Group Therapy at the Sutherland Bipolar Center

In the Spotlight: Group Therapy
by Dr. Alisha Brosse, Sutherland Bipolar Center Director

This is the next installment in our series highlighting each of the clinical services that we offer at the Sutherland Bipolar Center.

We offered our first session of group therapy in 2005. A lot has changed in the intervening 13 years. We did major overhauls of our curriculum in 2008 and again in 2011. Since then, we have continued to make more minor adjustments based on our experience, feedback from participants, and the latest research findings. Here’s what has remained constant: group members regularly tell us that they benefit from learning skills with others who share similar struggles.

Our skills-training group is called “The ABC’s of Living Well with Bipolar Disorder: Acceptance-based, Behavioral and Cognitive Strategies.” It is comprised of five modules, each 4-7 sessions long. The group meets weekly for 90 minutes. It is co-facilitated by two therapists, and there are a maximum of 10 group members. A typical session starts with a grounding exercise. We then discuss the practice that was assigned the previous week: what roadblocks did people encounter? What successes did they experience? Next, we introduce and practice new skills (or the next step in a skill previously introduced). We close with assigning practice for the upcoming week.

The skills that we teach are primarily derived from cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). In the Behavioral Strategies module, group members learn how to act opposite of their emotions in order to stop (or even reverse) a mood spiral. They also learn to use their values, rather than their mood, to guide their actions. In the Cognitive Strategies module, people learn to better recognize mood-driven thoughts, like the self-deprecating or bleak thoughts of depression, or the grandiose ideas that can accompany mania. They learn how to challenge their thoughts and make room for more realistic or helpful thoughts. We teach an alternate way to cope with thoughts in the Acceptance and Defusion Strategies module: group members learn how to create some distance between themselves and their thoughts, not listening so intently to, or taking so seriously, everything their minds tell them. We also focus in this module on accepting, rather than skilling away, uncomfortable internal experiences (i.e., thoughts, feelings, sensations) as a means of reducing struggle and suffering. The Mindfulness and Self-Compassion module teaches mindfulness as a tool to stay present (rather than ruminating about the past or worrying or eagerly anticipating the future), and increase self-compassion. Finally, our newest addition is a module on Sleep and Mood Regulation Strategies. This module explores the connection between sleep and mood, teaches strategies to treat insomnia, and encourages participants to keep a regular sleep-wake schedule to help stabilize mood.

People can complete all of the modules or only the ones that appeal to them. Sometimes patients elect to repeat modules. It can be helpful to be exposed to the same material when in a different mood, and to re-learn the earlier skills after having learned the later ones. In 2012 it became clear that some people were repeating modules even though they had a high level of mastery of the skills. When we inquired, we learned that they did not want to give up the support they derived from the weekly group. Thus, in 2013 we launched the “XYZ’s of Living Well with Bipolar Disorder,” a weekly group for “graduates” of the ABC’s group. This group is much less structured, but continues to emphasize research-based skills to better manage bipolar disorder. Participants coach each other on the skills that seem most relevant to what is going in their lives at the moment.

Here’s what some of our patients have said about their group therapy experience at the Sutherland Bipolar Center:

“I love group! … I really appreciate how well the therapists understand bipolar disorder. Also appreciate [the] therapists participating in activities.”

“I can’t believe I’ve been bipolar for as long as I’ve been and haven’t been doing this kind of treatment.”

“[This is a] new experience of having skills-based therapy. The therapists have been great!”

To see if you qualify for group therapy at the Center, call us at 303/492-5680.

The Gut-Brain Connection

My name is Lisa Shanken, and I call myself a Healthy Lifestyle Mentor. I specialize in working with mental health clients, especially those with poor executive functioning and nutritional imbalances. I am working with some Sutherland Bipolar Center patients to help them improve organization, structure, and healthy habits through lifestyle mentoring techniques. I have certifications in nutrition counseling and personal fitness training, as well as culinary training. I have also taken continuing education courses in different mental health treatments and have worked with many types and varying degrees of mental illnesses.

