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What is Outpatient Treatment for Bipolar Disorder?

What is Outpatient Treatment for Bipolar Disorder?

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What is Outpatient Bipolar Disorder Treatment?

Outpatient bipolar treatment is a broad term that is highly individualized. An intensive outpatient program for bipolar disorder can provide support, structure, and therapeutic advantages while you continue living at home. Generally, it refers to services delivered in mental health treatment clinics, doctor’s offices, or hospitals with the benefit of returning home after each session.

You can maintain regular activities while receiving outpatient therapy for bipolar disorder. When treating bipolar disorder in an inpatient environment, you cannot communicate with anyone outside that setting. Exposure to the outside world allows you to face challenges head-on rather than being shielded from them.

Outpatient bipolar treatment is part-time, usually taking place 3-5 days a week, and may include one or more of the following:

  • Traditional Outpatient Treatment: Without requiring an overnight stay, outpatient bipolar treatment in Tennessee involves therapies or tests that can be performed in a hospital or clinical setting in a few hours. Additionally, you may see a therapist for individual sessions as often as recommended, generally once or twice a week, for 45-50 minutes.1
  • Intensive Outpatient Program for Bipolar Disorder (IOP): IOP for bipolar disorder allows you to go about your daily life while receiving intensive treatment.2 You’ll attend group or individual therapy and recreational activities as part of IOP for bipolar disorder several days a week and several hours daily.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): A PHP is a highly structured intensive outpatient program for bipolar disorder. They provide active treatment, including psychotherapy, group counseling services, and skill-building lessons, for several hours a day. After treatment, you can return home or to a sober living community.
  • Support Groups: Tennessee support groups offer services to help people stay committed to recovery. Joining a support group builds camaraderie among those on the same path, reducing loneliness during recovery. Members of support groups can meet once a week under the supervision of qualified therapists.

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a mental health condition that alters sleep, activity, thinking, and behavior. Extreme emotional highs (mania) and severe emotional lows (depression) are prominent symptoms of the debilitating psychiatric condition known as bipolar disorder.3

About 5.7 million adult Americans, or 2.6% of the population, are suffering from bipolar disorder, and there are several types, including mania or hypomania and depression.4 Below are the types of bipolar disorders:

  • Bipolar I disorder: At least one manic episode has occurred in your life, possibly preceded or followed by severe depression or hypomanic episodes. Sometimes mania can make you lose track of reality (psychosis)
  • Bipolar II disorder: Milder form of mood swings, which alternates between times of extreme depression and milder hypomanic episodes
  • Cyclothymic disorder: Short bursts of hypomanic symptoms that alternate with brief phases of depressive symptoms, but not in the same way or for as long as full hypomanic or full depressive episodes
  • Other types: These include related disorders caused by certain medications, alcohol, or physical conditions, including Cushing’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or stroke

While hypomania and mania are two distinct types of episodes, they have similar signs and symptoms. Nonetheless, mania is more severe than hypomania, leading to more obvious problems with social interactions, jobs, education, and relationships. Moreover, hospitalization may be necessary for mania-related psychosis.

For both manic and hypomanic episodes, three or more of the following symptoms of bipolar disorder are present:

  • Unusually happy, jittery, or wired
  • Increased energy, activity, or irritability
  • Inflated sense of happiness and confidence (euphoria)
  • Less sleep required
  • Unusual chattiness
  • Flustered thinking
  • Distractibility
  • Making poor choices, such as shopping binges, sexual risks, or poor investment choices

A major depressive episode causes symptoms that are severe enough to considerably hinder daily tasks, such as work, school, social contacts, or relationships. A depressive episode is defined as showing five or more of the following signs:

  • Depressed mood, including sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, or tears (irritability can be a sign of depression in children and teenagers)
  • A lack of enjoyment or a loss of interest in all or nearly all activities
  • Significant weight loss without dieting, weight gain, or a change in appetite (failure to gain weight, as expected, in children may indicate depression)
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Either agitation or sluggish behavior
  • Fatigue or a decrease in energy
  • Self-doubt or excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt
  • Reduced capacity for thought or concentration, or indecision
  • Suicidal ideation, preparation, or attempt

Insurance may be able to help cover the cost of therapy. Find out if your insurance provider can help with the costs by filling in our confidential insurance verification form below.

Outpatient Bipolar Treatment Process & Goals

Outpatient bipolar treatment includes both medication and counseling. The following are treatment options used in an intensive outpatient program for bipolar disorder:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This evidence-based approach aims to understand how ideas, feelings, and behaviors are connected. In CBT, the patient and therapist jointly decide on goals before the patient changes their thoughts about a situation to alter how they react.
  • Family-Focused Therapy: Your loved ones will attend therapy sessions with you. These may include psychoeducation about bipolar disorder, training in improving communication, and instruction in problem-solving techniques.
  • Group Psychoeducation: A group facilitator guides the gathering of individuals with bipolar disorder, frequently joined by family members. Some groups have a strict agenda that focuses on education and skill development. Others are focused on sharing one’s experiences and soliciting advice from those who have faced similar challenges.
  • Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT):5 In IPSRT, an individual therapy, a person with bipolar disorder records the times they go to sleep, wake up, and what they do, daily, as well as how their moods are affected by changes to these schedules. To stabilize moods, the clinician coaches the patient on controlling their daily routines and sleep-wake cycles. In addition, the person and their therapist identify one or more interpersonal problem areas while also considering possible preventative measures to avoid future occurrences of the same issues.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Individual and group treatment are included in skill-based DBT. It teaches mindfulness and acceptance techniques, such as accepting and being present with your thoughts, emotions, and accompanying physical sensations sans judgment. It also teaches how to control those emotions, tolerate discomfort, and communicate well with others.
  • Medication Management: To guarantee the best therapeutic outcomes for patients, mental health professionals, including pharmacists, provide medication therapy management. The five fundamental components are a personal medication record, a medication-related action plan, intervention or referral, documentation and follow-up, and a medication therapy review.

