A postmodern, collaborative approach to therapy using a narrative lens with individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder affects nearly 60 million people worldwide. It is a debilitating mood disorder that severely impacts on the functioning of those diagnosed as well as their significant others. Psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy and family orientated interventions have been used in conjunction with pharmacological treatment to reduce symptom severity, limit time spent in depressive or manic states and increase the duration between relapses, with these treatments showing varying degrees of success. Recently, there has been a focus on perceived quality of life as a measure of improvement for those with mental disorders, as opposed to symptom reduction alone. Collaboration, a technique employed by postmodern clinicians, can be defined as a philosophical stance to therapy that involves working with the client towards a mutually agreed outcome and can be extended to include other professionals and significant others chosen by the client. Collaborative approaches to therapy have been used increasingly in recent years, however they do not feature extensively in the literature and their effectiveness is not yet well-documented. To determine the effects of collaboration on the quality of life of those with bipolar disorder as well as their significant others involved in the therapeutic process, the researcher conducted three semi-structured interviews with three participant dyads. Each pair comprised a young adult (aged 16 to 23 years) who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and his/her significant other. Each dyad was currently receiving therapy or had completed therapy with a postmodern narrative practitioner making use of collaborative techniques. Data were collected using grounded theory research methods and analysed using the Gilligan’s Listening Guide. Ten dominant themes emerged from the data, viz. early-onset bipolar disorder, comorbidity, helping others, relevance of diagnosis, illness management, relationships, collaboration, stigmatisation, overshare and difficulty of being the significant other of an individual with bipolar disorder. These themes are discussed in terms of the study’s conceptual framework and research implications are considered. Collaboration resulted in improved quality of life and overall functioning for those involved in the study and has potential to be used in a range of settings with a variety of mental disorders.