When I was asked by Doctor Tyler to write a blog piece about why therapy might be useful for an older person with bipolar disorder it struck me that I was only 52 years of age. I immediately felt I would struggle to understand why it was relevant to me as the NHS older adult age range begins at 60 or 65, as far as I remember (dependent upon which service the person is referred to, i.e. memory clinic, secondary care co-ordination, social inclusion etc). So in beginning this blog, I can imagine the readers thinking ‘what does this 52 year old know about older adulthood and the issues and challenges it throws up, and thus how can he understand why therapy might be helpful and needed within the older adult population? ’.

From the age of about 40, I felt that I was struggling with some of the issues an older person may experience.   I had some experience of my own grandparents talking about how, although without mental health issues, they had arrived at an age when their family had all grown up and were busy with their own lives, sparing less and less time for them. They had finished work and lacked the regular involvement of the workplace that offered companionship within their offices and workplaces, interest and focus through their work, and a sense of achievement and reward from what they produced. They experienced low moods associated with this loss, and often felt a sense of mourning of it. I identified with these feelings, on top of the often chaotic and erratic sense of mood that I experienced during the worst of my times with bipolar disorder. Feeling alone, isolated, at a loss, unproductive, worried about aspects of life such as accommodation, income, future, it was easy to feel that all was lost. My mental health problems had been so enduring that I felt that all the things that we look to achieve in our lives had evaded me; career, families, ownership, social circles, and fun! Coming to terms with that was an immensely upsetting experience, and anger and hatred developed, directed against no one set of people or events in particular, but in a general way against the situation.

So how would a therapy address these feelings, and enable me, or anyone at any stage of their life to overcome such a weight of problems. My understanding is that Dr Tyler has adapted a CBT therapy for the older adult group, initially working with the group itself to develop the therapy. During therapy the person identifies their own recovery goals and work towards them with the therapist in the sessions.  The therapy can help the person to focus on positive aspects of their own life and their achievements and rebuild a sense of hope for the future.  It can also enable the person to make sense of their moods and help with different ways of managing them.

Recovery for me has involved both managing my moods, looking at my positive skills, developing those into a plan which has enabled me to begin to achieve the things I wanted in life. This started with me working again. I now work in the mental health field, and thus can take reward from using my own experience positively for others. As a support worker in the NHS I worked with a number of older adults and I feel being able to offer them a structured therapy which specifically focuses on promoting hope, building achievements and looking forward would be of great benefit to them.

There is currently very little research or service development for older people with bipolar disorder. A study we are running at the Spectrum Centre aims to address this gap. Dr Lizzie Tyler is leading a study which has adapted a therapy for older people living with bipolar disorder. The team are looking for people to take part in the study where people are offered either 14 sessions of psychological therapy or to continue with their treatment as usual. To take part in the study, individuals must live in the North-West of England, be aged 60 or above and have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

If anyone is interested in hearing more about the study or taking part then please contact Lizzie on: 07967 837938/ 01524 593171 or [email protected] or visit the website

Chris Lodge – Service User Researcher Spectrum Centre (Aged 52)