I specialize in the gut-brain connection. There has been ongoing research about the human microbiome (the trillions of organisms that live in our gut) and its link to our brains. According to the Scientific American, a recent study in Stockholm showed that the microbes in the gut can help control the intestines from leaking foreign objects into our blood (aka “leaky gut”). Another study showed that disruptions in the microbiome of mice lead to anxiety and depression.

Specific to bipolar disorder, one study published in The Journal of Psychiatric Research found that bipolar sufferers had less Faecalibacterium (a specific strain of bacteria) than people who did not have bipolar disorder. Another recent study found a correlation between bipolar disorder and gut inflammation.

There are many things a person can do to improve leaky gut syndrome, and in turn, improve debilitating symptoms of mental illnesses. These include starting a fitness regimen, making specific dietary changes, and creating a mindfulness practice.

It’s my job to not only teach my patients what these specific strategies are, but also to help them implement them, to be consistent with these lifestyle changes until they become habitual, and to then maximize the benefits. It’s also my job to customize an overall gut health improvement plan for each patient since fitness, diet, and mindfulness are definitely not a one-size-fits-all practice.

It takes some time to help patients make all of the necessary changes, but the resulting healthier gut has immense benefits, including decreased anxiety and depression, weight loss, increased self-confidence, and improved executive functioning.

I am very passionate about this work and welcome any questions and discussions regarding it. Please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] Thank you for allowing me to be a part of the Sutherland Bipolar Center and the amazing services it offers to patients in need.

In the Spotlight: Psychodiagnostic Evaluations

by Dr. Alisha Brosse, Sutherland Bipolar Center Director

Given the dramatic portrayals of bipolar disorder in the media, you would think that bipolar disorder is easy to spot. Sometimes it is. But most of the time, it’s not. That’s why the Sutherland Bipolar Center offers extensive diagnostic interviews to people who wonder if they have bipolar disorder.

Why is bipolar disorder difficult to identify? First, many people with bipolar disorder experience depression as their first mood episode. If they seek help, they will be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). There are no biomarkers (such as brain scans or genetic tests) to distinguish a depressive episode that’s part of unipolar depression from one that’s part of bipolar disorder. When they later develop symptoms of hypomania or mania, they may not report them to a treatment provider, so their diagnosis is not updated. Similarly, people with bipolar disorder tend to spend more time depressed than elevated. This means that depression is more salient to the individual and to his or her loved ones and treatment providers. It’s no wonder people with bipolar disorder are often diagnosed with MDD instead!

Second, media portrayals nearly always depict “classic” acute mania, in which the person is euphoric and maybe psychotic. This presentation is relatively easy to identify as bipolar disorder. But many people with bipolar disorder don’t experience euphoria. Instead, they are irritable or full of rage when manic. Many others with bipolar disorder have only mild escalations (“hypomania,” rather than mania). Although hypomania involves changes in the person’s usual behavior, the behaviors are still generally in line with social norms. So, a relative stranger – including new treatment providers – don’t realize that the person is more talkative, energetic, and active than usual.

These are some of the reasons bipolar disorder is frequently missed. But misdiagnosis also goes the other way: many people are diagnosed with bipolar disorder even though they don’t meet diagnostic criteria for the disorder. Why is this? One of the primary reasons is that professionals disagree on the boundaries of bipolar disorder. For example, some professionals will diagnosis someone with bipolar disorder if they report depression and anxiety, even in the absence of mania or hypomania. Another reason is substance use, which greatly complicates diagnosis. This is made even worse if the clinician doesn’t know the full extent of the person’s use of mood altering substances. We’ve also noticed a pattern of people with trauma histories being diagnosed with bipolar disorder even when their emotion dysregulation doesn’t fit the pattern of distinct mood episodes that defines bipolar disorder.

Proper diagnosis is essential. It guides treatment providers to the most effective interventions. It allows people to make sense of their experiences, and to access information about their condition and its management. When people with bipolar disorder first read about it, they often experience relief (“Oh, this explains so much!” or “Now I understand why I….”). When someone misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder reads about it, they often feel confused, misunderstood, or afraid that they must lack self-awareness since the descriptions don’t resonate.

