Thursday, 1 September 2016

Psychoeducation for Bipolar Disorder

We recently found out about a new support initiative in Powys for people diagnosed with bipolar disorder. We asked Paul Gauci, who works at the National Centre for Mental Health in Cardiff, and Julie, a recent participant on the course down there, to tell us more. 

Talking therapies often involve individual, one-on-one sessions, but a programme being run by the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) is using group sessions to help improve quality of life for people with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Education Programme Cymru, or BEPC, is an award-winning group education programme developed by the Centre and their colleagues at Cardiff University.

It aims to help people with bipolar disorder to better understand and manage the condition, identify early warning signs of highs and lows, and develop the skills needed to stay as well as possible.

By delivering the programme in a group setting, people have the opportunity to share their personal experiences of living with bipolar disorder and to learn from each other, as well as from the course. It also gives the programme a more social element, making it more enjoyable and encouraging participants to attend all the sessions.

For many people it might be the first time they’ve ever met anyone else with the condition, so it can be a very positive experience for them to know that they aren’t the only ones affected by it.

There are 10 sessions, in groups of up to 15, each lasting for between two and two and a half hours. These combine presentations, informal group discussions and short exercises. The sessions include:

  • Introduction.
  • What is bipolar disorder?
  • What causes bipolar disorder?
  • The use of medication in bipolar disorder.
  • Psychological approaches to bipolar disorder.
  • Lifestyle issues and bipolar disorder.
  • Monitoring mood and identifying triggers.
  • Early warning signature.
  • Bringing it all together.
Family members and carers of the group participants are also given the option to attend an additional session where they can find out more about bipolar disorder and meet other people in similar situations.

Courses have been delivered throughout Wales, and an estimated 570 people have benefited from taking part, including 65 in 2015 - 16. The model has also been adopted internationally, with healthcare providers as far afield as New Zealand, the Netherlands and Turkey running courses based on BEPC.

A participant’s view...

I first became unwell in my 20s and I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. It was the start of a very difficult time in my life where I really struggled with my illness.

I also experienced what I now know were manic episodes, which could be just as devastating as my episodes of depression. I’ve gotten into very dangerous situations and the aftermath can be terrible.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder following the birth of my son, and the medication has been helpful although my mood still fluctuates and I can become very unwell. My psychiatrist told me about BEPC and recommended I try it.

The day I started the programme I was really nervous, but the facilitators really made me feel at ease. I found it amazing to meet people with the same diagnosis as me - all from different walks of life - different cultures and ages experiencing the same struggles.

I learned about managing my lifestyle, relapse prevention and early intervention through being aware of triggers and early warning signs. I also completed a manual as we went through the course which was tailored to my needs. I still use it today and it forms the basis of my care plan - I call it my bible.

This programme changed my life and I’m almost certain it has saved my life. I have gone from coping to managing my bipolar disorder.

BEPC in Powys

A new course will be running in Brecon, beginning on Tuesday 27 September, and then running every Tuesday for 10 weeks. There may be an 11th week, depending on whether there is demand for a friends and families session.

For more information contact the NCMH on 029 2068 8399 or email

About NCMH

The National Centre for Mental Health is a research centre made up of researchers from Cardiff, Swansea and Bangor Universities. It is funded by Health and Care Research Wales, and aims to improve treatment, diagnosis and support for people affected by mental health problems including bipolar disorder.

The Centre is looking for volunteers to take part in its research - it takes under an hour and can take place in your own home. Find out more about taking part.


  1. I was on the first course in Wales think I was only 23 at the time...amazing course...really changed my life.

    1. Hi Charlotte, thanks for the feedback and it's great to hear that BEPC had such a positive impact on your life!