By Dr. Alisha Brosse

Sutherland Center Associate Director

Two newsletters ago I wrote about our Sutherland Seminar Series, an 8-week program to better educate people about bipolar disorder. Now you are hearing us talk about our recently launched “on demand” format of the seminar series. You may be wondering:  Why all this focus on psychoeducation?

We use the term “psychoeducation” to describe education offered to individuals with a mental health condition and/or their families to help them optimally manage their condition. Psychoeducation (PE) has been tested as a stand-alone psychotherapy for bipolar disorders. It also is a significant component of other psychotherapy programs, like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and family-focused treatment (FFT) for bipolar disorders. PE usually includes information about the symptoms that comprise mood episodes, factors that increase or decrease risk for mood instability, the effect of various behaviors on mood, and how treatments work. I think it’s safe to say that bipolar treatment experts around the world agree that psychoeducation is a critical part of the successful treatment of bipolar disorders.

A 2011 review summarized data from 13 randomized controlled trials of PE for bipolar disorders (Batista, Von Werne Baes & Juruena, “Efficacy of psychoeducation in bipolar patients: systematic review of randomized trials,” Psychology & Neuroscience, 4.3:409-416). A majority of these studies delivered PE in a group format to individuals with bipolar disorders, though a couple offered individual PE or targeted caregivers. Taken together, these studies suggest that PE:

  • Improves both patients’ and caregivers’ knowledge of the illness
  • Significantly improves clinical course
  • May improve adherence to medication treatment
  • Significantly improves patient functioning
  • Reduces the number of relapses and recurrences
  • Lengthens the time until the next mood episode
  • Decreases the number and length of hospitalizations

So, why do we at the Sutherland Center focus so much on psychoeducation? Because we know from research – and from our clinical experience – that increased knowledge can have dramatic positive effects on peoples’ ability to manage their symptoms.