The goal of providing psychodiagnostic evaluations at the Sutherland Bipolar Center is to give people clarity about their diagnoses, coupled with treatment recommendations specific to their unique needs. We use the same semi-structured clinic interview used in many research studies, and we assess not only mood symptoms but also other conditions that may be confused – or co-exist – with mood disorders (like anxiety, trauma, and substance use). The interview takes an average of four hours, split over 2-3 sessions; clients also complete questionnaires. When possible, the assessor also gets information from a family member or friend, past or current treatment providers, and/or hospital records.

We summarize the information gathered in a detailed letter to the client. We state clearly our diagnostic impressions and the evidence that supports them. We readily admit when we are unsure about a diagnosis. For example, we may suggest re-evaluation of symptoms after a period of sobriety from drugs or alcohol if the person’s mood symptoms have only been present during periods of drug use. Finally, we provide treatment recommendations, including referrals to specific providers or clinics. We review this report in a feedback session with the client (and family members, if desired).

Diagnostic labels enable people to access relevant information and proper treatment. But only if they are accurate. At the Sutherland Bipolar Center, we strive to help people find the right path to wellness.

In the Spotlight: Family Therapy

By Alisha Brosse, Sutherland Bipolar Center Director

Some Sutherland Bipolar Center clients participate in family therapy, either instead of or in addition to individual therapy. Why do we provide therapy not only to individuals with bipolar disorder but also to their families? First, family conflict or stress can trigger or worsen mood symptoms. Second, bipolar symptoms can significantly affect family members. And, third, family members can be an invaluable resource when trying to prevent future mood episodes.

The family therapy model that we use at the Sutherland Bipolar Center is called Family-Focused Treatment (FFT). It was developed by Dr. David Miklowitz, the founding director of the Center. He and his colleagues have studied FFT for the families of adults and adolescents with bipolar disorder, and for the families of children who are at risk for developing it. Their research suggests that FFT is especially beneficial for families with high levels of “expressed emotion” (EE). Compared to families low in EE, high-EE families communicate more criticism, hostility, or emotional involvement (e.g., intrusiveness, overprotectiveness, excessive self-sacrifice).

Family-Focused Treatment is comprised of three modules:  psychoeducation, communication enhancement training, and problem-solving training. Via psychoeducation, family members develop a common lingo and a better understanding of the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder that they experience. This helps people make more accurate attributions. They learn that certain behaviors are part of depression, rather than “laziness,” and that someone who is manic may have little control over their impulses. On the flip side, family members who once attributed everything to bipolar disorder, reducing all of a person’s experiences to their illness, gain a more nuanced perspective, learning to separate the individual from the illness. In psychoeducation, families also learn about factors that increase or decrease risk of further mood cycling, and develop a relapse prevention plan.

In communication training, family members refine their communication skills to be more effective when stress is high and communication becomes more difficult. They work on giving positive feedback, active listening, making requests, and giving negative feedback.

In problem-solving training we provide a template for how to work cooperatively on problems that affect the family. Families learn to first agree on the specific problem they are trying to solve. They then brainstorm possible solutions, agree on which solution(s) to implement, and make a specific plan regarding who will do what, and when. Common examples of problems we work on include how family members can support or help without “nagging;” how to balance the individual’s desire for more autonomy with family members’ need for reassurance; and, negotiating roles that shifted during an illness episode (e.g., household or childcare duties).

As with all of our services, we customize the treatment to meet the needs of each family. We may change the order in which we deliver the three modules, or work with only one or two of them.

Over the past 15 years we have delivered FFT to 68 families. These families attended an average of 16 sessions. We also engage families in our other services:  people in individual therapy are encouraged to invite family members to one or more sessions; whenever possible we include family in our psychodiagnostic evaluations; we have many family members at our educational seminar series; and, we sometimes deliver services just to family members (without the person with bipolar disorder present), in what we dub “family consultation” services.

The families of people with bipolar disorder can be an incredible asset in the management of this illness. At the Sutherland Bipolar Center, we help people harness this potential. We also help the family members who have, themselves, suffered by virtue of witnessing the suffering of their loved ones.

