• adolescents;
  • mental health;
  • nurse–patient relationship;
  • nurses;
  • nursing

Aim.  This case study explains how a psychotherapy previously used with adults can be used with adolescents by focusing on the specific developmental issues associated with adolescence.

Background.  Bipolar disorder is a damaging disorder to experience during the developmental phase of adolescence. Interpersonal social rhythm psychotherapy has been developed as an adjunct to medication for managing bipolar disorder and shows some promising outcomes in adults.

Design.  This is a single case study design drawn from a larger randomised control trial of two psychotherapies for bipolar disorder. The case study addressed the question: How can Interpersonal social rhythm therapy be applied with adolescents who have bipolar disorder?

Method.  This study used a purposeful sampling process by selecting the youngest adolescent participating in the randomised control trial. All the subject’s sessions of Interpersonal social rhythm therapy were taped, transcribed and analysed. The analysis involved describing the process of psychotherapy as it occurred over time, mapping the process as a trajectory across the three phases of psychotherapy experience and focusing the analysis around the impact of bipolar disorder and IPSRT on adolescent developmental issues, specifically the issue of identity development.

Results.  Interpersonal social rhythm therapy allowed the therapist to address developmental issues within its framework. As a result of participation in the psychotherapy the adolescent was able to manage her mood symptoms and develop a sense of identity that was age-appropriate.

Conclusion.  Interpersonal social rhythm therapy provided the adolescent in the case study the opportunity to consider what it meant to have bipolar disorder and to integrate this meaning into her sense of self.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Bipolar disorder is a chronic and recurring disorder that can have a serious impact on development and functioning. Interpersonal social rhythm therapy provides an approach to nursing care that enables adolescents to improve social functioning.