Objectives: The psychological and social aspects of bipolar disorder are receiving increasing recognition. Recently, there have been promising developments in psychological interventions, but there is scope for further improvement of therapeutic outcomes. This paper argues for the use of more detailed psychological models of bipolar disorder to inform the further development of therapeutic approaches.
Method: Evidence for psychological, family and social factors in bipolar disorder is reviewed. The efficacy of current individual and family interventions are discussed. A model, which has potential to synthesize group and individual approaches, is outlined.
Results: Psychological, social and family factors have important influences on the onset, course and outcome of bipolar disorder. Interventions based on vulnerability stress models have proved effective. However, to enhance efficacy future developments need to be based on models that integrate current understandings of the multiple levels at which mood fluctuations occur. A particular recent model is discussed which leads to specific proposals for future intervention research.
Conclusions: Psychological and family approaches to BD have much potential. They clearly have a role in conjunction with appropriate pharmacological treatment. If this potential is to be fully realized future developments need to be based on psychological models that can accommodate the complexity of this illness.