To see if you qualify for family therapy at the Center, call us at 303/492-5680.

Brainstorm and Discuss Your Bipolar Experience

A University of Colorado Research Study

Designing Self-Tracking Tools that Better Communicate, Represent, and Understand Bipolar Disorder

What is this study? Recently, there has been a significant increase in personal data tools available for tracking health, productivity, and participation in social networks. The personal data practices enabled by these tools, often referred to as the “Quantified Self” movement, encompass a range of tracking activities associated with self-knowledge, behavior change, and health management. Our research hopes to determine the social and technical requirements necessary to develop a personal informatics system (a smartphone app, for example,) that supports individuals facing bipolar disorder (BD), and allows them to collectively engage with their communities.

Because individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder often also experience stigma, we hope to better understand stigmatizing attitudes about mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, and how these attitudes affect experiences and shape identities. We’re also interested in how self tracking might mediate those experiences. In order to do this, we’re putting together a series of focus groups where we hope to facilitate productive conversations about bipolar experiences and how we can better communicate, understand and represent them.

A research team at the University of Colorado is interested in the experiences of individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder, as well as those of their close friends and family. They are putting together focus groups with the goal of having productive conversations about bipolar disorder and the way individuals use self-tracking processes to document this experience. They hope this work will provide insight regarding the influence of stigma on identity formation and self-tracking practices of individuals facing bipolar disorder. Feedback given in the focus group setting will be instrumental to the development of a tool (e.g., a smartphone app) that they hope will better communicate and represent the experience of bipolar disorder.

Individuals who choose to take part in this research study will be assigned to a focus group. It is expected that there will be between 4-6 individuals in every focus group and that a total of 24-42 people will be in this research study. They are offering $10 per hour for participating in this research study. The focus group is expected to last between 90 and 120 minutes.

If you are interested in participating in this study, or have further questions, please contact Tara Walker and Stephen Voida at [email protected]. You can also get more information on the website: Thank you!

In the Spotlight: Sutherland Seminar Series

by Dr. Alisha Brosse, Sutherland Bipolar Center Director

The Sutherland Seminar Series (SSS) is an 8-week educational series open to anyone in the community who wants to learn more about bipolar disorders. We started to offer the SSS in January 2008 and, through 2017, we will have offered it 19 times. So far over 1,100 people have attended a seminar! Participants have included people who have (or suspect they have) a bipolar disorder, family members, friends, therapists, and probation officers. The SSS is consistent with our mission to educate the public and train mental health providers. Most of the seminars are presented by me, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and the Director of the Sutherland Bipolar Center. Occasionally, one of our other therapists presents a seminar in my absence.

The SSS covers topics such as: what is bipolar disorder? How is it diagnosed? What is the relationship between bipolar disorder and other disorders, like anxiety, ADHD, and substance use disorders? If you have bipolar disorder, what are some things you can do to improve mood stability? What professional treatments are available, and how does one shop for a therapist or medication prescriber? What is the impact of bipolar disorder on relationships, and how does social support and relationship stress affected bipolar disorder? Finally, what can you do in a true crisis? And, how can you use a wellness plan to help you or your loved one prevent relapse?

The information provided is geared towards adults with bipolar disorder. Some parents of adolescents with bipolar disorder, and a few adolescents themselves, have attended and said that they benefited from the information. However, parents should be forewarned that we discuss some of the risky behaviors and dire consequences that sometimes go along with bipolar disorder (such as suicide, risky sexual practices, substance use, hospitalization, financial ruin, and being arrested). If you think your child is not old enough or mature enough to hear this information, we encourage you to come without him or her.

People can come to any or all of the seminars. No registration or commitment is required. Like all of our services, we don’t want money to get in the way of someone getting the resources they need. That’s why we have a donation can available, instead of a set fee. Because so many people do make the suggested donation of $10 per session, the cost of providing the SSS is covered by attendees!

