Bradley Foster, MA – Life Coach and Bipolar Disorder Coach specialist
Bradley Foster is a Life Coach who specializes in coaching bipolar disorder in adults. Foster has successfully helped adults with bipolar disorder to stabilize and make improvements in their symptoms.
When considering the question of how to treat bipolar disorder, coaching is an option that should be seriously considered and that has, for some, proven to be more effective than therapy, with its emphasis on practicality. Foster was asked to describe his methodology in working with clients with bipolar disorder for Association for Natural Psychology readers.
I’ve been working with clients diagnosed with bipolar disorder for over eight years. When I started, my specialty was coaching highly creative people. I worked with artists, musicians, writers, and creative people from many other disciplines. I helped them learn how to nurture and manage their creativity. What I didn't realize at the time is that several of my clients also had a diagnosis of bipolar. Many of the tools I developed for creative people also work with bipolar in adults. I recognize that bipolar usually affects people who are also very creative, a kind of creative disorder.
Teaching adults with bipolar disorder the tools to help balance themselves is absolutely essential for them to learn how to manage on their own.
How to Treat Bipolar Disorder in Adults – An Integrative Approach
My experience is that clients with this disorder can have completely satisfactory lives through a combination of coaching, talk therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and other natural interventions such as careful diet, balancing circadian rhythms and taking supplements (whether they are taking pharmaceuticals or not). Some clients also take medication for bipolar disorder.
My approach is highly integrative and focused on natural interventions. It's my observation that bipolar manifests uniquely from person to person. I calibrate my approach to the individual, working with their natural cycles, diet, behavior, habits, and even time management systems. In other words, I work with them, rather than trying to squeeze them into a one-size fits all formula.
I have a methodology working with new clients: I complete an assessment; help balance and stabilize them; then begin to prioritize specific issues to help get their lives to where they want them to be. I almost always work with common symptoms such as shifting sleeping patterns, dietary lapses, bad habits, beliefs, and developing a sense of agency, which is a subjective awareness one has that he is initiating, executing, and controlling his or her own volitional actions in the world. I also help clients to nurture a sense of balance; teaching them the tools to help balance themselves is absolutely essential for them to learn how to manage on their own. See on-site page Living With Bipolar Disorder: Self Determination
This is a detailed description of each stage in coaching adults with bipolar disorder:
How to Treat Bipolar Disorder - Assessment
For the first couple sessions, I take a detailed history of the client, when they first noticed what was changing in them, if and when they were diagnosed; what care have they sought, what medication are they on, what have they tried, what is the history of their symptoms? What are they like now? What is the state of their mind? What do they want? What is their self-care like? How balanced are they? And lastly, how well managed their cycles are.
…clients with bipolar tend to be more creative and tend to have heightened sensitivity to stimulation: TV, light, noise, creativity itself, or lack of sleep
Unlike many other disorders, the symptoms of bipolar are unique to the individual; in other words there is little room to generalize. Even when two clients say having bipolar is like riding a rollercoaster, for one it is like riding The Flyer, and for another it's like Zero Gravity. A few generalizations I can make about clients with bipolar is that they tend to be more creative than the norm and they tend to have heightened sensitivity to stimulation, be it from TV, light, noise, creativity itself, or from lack of sleep. People with bipolar seem to have an inherent need to balance different aspects of their lives and to learn how to do so.
How to Treat Bipolar Disorder - Engendering Stabilization
Typically, this is the first thing clients want when they start working with me. From my point of view, we can't make much progress until my client is stable. It's useful for establishing a baseline for our work too. Chances are good that the client doesn't know what stable looks like, so it takes work on my part to help him find it.
Sleep is typically what I look at first. Getting circadian rhythm in balance helps get the body and mind back in balance.
I take an inventory of symptoms at the edge, or what is out of balance. Sleep is typically what I look at first. Getting circadian rhythm in balance helps get the body and mind back in balance. Other things I may work on are getting a handle on: anxiety; impulse control; OCD; anger; lack of a sense of self; sense of hope; calming the rollercoaster; diet; habits; creative outlets; exercise; avoiding fatigue/overwhelm; accountability; adding some structure; decision-making; mood changes; relationships; goals; staying positive, and daily balance.
