• bipolar disorder;
  • depression;
  • mania;
  • prophylaxis;
  • psychoeducation;
  • psychotherapy

Objectives:  Although pharmacological treatment is at present essential for treating bipolar patients, a number of psychological interventions have recently been shown to be efficacious as add-on therapies for the prophylactic treatment of bipolar illness. The study aimed critically to examine the efficacy of several tested patient-focused therapies.

Methods:  A systematic review of the literature on this topic was performed, using MEDLINE, PSYCLIT and CURRENT CONTENTS. ‘Bipolar’, ‘Psychotherapy’, ‘Psychoeducation’, ‘Interpersonal’ and ‘Cognitive-behavioral’ were entered as keywords.

Results:  To date, psychoeducation and cognitive-behavioral therapy are the psychological interventions that have been shown to be more efficacious in the prophylaxis of new recurrences. There remains a need for studies investigating the role and efficacy of psychological interventions during acute phases of the illness.

Conclusions:  As their therapeutic goals are complementary, a combination of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy may allow patients to achieve better symptomatic and functional recovery. Further research is needed to determine which patients may be better candidates for psychological interventions and to estimate the relative effects of the different components of psychological approaches on outcome.