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Stabilized Bipolar Patients Relapse Less in Group Therapy

November 23, 2010

Psychosocial interventions for bipolar disorder are an established component of thorough treatment. A recent study suggests that group therapy, combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is an effective regimen for bipolar disorder patients stabilized on medication.

David Castle, MD, FRANZCP, MRCPsych, at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues, compared group therapy to usual care (medication only, with weekly phone follow-ups) for 12 weeks in 72 bipolar patients. All patients were stabilized on medication at baseline. The group therapy patients received a variety of psychosocial treatments (or components of them), including dialectical behavior therapy and motivational interviewing, in addition to CBT and psychosocial education.

Over the course of the 1-year trial patients in both treatment groups were interviewed in-person at baseline, then received weekly phone calls during the 3-month treatment phase ending in another in-person interview, followed by monthly follow-up by phone for 9 months using Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition-Text Revision, criteria, with a final in-person interview at 12 months.

Of the patients receiving usual care, 15 experienced any type of relapse (6 experienced manic relapse), whereas 4 patients receiving group therapy experienced any type of relapse (none experienced manic relapse), a significant advantage for the group therapy intervention (hazard ratio 0.43; 95% CI=.20-.95; P=.04).

Funding for this research was provided by the Medical Benefits Fund Foundation and Victorian Center of Excellence in Depression and Related Disorders. (Br J Psychiatry. 2010;196(5):383-388.) —Lonnie Stoltzfoos

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