Some patients with bipolar disorder may receive symptom relief through alternative therapies, like Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT).6 This involves sending tiny electrical shocks to the brain, startling it, and causing a small seizure to reboot it and alter the chemical equilibrium. More research is necessary for this method, however, and alternative outpatient therapy for bipolar disorder shouldn’t take the place of traditional treatments or prescription medications.7

Benefits of Outpatient Treatment for Bipolar

IOP treatment for bipolar disorder has many benefits, including:

  • Specialized care precisely catered to your requirements and rehabilitation
  • Maintaining stronger connections with your support network
  • Enabling you to continue managing your daily obligations and commitments
  • Allowing you to incorporate healthy coping skills into your daily life
  • Assisting you in making a transition from inpatient to outpatient care
  • Outpatient therapy is more affordable than inpatient treatment
  • Providing you with more discretion
  • Providing you with the problem-solving skills necessary to live a happy and productive life

When is Outpatient Treatment Right for You?

Most outpatient mental health care is provided to people with mild to moderate mental illness. Additionally, when an inpatient facility is not desired or financially feasible, an IOP for bipolar disorder is a fantastic alternative. It takes commitment and dedication to join an IOP for bipolar disorder treatment program. Yet it doesn’t require as much commitment as hospitalization.

Additionally, outpatient therapy for bipolar disorder may be right for you if you can relate to one or more of the following:8

  • Your typical therapy sessions are insufficient.
  • You are contemplating suicide.
  • You believe that medication management may be necessary.
  • You struggle to fulfill your obligations at work, school, or home.
  • You require more help.
  • Your symptoms have not improved.
  • You’ve completed an inpatient therapy program for bipolar disorder.

Intensive outpatient programs for bipolar disorder are not always the best choice. Higher levels of care may be necessary for various reasons. The best candidates for inpatient mental health care include those with serious mental illnesses, those who pose a danger to themselves or others, those without a solid support system, or those who require 24/7 supervision and care.9

It’s important to remember that living a happy life requires maintaining good mental health.

Success Rates & Outlook of Outpatient Bipolar Treatment

Bipolar disorder causes an average nine-year loss in life expectancy; up to one in five with the condition commit suicide. In addition, an estimated 60% of all people with bipolar disorder also have substance abuse issues. Therefore, getting medical attention and committing to bipolar disorder treatment is critical.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong and persistent medical illness.10 Although bipolar disorder cannot be “cured,” it is very treatable, with a success rate as high as 80%.11 People with bipolar disorder can lead healthy, full lives with the help of a consistent, effective outpatient bipolar treatment plan complete with support systems and self-care.


  1. International OCD Foundation. “How Is OCD Treated?” International OCD Foundation, 12 Jan. 2023, iocdf.org/about-ocd/ocd-treatment.
  2. “3 Different Types of Outpatient Rehab Programs.” TruHealing, 2022, https://www.truhealingcenters.com/rehab-blog/3-different-types-of-outpatient-rehab-programs/
  3. “Bipolar Disorder – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 13 Dec. 2022, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355955.
  4. “Bipolar Disorder.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9294-bipolar-disorder.
  5. Miklowitz, David Ph.D. “Different Types of Therapy for Bipolar Disorder.” National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 12 Apr. 2019, www.nami.org/CMSMessages/error.aspx?aspxerrorpath=/CMSPages/PortalTemplate.aspx.
  6. WebMD Editorial Contributors. “A Look at Bipolar Disorder.” WebMD, 12 Aug. 2022, www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/mental-health-bipolar-disorder.
  7. “Alternative Treatments for Bipolar Disorder.” WebMD, 3 Sept. 2020, www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/therapies-bipolar-disorder.
  8. BoldHealth. “How an IOP Is Effective in Treating Depression.” Bold Health, 14 June 2022, boldhealthinc.com/how-an-iop-is-effective-in-treating-depression.
  9. Webster, Molly. “Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Mental Health | Geode Health | Mental Health Care Focused on You.” Geode Health, 8 Feb. 2023, www.geodehealth.com/blog/inpatient-vs-outpatient-mental-health.
  10. “Living Well With Bipolar Disorder.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 27 Sept. 2022, www.samhsa.gov/serious-mental-illness/bi-polar.
  11. Jaffe, D. “Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms, Treatments, Recovery Rates :” Mental Illness Policy Org, 23 Jan. 2019, mentalillnesspolicy.org/medical/bipolar-facts.html.

If you suspect that you or someone you love suffers from mental health disorders, contact Athena Care today.

One of our friendly associates will help you get the help you need. Take this first step to feel better and take control. 

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