Help for Bipolar Disorder — Coaching

16th October 2023

Similar to a therapist, a life coach personally assist a client towards goal attainment, personal growth, and well-being. The support of a life coach can help in practical areas of life, and though not a therapist or counselor, he or she can be a supportive and non-judgmental part of a support team.

Australian clinical and coaching psychologist Suzy Green, Ph.D., states that, "Life coaching is differentiated from business, executive, and workplace coaching in that it usually occurs outside the corporate environment, and is focused on the individual’s whole of life."

Behavioral change might be more easily initiated with the help of a life coach, and he or she can help you stick to your plans and goals for recovery. The support of a coach can help keep you going when you feel like giving up, and therefore can be emotionally supportive and affect cognitive change in an individual.

Coaching is an excellent option of a support team for persons with mental health difficulties. The services of a coach are less expensive than therapy, and life coaching can work in conjunction with therapy.

A life coach provides a helping hand for those with bipolar disorder, and can contribute to successful recovery.

Professional life coach Mary Ruben states, "Although bipolar disorder can affect the people around you, it's easier to meet these challenges with support from a professional life coach." She adds that, "By far, most coaching clients pay their coach to be a sounding board to really listen to them and give honest feedback."

The Role of a Life Coach and What This Means for Those with Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The Life Coach serves as a:

  • Sounding board: 84.8%
  • Motivator: 78.7%
  • Friend: 56.7%
  • Mentor: 50.5%
  • Business consultant: 46.7%
  • Teacher: 41.0%
  • Taskmaster: 30.5%
  • Spiritual guide: 29.5%
  • Other: 13.3%
  • A coach, like a counselor and unlike a therapist, is more likely to give advice to clients. A therapist, especially in talk or interpersonal therapy, is supportive and non-judgmental, but is not likely to give specific advice. Advice can be helpful in ways that therapy is, but a therapist is more likely to lead you to solutions to your problems based on your own interpretation of the situation, while a coach may actively point out to you the direction that he or she feels will help you.

    A coach is more likely to help you with matters of practicality than would a therapist, such as how to better organize your schedule, home, or budget, where to go for financial advice, what possible job changes you might consider, etc. A coach can be a type of teacher for the individual seeking support.

    Although a therapist may be important, useful, and productive in terms of his approach to healing, a coach, in an instructive capacity, may serve a different function. He/she may help an individual with bipolar disorder, in particular, in ways that are both therapeutic and practical. In other words, though therapy is important, teaching or instruction is just as important.

    Coaches with Specific Specialties

    There are life coaches/coaches specific to disorders as ADHD and bipolar disorder. Coaches can help teach skills that are practical and useful. Due to the labeling and stigmatization associated with mental illness, many of those suffering may have social skills that need refining.

    Stages of Social Development and How it Relates to Teenagers

    Psychoanalytic theorist Erik Erikson created a psychological theory that focuses on social development. The stages that he outlined are as follows:

  • Trust versus mistrust, an infant’s dilemma
  • Autonomy versus shame and doubt, seen in a toddler
  • Initiative versus guilt, in very early childhood
  • Industry versus inferiority, a school age child’s dilemma
  • Identity versus role confusion, a crisis in adolescence
  • Intimacy versus isolation, occurring in one’s early adulthood
  • Generativity versus stagnation, occurring in middle-age
  • Ego integrity versus despair, in late adulthood
  • One should note that mental health disorders like bipolar disorder most often begins manifesting itself in late adolescence or early adulthood. For this reason, the crises of "Identity versus Role Confusion" and "Intimacy versus Isolation" may not be resolved well in a person with mental health difficulties that started in late childhood and early adulthood. This means that one might lack a solid identity and feel very isolated, not only due to other people's perhaps unwelcoming tolerance towards those with mental health disorders, but also due to factors related to healthy social development.

    Assistance on Developing Social Skills

    Note that a counselor (which is different from a coach), in particular, can work with you in improving your social skills, not only by modeling appropriate social skills for you, but in advising you in terms of the meaning of social interactions. He or she can even role-play difficult situations with you concerning self-disclosure to others regarding mental health difficulties. Don’t assume an identity as a "mentally ill person" (thus accepting a permanent label). Do not to isolate yourself, but pursue and maintain healthy and social relationships.

    Employment of a coach can be an aid to greater social development and integration.

    Negotiate Self-Disclosure Gradually

    In terms of honesty and mental health disorders, in addition to getting support from a coach and/or a therapist, one should learn how to negotiate self-disclosure with one’s friends and acquaintances if one wants to share one’s circumstances as it relates to bipolar disorder. This can entail self-revelation that is tentative, incremental, and gradual. Many people will accept a mental disorder in another, but the way that it is disclosed may be of significant importance.

    It should be noted that it is not necessary to disclose details surrounding one’s mental health condition with everyone. By having a few individuals with whom you can regularly talk openly about mental health issues, such as a coach, or someone who might be available by phone at convenient times can relieve the individual with bipolar disorder from feeling he needs to talk about mental health issues with those with whom such matters are little understood.

    Support Should be Provided by Family and Friends for Any Family Member who Displays Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.

    For those who are friends, family, and acquaintances of individuals with bipolar disorder, supportive, concerned, and understanding friends are of much value. One supportive friend and one-time mentor of an adolescent with serious mental health difficulties built a successful relationship with a struggling adolescent by not addressing issues from the standpoint of a mental health disorder, but as she would with anyone else. She treated the adolescent who had been labeled with a mental health disorder as she would any other teen. The adolescent appreciated that he was afforded respect, honesty, and frankness, and this served to be both therapeutic and productive.

    Conclusion on Help for Bipolar Disorder and Coaching

    Receiving coaching for bipolar disorder from a life coach, then, can be enormously helpful, whether that be a life coach who specializes with individuals who have been labeled with bipolar disorder or otherwise. If you have any difficulty in finding a specialized bipolar disorder coach, a coach who is trained in working with clients who have been diagnosed with ADHD might also work well.

    Many of the issues that such a coach may address can be related to both bipolar disorder and ADHD, as these two diagnoses can have similar symptoms or can be perceived as running concurrently. Overall, support from a coach in addition to a therapist may be ideal, but utilizing a coach without conjunctive therapy can result in substantial benefits as well.

    References for Help for Bipolar Disorder - Coaching

    1. Fleming, J., Ph.D. 2004. Erikson’s Psychosocial Developmental Stages. Southwest Psychometrics and Psychology Resources.

    2. Green, S. Ph.D. June, 2007. Evidence Based Life Coaching: Psychologists Wanted. Australian Psychological Society.

    3. Rubin, M. 2011. Bipolar Life Coach.

    Other Resources for Help with Bipolar Disorder - Coaching (off-site)

    1. How to Overcome Bipolar Disorder Through Self-Help Methods.

    2. Murray, G., Suto, M., Hole, R., Hale, S., Amari, E., Michalak, E. E.(2010). Self-Management Strategies Used by ‘High Functioning’ Individuals with Bipolar Disorder: From Research to Clinical Practice. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. Wiley Interscience.

    3. Self-Help in Mental Health: 10 Healthy Ideas to Manage Life's Pressures. Mental Health America.

    4. STRESS: COPING WITH EVERYDAY PROBLEMS. (2012). Mental Health America.