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A promising new approach to treating bipolar disorder

The Bipolar Disorders program currently offers Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to some of its patients. MBCT is a form of meditation in which the person is taught to be aware of their inner experiences (thoughts, feelings, physical sensations) in the present moment. It helps patients better understand what they are experiencing so that they do not act on emotional impulse, thereby hopefully preventing relapse.

MBCT is currently being studied as an add-on therapy for bipolar disorder. Patients who qualify for the research program are offered MBCT for eight weeks. However, they are followed for a total of a year and a half, during which time the program staff evaluate the patient’s mood, anxiety, quality of life, and sleep habits to see if there is an improvement. So far, a decrease in anxiety and depression, and an increase in sleep quality have been observed in most patients in as little as 8 weeks.

After patients graduate from the program, they are offered ongoing Mindfulness Groups. They are also followed for 16 months to see if there is a decrease in rate of relapse.

MBCT is currently being widely used in conjunction with other treatments for depression to prevent relapse. The Bipolar Disorders program has modified the traditional form of MBCT to involve more movements (stretching, walking) in order to help reduce anxiety levels in some of the patients. The Bipolar Disorders team hopes to soon prove that this is a safe and effective addition to treatment.


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