outcome—just like I do—so you definitely want to consider doing both of those things at the same time.

But even if you don’t believe in that research, there’s still a lot you can learn from therapy in terms of coping skills and there’s a lot you can gain in terms of support.

When you have a mental health condition, you might feel like your family doesn’t support you or that your friends don’t support you, or they just don’t support you in the way that you need support—that’s where talk therapy can come in.

What Can Talk Therapy Provide?

Not only can therapy support you in a way that those around you may not be able to, but it can also teach you ways to lessen the burden that mental health conditions can be.

Now, not everyone requires that level of support. Not everyone has a need for the teaching found in therapy. And there is, probably, a time limit where you have had the amount of therapy that you need.

For example, I have had 15 years of therapy. That’s a lot of therapy—so I’m not in therapy right now. But, that’s not to say that I wouldn’t go back if I thought there was something new for me to gain there.

So, yes, if you do take medication, if you do see a psychiatrist, you do still need to consider therapy as part of your treatment plan.

Learn more:
My ‘Bipolar Brain’: Constant Conversations in My Head
What to Do After a Manic or Hypomanic Episode: The Essential First Steps

Originally posted November 26, 2018

About the author
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning mental health writer, keynote speaker, and consultant; she also lives with bipolar disorder. She has written the acclaimed book, Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar and writes frequently on her own blog, Bipolar Burble, and at HealthyPlace and elsewhere. She was the proud recipient of the Erasing the Stigma Leadership Award in 2014 and a Health Activist Award in 2019. Natasha is considered a subject matter expert in bipolar disorder, and she works to bring quality, insightful, and trusted information to the public. Connect with Natasha on her website, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
  1. I can’t afford the co-pays. ?

  2. I need therapy even when I’m feeling fine – I live alone and rely on my therapist to follow my mood swings. (Even with keeping a journal or mood tracing, my therapist is really superb at this!) She keeps detailed notes and can determine, when I cannot, any patterns to my behavior that emerge over time. Do I really have SAD? She looked at her notes and told me exactly when I was in a depressive state the last two years and, yes, both occurred over the winter. So, before fall, I will purchase a light box for myself. I will try to get outside daily, even for just a little while.

    My therapist is my “safety net”. Right now, I’m seeing her every two weeks but when I struggle with depression, I see her weekly. It is such a blessing to be able to share what’s going on with her – I love my friends, but they simply do not understand what BP is like. And when I’m depressed, I need someone who truly “gets it” – my therapist.

  3. Natasha is right. One has to find out if they need therapy. I’ve been seeing the same therapist for 7-8 years. She’s awesome, but she does not help me with bipolar disorder and PTSD. I am looking for someone new. Looking for a therapist to fit your needs is important. After that you may find you don’t really like talking that helpful.

  4. You can also see a counselor or anyone that is licensed to talk to you. psychiatrist an cost big money someone down the line can help. Do they have group therapy for mental illness like alcoholic anonymous?

    1. Philip , there is group therapy for bi polar offered for free and you can look up remind groups and phone them and they will give you a schedule in your area, also NAMI helps! These groups really help cause it is your peers supporting you and you dont feel isolated in the world!

    2. Yes, DBSA – Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance. Contact your friends who also deal with Bipolar Disorder, your psychiatrist and your local Behavioral Health Hospital for when and where… Do you have Medicaid, Medicare or some supportive network to help you find affordable therapy?
      For myself, I have been in and out of therapy for about forty years. Most of it did little good until I was finally correctly diagnosed with Bipolar 2. It only took about three years after that for me to progress to the point of seeing my therapist only once every three months. I was so “messed up”, I think about all I did until then was complain, “My mother this…” “My mother that…” Couldn’t even call her ‘Mama’ as we did when I was a child! I was a very angry misdiagnosed person and could not focus on myself enough to change very much behavior. I just focused on all that anger. That is, until I got that all-important correct diagnosis. Thank heavens for the two LCSWs in my life who helped me the most. And I thank the BH hospital for putting me into EMDR even if it worked only once. It was one of their psychiatrists who finally spotted me in a hypomanic episode and put me on a mood-stabilizer.

      1. I was diagnosed 2 yrs ago with bi polar, and severe depression. I am 47. I’ve been seeing a Lcsw for 6yrs. She is the one that recognized my mania, and depression. My counselor gives me tools to help my depression and my thoughts about situations that circle and circle in my brain. I try and use these tools, and sometimes I can manage my thoughts and get out of my own head, but I get overwhelmed with all the thoughts more than not and end up in a deep depression. I try like hell to think logically with her tools. I have failed horribly using them. She let’s me know this frequently. She says I come to session more depressed than not. That her other clients come in doing this and that like their suppose to. She asks me every time I see her which is once a week, “what do you want to talk about this week and how was your week” so I tell her. Then after several sessions go by she tells me that I should be coming and talking about the things im struggling with that I can’t problem solve on my own. I asked her this week if she would rather not see me, because I thought she was so frustrated with me, she said she was confused about our talk, because I brought up how I’ve been feeling inside for a long time. She was upset that I hadn’t mentioned it before, much more to this story… She said she was just so confused and why would I ask that? She said I was asking that because I wanted validation. No, I was asking because of her actions.The latest comment she made to me, was because if I ask her something and she doesn’t like what I ask ect, she says I think we need to take a week off. I get so much anxiety and get more depressed when she does this. Her comment was Calm down CJ. It’s not the end of the world. This was after I told her I might be going to the hospital. After she said that, I was heartbroke, and devastated that she said that. I think about suicide all the time. It almost was the end of the world after that comment. I’m barely hanging on, she’s the one I trust, and I feel betrayed. I don’t know if that makes sense. Nothing does. I’m to the point where I can’t live like this anymore.

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