And, for those of you who do not live locally, or who want to share this resource with others far and wide, the seminar series is also available “on demand” as an audio download! (see here)

People regularly tell us how valuable the SSS has been to them. Here are a few more from others who put their thoughts in writing:

“The Sutherland Seminar Series is incredibly informative, and it is invaluable for those who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well as their family and friends. Dr. Alisha Brosse’s depth of knowledge and nuanced understanding of bipolar disorder is extraordinary. Every topic in the series is crucial to gaining a thorough grasp of symptoms, treatment, and therapies.” — Spring 2017 Seminar Series Participant

“Dear Alisha + Renee,
Thank you so much for providing the seminars on Mood Disorders at the Sutherland Center. It is a real contribution to the community and was well presented and well organized. I’m certainly appreciative of having participated!”
— Seminar Series Attendee, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The next Sutherland Seminar Series will be offered starting Monday, September 11 from 6:30pm-8:00pm at the Hopelight Medical Clinic/Longmont Church of Christ (1351 Collyer St, Longmont CO 80501). Seminars are held for 8 consecutive Mondays, 6:30pm-8:00pm, through October 30th.

Coldplay Adventure

This is the final installment of Kristine Smith’s adventure with her sister, Roz, to see Coldplay in concert and meet them in person. People wonder how Kris was able to win this prize, and truthfully, it was her generosity that made it possible because she donated SO MUCH to the Sutherland Center that it greatly increased her chances of winning. With all she gave, we couldn’t have chosen a more deserving winner than Kristine Smith!


Coldplay Adventure by Kristine Smith

I begin at Marlo Farm in Gnowangerup, in the Great Southern area of Western Australia.

I entered a competition in May 2017 organized by Sutherland Bipolar Center in Colorado that came up on Facebook. Then I set the power of the crystals (given to me by my sister, Roz) to give the positive energies needed to give me the chance to take Roz to Washington, DC to celebrate her 50th birthday with a Coldplay Adventure! (My work colleagues thought I had gone a little crazy.)

7 July 2017 – Rachel from the Sutherland Bipolar Center rang to announce that I had won!!!!

Having never won anything in my life before, I very excitedly rang Roz to say we would be off to Washington to meet Coldplay and go to another one of their awesome concerts.

Our Coldplay Adventure…Wow!

Wednesday, 2nd August. Roz and I waited to board our flight at 11pm.  Butterflies in my stomach, I was not sure whether it was the nerves before flying, worrying whether everything was going to go as planned or the anticipation of meeting Coldplay.

We spent approximately 36 hours in flight and in various airports (Sydney/LA) then another 2 hours waiting for a storm to pass when we landed on the tarmac at Washington DC airport.  I think the last 2 hours was the hardest as were both over sitting in plane seats, knowing there was a nice bed waiting at our Hotel.

We spent a few days exploring Washington before the concert.  It was very warm, and everywhere we went, we heard the sounds of Coldplay being played by the locals, as Washington prepared for the arrival of Coldplay at the Fedex Fields, Redskin’s Stadium.

Sunday, 6th August. We arrived at the Stadium at approximately 5:30pm, collected our passes and tickets.  We were escorted by the staff to ‘Friends & Family of Coldplay’, where we were provided nibbles, food and the opportunity to talk with other fans of Coldplay.

By 8:45pm, we were escorted to another area of the Stadium with a few other groups, and were given instructions that as the band was running behind schedule, it would be a photo opportunity only. After waiting what seemed like an eternity, Will, Guy, and Jonny were in front of us, shaking our hands and welcoming us to their show. I had a chance to thank Guy for assisting in organizing the prize with the Sutherland Bipolar Foundation. Then out of now where, Chris appeared and was reaching across to shake my hand. In that split second I realised it was Chris and pulled his hand back to shake again, saying, “Hi Chris, I am a Kris as well, with a K, not a C….” According to one of my friends next to me, I didn’t let his hand go straightaway! This all happened in what seemed like a ‘blink of an eye.’  It is a moment in my life that I will remember for a very long time. Chris kept apologizing for being late, then Jonny, Chris, Will & Guy lined up behind us, the photo was taken, and then they moved on to the next guests waiting for their moment. I did appreciate that there were 85,000 fans waiting on the other side of the wall for the concert to start. A very privileged moment indeed!

