Since my diagnosis, it has been found that a combination of medication and talk therapy is the best treatment for bipolar disorder. However, these days, most psychiatrists no longer provide talk therapy, opting instead to conduct a fifteen minute med check, because it is reimbursed more generously by health insurance companies than a med check combined with talk therapy. My psychiatrist practices medicine this way, although she does run over the fifteen minutes if necessary.
About five years after my diagnosis, I decided to begin talk therapy. My first therapist was recommended by a family friend and had a PhD in psychology. I went to him for a couple of years and got almost nothing out of my time spent with him. It eventually dawned on me that he was more voyeuristic than helpful, and also kind of creepy, so I discontinued therapy. About five years after that I started therapy again. I went as part of an employee assistance program. My therapist was a licensed clinical social worker who was also a tough and condescending woman. I only went three times and I don't think I benefited in any way.
Five years ago, I finally found a therapist who has been able to help me. She is a licensed clinical social worker. My psychiatrist, at the time, gave me her name because he thought she would be a good match for me. I was reluctant to go to my first appointment because her office is on the campus of a mental hospital where I have been a patient, the site of bad memories for me, but I went anyway. She is a great listener and stops me at appropriate times to make comments or ask questions. Talking to her is like talking to a friend, but different, because she is completely impartial. She helps me to clarify my thoughts, set goals, and solve problems. I make an appointment at least once a month, but I have gone weekly when I have been having serious problems, like during my last depression. I know that she provides effective therapy because, after each appointment, my thoughts and goals are much clearer. Throughout the month, when I am making decisions, I often reflect on conversations we have had during past appointments.
Since I have been in talk therapy, I have attended two different support groups as needed. One support group is a small support group formed by a law professor with bipolar disorder who teaches at a local university. The other support group is a DBSA support group which is larger. Appointments with my therapist have helped me to solve many personal problems, but support groups help when I am feeling alone, isolated, or misunderstood, which is more likely to be when I am depressed. At those times, it is good to know that I am not alone and that there are many people who deal with the same issues, and hearing how they deal with their symptoms often gives me ideas about how to better care for myself. I also feel good knowing that when I share my experiences, others may be helped.