Ellen Frank: Treating Bipolar Disorder - A Review
Ellen Frank changed my life. When I was diagnosed on the bipolar spectrum, and hadn't found a medication regime that I could tolerate, her Interpersonal and Social Rhythms Therapy gave me a way to get a handle on my wildly fluctuating condition.
She and I corresponded in 2011, as I was writing a four-part review of her book and her therapy. I published with her assurance that I got it right.
I was over the moon when she agreed to endorse Prozac Monologues: A Voice from the Edge. She wrote:
Brilliantly written, engaging from the first page, Prozac Monologues is a bit like a great evening at a first-rate comedy club…except that it is deadly serious. Goodfellow’s painful and all too common journey to finding the right treatment for her bipolar disorder points her to the ultimate realization that doing well with this illness requires the right medication, the right psychotherapy, and the specific lifestyle modifications that support wellness.
Ellen Frank, Ph.D.Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry,
University of Pittsburg School of Medicine
Pretty cool, huh! She even wrote privately to her listserv to recommend it.
So many people I read on Twitter struggle to manage their bipolar disorder. I figure it's time to bring this four part series out again. So here is Part 1 - from April 4, 2011.
Medication And Mental Illness
Medication for mental illness is just like medication for anything else. It works better when you don't ask it to do all the work itself.
In the case of bipolar, once lithium and the chemical imbalance theory came along, the thinking was that medication was the only thing that worked. Therapy by itself certainly didn't. I wonder if therapists, worn out by their bipolar patients, were simply relieved to believe that medication was the only thing that worked. I wonder if therapists today, worn out by their recurrent depression patients, are secretly relieved to terminate when the diagnosis changes to bipolar, because medication is the only thing that works
Frankly, there is a lot of wishful thinking out there in pharmacotherapy land. If only our brains were a chemical stew and the illnesses of the brain could be treated by adjusting the recipe. If only.
But people with mental illness, especially people with bipolar, can't afford the wishful thinking behind the better living through chemistry
fantasy. Sometimes the medications do work. But not as well nor as often as your doctor would like to think.
I have a friend who is a psychiatrist. He challenges his colleagues who keep trying to solve this noncompliance
issue, to get their patients to comply
. He reminds them, if the medication (antidepressants, in this example) worked for 40% of those who took it in the trial, and the placebo worked for 30%, that means only one out of ten people benefit from the medication itself. So what's the big deal about nine who quit?
He says they just look at him funny.
Treating Bipolar Disorder by Ellen Frank
This same friend, God bless him, loaned me a book about a psychotherapy designed specifically for bipolar disorder titled, appropriately enough, Treating Bipolar Disorder
. The author Ellen Frank, professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the Depression and Manic Depression Prevention program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, and her colleagues invented Interpersonal Social Rhythms Therapy (IPSRT), a kind of mash-up between talk therapy and regulating circadian rhythms. It gets my next few posts.
In A Nutshell... IPSRT [is] a treatment that seeks to improve outcomes that are usually obtained with pharmacotherapy alone for patients suffering from bipolar I disorder by integrating efforts to regularize their social rhythms (in the hope of protecting their circadian rhythms from disruption) with efforts to improve the quality of their interpersonal relationships and social role functioning.