We were then escorted to our seat (amazing seats) by a nice young man. As I got around the corner from the ‘meet & greet’ area, I started crying with happiness, excitement and danced on the spot. It was a delayed reaction to meeting the band members. I was so thrilled and could no longer contain my excitement. The gentlemen escorting us to our seats kept asking if I was okay and did I need a deliberator! Very cheeky! I said no, it was just the most amazing moment in my life, and I wanted to enjoy the happy feeling I was experiencing on the inside. This was the moment I realised I was the ‘crazy happy fan’ and all others were watching me. Really, I don’t know how the rest of my friends and Roz contained themselves. They all said they were happy on the inside.

We missed the first 5 minutes of the concert and were shown to our seats with the entire crowd up and dancing. When we found our allocated seats, all the fans around us where dancing, so I joined in and made a few new friends with my happy fans around me. I enjoyed every moment, every second of the concert and shared my experience with the fans next to me. Once they found out I had met the band and had shaken their hands, about 6 or 7 of  them wanted to touch my hand.  A very proud moment.

It was a 2 hour concert, however I enjoyed it so much, it seemed like time disappeared too quickly. Once it was finished, the lights came on, and I was exhausted from dancing in the Washington DC heat and among so many people. Wow what a memory.

Now, I am back in Perth writing this for Rachel and the Foundation’s next newsletter. I have told the story quite a few times for all my friends. The memories still very clear in my mind, dreaming of the next concert and very happy that the signed guitar has arrived.


As per the lyrics of Coldplay’s A Head Full of Dreams, “leave your broken windows open and in the light just streams and you get a head, a head full of dreams….”

Take care and warm wishes,

Kris & Roz, Marlo Farms, Gnowangerup, Western Australia, August 2017

In the Spotlight: Individual Therapy

by Dr. Alisha Brosse, Director, Sutherland Bipolar Center

In individual therapy, patients meet one-on-one with a therapist, usually weekly. Good treatment always starts with thorough assessment, so the first few sessions are usually devoted to learning as much as we can about what has brought the person into treatment. We want to know about their history with bipolar disorder, what symptoms they currently are experiencing, whether they also have other areas of distress (such as anxiety or substance use problems), what other treatments they have engaged in, and what their goals are. We also want to learn a bit about them as a person: what are their hobbies and interests? Who are the important people in their lives? What really matters to them? What has bipolar disorder cost them?

Based on this initial assessment, we develop an individualized treatment plan that we believe will best help the person attain his or her goals. Our treatment plans rely most heavily on strategies drawn from research-supported treatment manuals, such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), psychoeducation, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT), and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). We most commonly are targeting symptom reduction, relapse prevention, and improved quality of life.

The length of treatment varies greatly. Sometimes we see people who are moving soon, but want some help with that transition; we may meet for only a few sessions. At the other end of the spectrum, we continue to treat some people who we first met 14 years ago! Our default is to start with a 6-month treatment contract. At the end of the 6 months, we collaboratively review with patients their progress towards their goals. Together we decide if we should continue with the same treatment plan or make adjustments. For example, someone not already enrolled in our therapy group might join it; or, someone who has completed our basic skills group may transition to our advanced group. Or, perhaps we’ll adjust the frequency of therapy sessions (from weekly to bi-weekly, for example) to better meet their current needs.

Individual therapy is provided by me (a licensed clinical psychologist) and by four advanced doctoral students who work under my supervision. These student therapists already have their master’s degree in clinical psychology by the time they start seeing Sutherland Center patients in individual therapy. We are lucky that nearly all student therapists opt to renew their year-long contract and work with us for two or even three years! When it is time for them to move on to the next stage of their training, some of their patients are ready to take a break from therapy or to transition to someone in the community (if, for example, they are now more financially stable and able to afford such services). The others can transfer to another therapist on our team.

