As a counseling psychologist, I enjoy a variety of clients each day with a variety of needs. I see couples who are on the edge of divorce yet still want to save their marriage and I see young children who are struggling after the loss of a parent or sibling. Some of my most interesting clients are those that deal with bipolar. I was never trained to specifically deal with bipolar, so I had to dive in with my first bipolar client and learn as I went.
I’ll never forget meeting with my first (of many) client who was struggling with bipolar. I was a little bit afraid because I only had a basic knowledge of the problem and even less understanding of effective treatment plans for the disorder. The first three sessions I had with this bipolar client I simply let her talk. I asked questions as a method of gaining information, but I barely gave any tidbit of counsel or direction. Why? Because I didn’t know what to say. I had never experienced someone in my years of preparation and internship for counseling who was so clearly up and down and almost living two different lives.
Each day after I met with my first bipolar client I shut myself in my office and spent the day pouring over books and other credible resources that would help me learn about the disorder. I called up a few friends that were specialists on the topic and I did ever possible proactive thing to be more prepared for my client by the next week.
The things I have learned in the fifteen years since that first close encounter with someone struggling with bipolar are things I never expected to learn. I have become so intrigued with the subject that I have conducted a series of clinical research studies aimed at bringing further understanding of bipolar into the medical and psychological communities. Studying and aiding people with bipolar truly has become my life’s work and passion. In the strangest way it snuck up on me and became all I could focus on. It has been my privilege to receive certification as a “bipolar needs specialist” and to begin teaching other counselors how to aptly deal with the problems of bipolar.
If you or someone you know struggles with bipolar disorder, then my advice is simple: learn more. Educating yourself on this important topic is the most important thing you can do. There is much to be learned and much victory to be gained in this area as more people learn the truth.