Bipolar Disorder and Neurocounseling

My experience with psychotherapy supports the findings that we can “rewire our brains.” In cognitive therapy, I learned to stop negative thoughts and suicidal ideation, rewrite those thoughts and replace them with more accurate ones. In therapy I’ve learned to reframe my life experiences as meaningful – as preparing me to be a better mother, wife, and daughter, and effective mental health advocate. Today I use the skills and insight I’ve gained in psychotherapy and medication to maintain my mental health.

Understanding Causes and the Impact of Therapy

by Tim Wayne for Bradley University Online

As it turns out, the idea that therapy helps us ‘rewire our brains’ may be more literal than we once believed.

Mental illness is often attributed to factors which can seem completely out of our control, like genetics, environmental conditions, and even the physiological differences in our brains. Bipolar disorder, for instance, is associated with biochemical abnormalities and differences in the brain’s structure, including a smaller prefrontal cortex (a part of the brain involved in decision-making.)

While the causes and symptoms are complex and can vary from individual to individual, there is growing evidence that our lifestyle choices can impact how severe the symptoms of bipolar disorder are. Therapy and treatment can reduce symptoms and help us self-regulate. And in fact, they can even physically change our brains due to a principle called neuroplasticity (which is defined in the graphic below.)

Practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have been proven in their ability to help patients with bipolar disorder regulate suicidal thoughts and actions. Similarly, others have benefitted in regulating their emotional state through practices like mindfulness meditation and neurofeedback. Essentially, all of these practices help us reduce symptoms by encouraging greater regularity in our emotional and physiological states.

As we learn more about the causes of mental illnesses like bipolar disorder through brain imaging technology, knowledge of how treatment can change the brain can help clinicians use this technology to create and measure the efficacy of treatment plans. This approach to counseling, called neurocounseling, is being studied today as a way to help those with bipolar disorder in addition to a broad range of other conditions like depression, substance abuse, and ADHD.

The infographic below, created for Bradley University’s Online Counseling Program, illustrates what neurocounseling is, how it’s being used to help patients today, and how it may change mental healthcare in the future.

Gap of Brain and Behavior

15 thoughts on “Bipolar Disorder and Neurocounseling

  1. vshakvamantz April 8, 2016 / 4:59 pm

    Crap, that’s what I get for using one finger on this phone I was TRYING to say I was warring badly in my head over whether I needed employment or whether I need therapy to straighten out the wrong thinking and self destructive habits that go hand in hand with abuse Therapy is the advice

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just Plain Ol' Vic April 4, 2016 / 6:07 pm

    Very interesting! Thanks for sharing this, giving me a few more things to ponder (adding it to my growing list, lol).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley April 4, 2016 / 7:15 pm

      Any counseling resulting in mental health recovery re-wires the brain. Not only CBT & DBT.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Bradley April 4, 2016 / 12:05 pm

    It always makes me happy when they discover more about the brain and how its chemistry works. I believe the more they learn, the more likely we’ll find a cure.

    I’m glad you posted today, Kitt. You’re missed when you’re gone.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Bipolarbrainiac April 4, 2016 / 12:01 pm

    About eight months ago I read somewhere that the best thing to do when you are depressed is to read or learn something new. I had been taught, somewhat painstakingly, (learning disabled) how to make jewelry by my mother, who has an MFA from Pomona college in California and makes incredible stuff. It had a soothing effect on my brain. Something very hurtful happened today with a friend and I find myself wanting to make jewelry. As soon as this long and complicated dental program where they are rebuilding my mouth is done, I’m ‘in’ for DBT at a nearby drop in center. Allison

    Liked by 3 people

    • Kitt O'Malley April 4, 2016 / 12:10 pm

      Yes, redirection can be very effective, too. Best of luck with dental work, jewelry making and DBT.

      Like

  5. Jennifer Bosher April 4, 2016 / 11:41 am

    Thanks for posting this today Kitt, I always enjoy reading your posts. Everything makes sense to me today, I am going to be starting a day treatment program soon that uses DBT and perhaps CBT as well, I am hoping this will help me get back on track with my treatment, I have done it in the past and it really helped me then so I am keeping an open mind to anything that is offered to me!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kitt O'Malley April 4, 2016 / 12:08 pm

      Best of luck. Both DBT & CBT are helpful. Many types of psychotherapy can help rewire the brain. The key is working toward recovery. Sounds like you are on the right path.

      Like

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