It is the favorite true story of Igor Galynker, MD, PhD, director of the Family Center for Bipolar, within Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s Department of Psychiatry. “In 2003, I met a woman whose husband had bipolar disorder,” recounts Dr. Galynker. “She asked her husband’s psychiatrist what was happening, and the psychiatrist said ‘I can’t tell you anything about your husband. Go get your own psychiatrist.’ She did. And each of the four children had their own therapist. And they had a family therapist. Now there were seven mental health professionals…all not talking to each other.”
This encounter is how the idea of a Family Center first came about. Silence is still the norm between therapist and family. Confidentiality protocols keep family members in the dark about how to help their loved ones.
The Family Center for Bipolar seeks to change this dynamic by facilitating open communication and providing compassionate support and treatment for the whole family. To achieve this, clinicians at the Center use the Family-Inclusive Treatment (FIT) model.
FIT is a unique treatment modality that is specifically tailored to the needs of each family that we treat. Depending on your specific situation, FIT treatment is flexible and may include any number of elements, such as medication management, individual psychotherapy for the patient, individual therapy for the treatment partners, couple’s therapy,family therapy. At the heart of FIT is open communication about symptoms, medication and other aspects of treatment. (Note: Strict Confidentiality applies to personal issues not related to psychiatric symptoms, medications and treatment planning.)
- Weekly or biweekly doctor visits by the patient for both medication management and individual therapy.
- Family meetings geared to educate the patient and treatment partners about bipolar illness and its treatment; how to recognize symptoms, identify triggers and warning signs; and how to communicate openly about them.
- Periodic assessment of your treatment partner(s) and/or children to ensure that all family members are handling the sometimes unavoidable stress in a healthy and balanced way.
- Family Therapy or Couple’s Therapy for issues that go beyond the immediate matters of how to deal with bipolar illness.