For most people who have bipolar disorder, a traditional form of therapy – such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or Psychotherapy ("Talk Therapy") – is suggested as part of their treatment.  However, there are other alternate therapies that may also be effective for them in addition to their traditional therapy.


Light Therapy, Music Therapy, Art Therapy, and Drama Therapy are some alternate forms of therapy for people with a mental illness.


Light Therapy (Phototherapy)

Light therapy has become a widely used remedy for mental illnesses such as seasonal affective disorder, and some research also supports its benefits for sleep disturbances, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizoaffective disorder.[1]


Light therapy generally involves full-spectrum bright light exposure directly onto the eyes using a light source such as a light box or a light visor.  For disorders such as bipolar disorder, light therapy may be used for short periods to decrease severity of or shorten the length of a depressive episode.  This is especially important during the winter months, when there is scarce access to direct sunlight.


It is important to note that Light Therapy is a medical treatment, and should be discussed with your doctor before starting.


Music Therapy

Music Therapy is an interpersonal process in which the therapist uses music and all of its facets—physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual—to help clients to improve or maintain their health.[2]   It is used with clients of all ages and with varying problems, including mental illnesses.


Sometimes, the needs of the client are addressed directly through the music; however, at other times, the client's needs are addressed through the relationship between them and their therapist (and music is just the tool).


Art Therapy

Art therapy has gained popularity for mental disorders because it's a common belief that the artwork of a person gives insight into their subconscious thought processes.[3]  Used with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or similar therapy), the person can then look into issues that may have been repressed up until now, so that they can be confronted.


Art therapy allows for a safe, non-verbal expression of inner feelings, and outside of official therapy sessions, it also can provide a healthy means of self-expression. This is one of the major goals of therapy, because bipolar disorder can be a lifelong condition.  With a healthy outlet for emotions, it is easier for the person to cope and recover.  Art therapy for bipolar disorder isn't as much about the images produced as it is the emotions that the person is experiencing at the time.


Drama Therapy

Drama Therapy uses drama processes to achieve therapy goals – it is active and experiential; i.e., the person must participate to gain full advantage of the therapy.  Through the use of drama therapy, people with a disorder can tell their stories, express feelings, set goals, solve problems, etc. 


Using drama therapy, the person can change their behavior, learn to build their skills, integrate thoughts with actions, and achieve personal growth.


When used in a small group (such as group therapy or other interventional setting), it can help the person to develop trust and learn interpersonal skills as well.



There may be no proof by official research that music, art, or drama therapy by themselves have any kind of curative value for people with bipolar disorder; however, these activities often draw out hidden talents, bring joy and a sense of accomplishment, and help people with the disorder to communicate nonverbally what they may not be able to say – so therefore, we can't discount their therapeutic value.



[1] Oren, D.A., Cubells, J.F., & Litsch, S. (2001, December). Bright light therapy for schizoaffective disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158(12), 2086-2087.