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02-07-2013 | Mental health | Article

Group psychoeducation wards off bipolar hospitalization


Free abstract

medwireNews: Researchers have found evidence to support the use of group psychoeducation as an adjunct to maintenance pharmacotherapy in the treatment of patients with bipolar disorder.

They report that patients receiving psychoeducation were significantly less likely to be hospitalized, had fewer hospitalizations overall, and shorter hospital stays in the following year than patients not receiving such education.

"The hospitalisation prevention effect we observed suggests the programme's potential for preventing recurrences, or at least intervening in a timely and effective way, due to the fact that patients learn to recognise the early signs of recurrence through psychoeducation," say the investigators, led by Valentina Candini (IRCCS "St John of God" Fatebenefratelli-Brescia, Italy).

"This adjunctive approach can therefore serve to foster improvement and stabilization of the disorder's overall course, improving the quality of life for patients and their family members."

Of the 57 patients with bipolar disorder who received 21 weekly sessions of psychoeducation, just five (8.8%) were hospitalized between starting treatment and up to 1 year after treatment had ended. This was significantly lower than the 16 (35.5%) of 45 receiving standard pharmacotherapy alone.

The corresponding number needed to treat to prevent one patient being hospitalized was 3.5 and the absolute risk reduction with psychoeducation was 28.5%, the team reports in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Also, patients receiving psychoeducation experienced more than 25% fewer hospitalizations, and spent an average 1.75 days in hospital versus 10.16 days for those not receiving psychoeducation.

Among the 46 patients who fully adhered to the psychoeducation program and attended all sessions, the differences in hospital admissions was "even more striking," the researchers note.

They point out that the patients in their study successfully received psychoeducation in routine mental health services.

"The intervention is fully structured and manualised, which facilitates its learning and dissemination," they comment.

"Yet, it does require good coordination between group therapists and clinicians treating patients with [bipolar disorder]," they add.

Given the infrequent and poor use of psychoeducation programs in Italian mental health services and most likely those of other European countries, Candini et al conclude that its widespread dissemination in mental health services "would represent an important innovation and the premise for promoting good clinical practice."

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Lucy Piper, Senior medwireNews Reporter

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