Why Therapy is Integral for Me

Author: Matthew Palmieri


There was a time when I believed therapy was simply a means to an end. If I spoke with someone about my problems, I was there for solutions to eventually conclude the sessions. My views have changed over the years. Therapy is now an integral part of my holistic treatment plan, an ongoing and crucial part of my recovery.  It helps me frame my struggles, putting my moods into a context I can forgive myself for to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of my illness. Having the tools to challenge my self-limiting beliefs has been vital.

Length of Recovery

Like many, being kind to myself is an on-going struggle. Bipolar has a tendency of making me feel lesser-than, especially when I am in a depressive phase. Once I accepted the cyclical nature of the illness, I began to realize that having a therapist in my corner is crucial for my self-esteem, through both depression and mania. Stress education, behavioral changes, and social support are just a few of the reasons I value therapy. It took nearly a decade to conclude therapy provides me with the framework in which I can process my emotions in a constructive manner. For many, speaking to a therapist can come with a bit of resistance based on feelings of inadequacy or fear of stigma. I certainly felt that for a long time. This should be met with sympathy and in my opinion, can also be a reflection of the denial that accompanies the condition.

Other Forms of Therapy

Some people utilize art and creativity as a form of therapy. Through research we know there is a creative impulse in a lot of people with bipolar. Maybe not everyone but it is certainly fair for those suffering to also look at art as a great form of therapy. I feel this way and although it may not be for everyone, I have come to look forward to my therapy sessions, whether channeling my creative impulses or having a ‘talk it out’ style session with my therapist, leaving everything out on the table. I can then track my progress and ease self-stigmatizing.

Finding the Right One

Finding the right therapist can take time and may lead to a sense of defeat. Similar to finding the right medication, finding the right therapist can take a bit of trial and error. Therefore, exercising patience and following your intuition can lead to progress, not perfection, and can ease the severity of symptoms. In extreme cases, it can prevent full blown manic episodes. Therapy alone may not completely rid me of my problems, but it does put them into proper context. I had a subsequent period of denial after my diagnosis and through a turbulent period, I have come out on the other side committed to a life-long approach to my therapy. I kind of look at my hospital stay as ground zero and my lifestyle since as a part of recovery. I try to be kinder to my past self, striving to relinquish myself from past destructive behavior. A tall order. They say when you know better, you do better. I may fall into a negative loop and inadvertently bring it up in therapy, thus challenging an opinion than may cause a mood shift if left unchecked. Sometimes loneliness leads to a simpler relationship with a therapist, where I can disclose the feelings I struggle to identify.  Again, it’s an integral part of my holistic treatment plan and by no means a resolution for my disorder in and of itself.  Sometimes it means I just feel better after I’ve had a chance to talk. It can be that simple. Putting it into the air takes away its power over me.

I know I’ve earned it and I’m not the only one.


The content of the International Bipolar Foundation blogs is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician and never disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read in any IBPF content.
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