Here’s what some of our patients have said about their individual therapy:

“This is the first time I’ve ever felt very comfortable in therapy, thanks to you being able to process everything I’m throwing at you, and then briefly summarize it. I’ve never had anyone do that before so effectively, so that I can understand it better. I’m just worried I won’t find another person again like that because I’ve been searching for two years… I don’t know if they will be as effective…” – Patient to therapist, as patient prepares to move to another state

“Alta’s awesome… She is really astute [and] keeps sessions really tight. The therapy is working really well… I feel so lucky to have found the Center and benefit greatly from the therapy offered here.” – Patient in program review with center director

“I feel like I’ve come so far with individual therapy and group.” – Patient in written survey

“It’s feeling really good [with my new therapist, Natasha]. She’s like a little spark plug! [She’s] good about listening and helping with what she knows.” – Patient in program review with center director

“I’m in a much better place. I have all the tools… Derek has been a good fit. Individual therapy made things from group sink in more… Tools have helped with anxiety as well as depression pits.” – Patient in exit interview with center director

A heartfelt thank you to all of you who donate to the Sutherland Bipolar Center and make this treatment possible!

Sutherland Bipolar Center & Coldplay Make Dreams Come True!

Fans with Coldplay in Wash DC, Aug 6, 2017 – Kristine is third from the left, front row.
Kristine Smith, Winner of the Ultimate Coldplay Experience

Last year, in November, our very dedicated donor and tireless advocate, Frank Barrett, helped us piece together the Ultimate Coldplay Experience contest. After seven months of promotions and fundraising, the winner of that contest, Kristine Smith of Australia, enjoyed the experience of a lifetime! She shares her story below….

My sister Roz is my best friend, and we started our Coldplay adventure in Perth, Western Australia back in 2009. I bought two tickets to their concert as a Christmas present. Neither of us knew any of their songs or albums – we were both working hard to make our way in this world and missed Coldplay’s rise to fame. I did recognize their Yellow song! From the second Chris, Will, Guy and Jonny hit that stage, we were mesmerized by their energy and music. Needless to say I was an instant fan. I went out that next week and bought all their albums.

Then a very dark period hit our lives. Our dad who worked our family farm started showing signs of that terrible disease, dementia. Roz and I had to go through the heart breaking journey of placing him into care. He had spent his whole life living freely on the farm to being locked up in full time care. He hated it. So did we…. He passed away in 2010.

Roz moved to Marlo Farm near Gnowangerup and took on the challenge of helping mum run the farm. It is located 5 hours from Perth in a remote part of the South West of Western Australia. While dad was in care and after dad’s passing, I drove to and from the farm many times from Perth. It was during this period Coldplay became part of my world. Their music, their lyrics helped me through this difficult and dark time.

Then Coldplay came to Australia with the release of Mylo Xyloto. They were not listed as coming to Perth. Roz and I decided to head to Sydney to enjoy their concert – wow, how much their concert had changed…the hand bracelet strobing to their music! We were blown away with another awesome adventure with Coldplay.

With the release of the Ghost album, I was heading into my 50th. I tried to get tickets to their Sydney show and was very disappointed when the show sold out in minutes. I then tried to get tickets to their London concert, again I missed out. I was heartbroken.

Then last year in May they announced their Australia tour for A Head Full of Dreams. Roz and I went to Melbourne. It was another fantastic trip and adventure with Coldplay. This time I was so drawn into the positive energy of Coldplay, I was up daggy-dancing and singing out loud. This is something I have never done before.

My long story is to let you know that miracles were at work to allow me to bring Roz to Washington to celebrate her big birthday and meet the amazing team that delivers the positive essence of Coldplay. I am walking on cloud nine as I write this email.

Thank you Guy, Will, Jonny and Chris for your incredible artistic talents in transcending your feelings and emotions to allowing me to connect with you via your music. You have helped me travel through ‘the darker moments’ in my mind. I am never alone in this world when I have my Coldplay. Your music warms me from the inside like nothing else. You give me hope and have re-ignited my ability to dream of a brighter future not only for myself and my family, but all of those ordinary people in our world that are making the little things happen that contribute to positive vibes for all of us to live in harmony together.

Thank you Coldplay and all at Sutherland Bipolar Foundation for creating this ‘adventure of a life time’!