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A young woman is in DBT to help her manage bipolar disorder.

DBT Could Help You Manage Bipolar Disorder

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) teaches people how to manage and regulate emotions—skills especially helpful for those with bipolar disorder. Learn more about the benefits of DBT for bipolar here.


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How DBT treats bipolar

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based treatment that can be effective in managing symptoms of bipolar disorder. People with bipolar can benefit from DBT by learning coping skills to manage intense emotions, improve relationships, and develop a sense of control over their lives. DBT teaches people with bipolar how to regulate their emotions, reduce impulsive behaviors, and increase mindfulness. By addressing the underlying emotional dysregulation often associated with bipolar disorder, DBT can help those with bipolar live more balanced and fulfilling lives. With the help of a trained therapist, people can work through their struggles and find ways to better manage their symptoms.

Skills taught in DBT for bipolar 

Skills taught in DBT for bipolar are as follows:


A person learns how to be fully present in the moment, observe thoughts and emotions without judgment, and cultivate awareness of their experiences in the present moment. This skill helps the person manage their bipolar symptoms by increasing their ability to respond effectively to emotional triggers.

Distress tolerance

Learning to cope with difficult emotions and situations without making them worse. Distress tolerance skills include self-soothing techniques, distraction strategies, and crisis survival skills to help people navigate periods of intense emotions or distress.

Emotion regulation

A person learns how to identify and understand feelings and manage and change intense or problematic emotions, which often arise with bipolar disorder. They learn skills to increase positive emotions, decrease vulnerability to negative emotions, and effectively cope with challenging emotional situations.

Interpersonal effectiveness

Skills for navigating relationships and asserting your needs in a way that is respectful and effective. People learn skills for effectively expressing their thoughts and feelings, setting boundaries, and asking for what they need while maintaining self-respect and preserving relationships.

Cognitive restructuring

When someone learns how to identify and challenge negative thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to mood disturbances. People with bipolar learn techniques for reframing negative thoughts, increasing self-compassion, and developing a more balanced and realistic perspective on their experiences.


A person learns how to effectively identify and address problems in their life, including those related to their bipolar symptoms. They learn skills for breaking down problems into manageable steps, generating potential solutions, and evaluating and implementing effective solutions.


A person learns how to take an active role in managing their bipolar symptoms, including medication management, symptom tracking, and lifestyle changes. They learn skills to develop and maintain a daily routine, monitor their mood and symptoms, and make healthy choices to support their overall well-being.

Benefits of DBT for bipolar 

​​People with bipolar disorder who participate in DBT can experience long-term benefits in managing the symptoms and emotions related to the condition. People can develop healthier coping strategies and improve their overall quality of life by learning skills such as mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. By cultivating a better understanding of their triggers and learning how to respond to them more effectively, people with bipolar disorder can experience increased stability in their day-to-day lives. 

How quickly does DBT work for bipolar? 

People with bipolar may start to see improvements in their mood stability and emotional regulation within a few months of starting DBT. With consistent participation in therapy and practice of the skills learned, people may experience significant changes in their ability to manage their symptoms and cope with the challenges of living with bipolar. The effectiveness of DBT in helping people with bipolar manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life has been supported by research and the experiences of many people who have benefitted from this approach.

How is medication used to treat bipolar? 

Medication is commonly used to treat bipolar by helping to stabilize a person’s mood swings and manage symptoms. For example, mood stabilizers can help to reduce the frequency and severity of manic and depressive episodes. Antipsychotic medications are also often used to treat symptoms of psychosis and mania. Additionally, antidepressants may be prescribed to help manage symptoms of depression that often accompany bipolar disorder. It is important for a person to work closely with their healthcare provider to find the right combination of medications that work best for them.

Other types of treatments for bipolar disorder

In addition to DBT and medication management, some other types of treatments for bipolar disorder are as follows: 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

This therapy focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to bipolar-related mood swings and instability. It aims to help a person develop healthier coping strategies and improve their overall quality of life.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT)

This type of therapy helps people with bipolar regulate their daily routines and maintain consistent social rhythms, which can help stabilize mood and prevent manic or depressive episodes. It also addresses interpersonal issues and communication skills to improve relationships and overall functioning.

Family-focused therapy (FFT)

This therapy involves the person with bipolar and their family members in treatment, focusing on education about the disorder, communication skills, and problem-solving techniques. It aims to reduce family conflicts and improve the person’s support system, which can positively impact their bipolar symptoms.

Intensive outpatient program for bipolar 

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is used to treat people with bipolar disorder when they require more intensive support than traditional outpatient therapy can provide but do not require the level of care provided in a residential or inpatient setting. It works by providing a structured and comprehensive treatment program that focuses on managing symptoms, improving coping skills, and enhancing overall functioning. This can include a combination of individual therapy, group therapy, medication management, and skill-building exercises like those found in CBT and DBT.

Bipolar treatment with Charlie Health 

If a young person in your life is struggling with bipolar disorder, Charlie Health is here to help. Charlie Health offers a virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that provides more than once-weekly mental health treatment for young people and families dealing with complex mental health conditions, including bipolar. Our expert clinicians incorporate dialectical behavior therapy into individual counseling, family therapy, and group sessions. With this kind of holistic treatment, managing bipolar is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start healing today.

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