Specific Issues for the Unique Individual
At the end of each session, I assign homework to help my client learn how to balance or work on particular issues. I ask each client to journal, not only so he or she can report back to me but because it helps them to discern changes. The different issues and symptoms I work on varies with different clients. Some will express a desire to work on their anxiety, others with anger or depression.
Treating Bipolar Disorder in Adults with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
I find Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is helpful in working with many issues that have to do with habits, beliefs, or boundaries. Typically, beliefs and habits will have to shift so clients can have faith in themselves and to grow their optimism. The journal helps to create a feedback loop so changes can be documented and so we can try something else when something isn't working. It’s common to work on several issues at a time, often determined by the client, during each session. I find that creating a sense of agency in my clients, which gives them the tools to make changes in the future, is key.
How to Treat Bipolar Disorder - Creating Balance
By addressing my client's concerns (whether or not symptomatic of bipolar), they begin to get a sense of who they are and gain a feeling of control over their lives. Getting the physical (diet, exercise and sleep) in harmony really helps the other things fall into place. I help those with bipolar understand that what they have is a creative disorder and help them find creative outlets. Their lack of balance reveals itself in diet, episodes, lack of regular sleep, and in other habits. Moderation is not typical of a person who has been diagnosed with bipolar. I simply teach them what balance looks like.
Rather than trying to deal with the symptoms (moods), they will address what is causing their symptoms and can choose to lower their stress levels,
It's important to work on the small things where balance is fine tuned rather than dealing with the mess once balance has gone out of whack; usually, at that point, it's too late to do anything but start over again. The sense of stability and control they are looking for is in the fine details of balancing their lives, which ultimately affects their moods and controls other symptoms. By fine-tuning some of the small things inside, big changes appear on the outside.
An example of this is when clients start to notice that their moods are shifting in unpredictable ways. They will check in with themselves and notice that work has been more stressful, they are not sleeping well, they aren't exercising, and they aren't eating well. Rather than trying to deal with the symptoms (moods), they will address what is causing their symptoms and can choose to lower their stress levels, make a point of eating better, get some exercise, and do what they can to get a good night's sleep. I teach my clients to intervene in their own situation before things get out of hand.
How To Treat Bipolar Disorder in Adults – Summary
My approach helps clients with bipolar "calm the rollercoaster", to help them develop a sense of control over their lives, and help them achieve a sense of balance.
People with bipolar often complain that they are at odds with their disorder, that they don't even know who they are, what's the medication and what's the bipolar. I endeavor to help them get a very clear idea of who they are and that gives them a sense of hope for the future. I equip them with tools like awareness, agency, a sense of balance, perspective, and new habits that allows them to continue making changes in the future. Rather than fight the disorder, I help harness the creativity and make it work for the client.
Giant Steps Coaching
Pages Related to Treating Bipolar Disorder in Adults - Coaching
Coaching for Bipolar Disorder
Self Determination and Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder Self Help
50 Natural Ways to Overcome Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Help for Bipolar Disorder
Dealing with Bipolar Disorder
: Self Monitoring for Relapse Prevention
Labeling in Psychiatry
- The Medical Model
of Mental Health and its Shortcomings
Bipolar Disorder Overdiagnosed
Bipolar Disorder and Children
, Sharna Olfman
Bipolar Disorder Treatment
- Children and Teens
Bipolar Disorder Drug Treatmemt
Bipolar Disorder Poem
- Tips, Strategies, Therapy and Techniques
Mary Ellen Copeland's series of self-help advocacy books for depression and bipolar disorder
- Mary Ellen Copeland offers an excellent collection of self-help books designed to engender "self-agency" in the client with bipolar disorder.
The Depression Workbook: A Guide for Living with Depression and Manic Depression, Second Edition
outlines a program that helps people achieve real breakthroughs in coping and healing. This workbook covers the following issues:
building a network of support
developing a wellness lifestyle
achieving calmness with energy
symptom prevention strategies
developing a personalized plan for mood stability
building a career that works
dealing with sleep problems
diet and vitamins
dealing with stigma
managing medication side effects
psychotherapy and counseling alternatives
learning to have fun, laughter, and pleasure
The Depression Workbook: A Guide for Living with Depression and Manic Depression, Second Edition
Also by Mary Copeland:
Healing the Trauma of Abuse: A Women's Workbook
Wellness Recovery Action Plan & Peer Support: Personal, Group and Program Development