Behavioral Therapy for Bipolar Disorder in Children

Specialists at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone offer evidence-based behavioral therapies for children and adolescents with bipolar disorder.


In psychotherapy, or “talk” therapy, your child meets one-on-one with an NYU Langone psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker. During this therapy, your child and the mental health professional identify and work through the problems that may contribute to or result from bipolar disorder.

Doctor with Pediatric Patient

Using evidence-based therapies, our specialists help children and adolescents with bipolar disorder to identify problems and change their behavior.

Our therapists use a variety of techniques to treat children with bipolar disorder. These include discussing how the condition affects his or her daily life, improving communication between the child and his or her family, peers, and teachers, and changing behavior to improve overall mental health.

Psychotherapy can be used alone or in combination with medication to treat symptoms of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a problem-focused approach that aims to teach children and teens a variety of coping techniques to help them manage difficult situations more effectively and improve their mood.

In CBT, children learn to identify the behavioral and thinking patterns that underlie their emotional distress and adjust their thoughts and actions.

CBT can also help children and adolescents to identify possible triggers of manic and depressive episodes, such as stress and lack of sleep, and to use specific thinking and behavioral strategies to improve their coping.

CBT is typically conducted in one-on-one sessions, during which a therapist works with your child. Parents are invited to join sessions regularly to learn how to guide children in using new coping skills between sessions. More extensive parent coaching and family therapy are also available.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy

Interpersonal psychotherapy aims to reduce the symptoms of bipolar disorder by increasing your child’s social support and improving his or her ability to manage relationships with others.

In the first phase of treatment, the therapist links your child’s mood to changes in interpersonal situations. The therapist then works with your child to figure out what triggers his or her episodes of depression and mania. After a trigger is identified, the therapist helps your child to develop skills that can improve his or her ability to interact with others.

Family-Focused Therapy

Family-focused therapy is a form of treatment designed for families with an adolescent who has bipolar disorder. It focuses on management of the condition, including how to identify impending relapses, solve problems, and communicate with family members.

Social Rhythm Therapy

The goal of social rhythm therapy is to help children with bipolar disorder identify and maintain daily routines such as eating and sleeping patterns. Social rhythm therapy is based on the understanding that sleep deprivation or disruptions to circadian rhythms may trigger or aggravate bipolar disorder symptoms.

This form of treatment uses methods from interpersonal therapy and CBT to help children maintain their routines and avoid triggering a manic episode.

Resources for Bipolar Disorder in Children
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