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UCLA scientists recently found that having a therapeutic approach that combines psychoeducational therapy and medicine to treat bipolar disorder patients is a superior approach to just using medication.

After evaluating the findings of 39 clinical trials that were randomized and involved adolescent and adult patients being treated with bipolar medication, the scientists concluded. The patients were assigned to an individual, group, or family therapy, where they receive medication and are observed regularly. The scientists observed the patients for at least one year.

The study findings point towards family therapy or group therapy as more efficient

The study duration allowed the researchers to measure the frequency of manifestation for depression, bipolar disorder, and even dropout rates. They found that patients who went through family-oriented therapy had lower dropout rates. The results also showed that patients who went through family therapy, interpersonal therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy had better response and became more stable than those going through just medication alone.

The researchers also found that educating patients on managing their condition through a family or group setting yielded better results in reducing the frequency of symptoms than when patients were educated in an individual setting. These findings support the idea of focusing on familiarity to yield better results for bipolar patients.

“Not everyone may agree with me, but I think the family environment is very important in terms of whether somebody stays well,” stated Dr. David Miklowitz, who was the lead author in the study.

Dr. Miklowitz also noted that therapy with or around people that the patient is familiar with is better because those people are better positioned to observe any changes. For example, if they notice the symptoms are recurrent, they are better positioned to remind the patients to take their medication. The same can also be true for group therapy with people that the patient knows. The group members are in a better position to notice when one of their group members is exhibiting symptoms, thus the need to remind them to take their medication. The group therapy approach is thus more effective than individual therapy.