Pioneering online treatment for people with bipolar disorder

The first effective web-based treatment for Bipolar Disorder based on the latest research evidence has been developed by psychologists.

People with Bipolar Disorder have problems getting access to and this online intervention, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, may offer a round the clock solution at a reduced cost to the NHS.

It was developed as part of the 'Living with Bipolar' project led by Dr Nicholas Todd under the supervision of Professor Fiona Lobban and Professor Steven Jones at the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research, Lancaster University.

92% of the participants in the trial of the online intervention found the content positive - and one said it had changed her life.

"I have encountered insights in the modules that have significantly helped me to survive the blackest moments. I cannot measure the value of this, as it has contributed to their difference between life and death. My husband and I are sincerely grateful for the immeasurable impact this has had on our family."

Therapeutic gains for the participants included improved stability, accessing additional help from friends and family, less reliance on services and more likely to turn to self-management.

One described the online help as "...a practical intervention...very positive, empowering, recovery orientated, fostering personal responsibility. It is not patronising at all..."

Focussed on recovery, supporting people to live a fulfilling and meaningful life alongside their symptoms, the programme includes elements of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Psycho-education delivered via ten audio-visual modules with a mood checking tool, interactive worksheets and worked examples. The intervention is supported by a peer support forum moderated by a member of the research team and motivational emails.

Dr Todd said the online intervention may be a way of overcoming the difficulties of enabling people with a severe mental illness to manage their condition.

"The intervention was most useful for improving non-symptomatic outcomes such as quality of life, recovery and wellbeing. These packages may therefore provide a useful alternative to the symptom focussed approaches."

Further research trials are required before this can be made available within the NHS.

More information: Todd, N., Jones, S., Hart, A., & Lobban, F. In Press. A web-based self-management intervention for Bipolar Disorder 'Living with Bipolar': a feasibility randomised controlled trial. Journal of Affective Disorders. www.sciencedirect.com/science/… ii/S0165032714004650

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