Bipolar disorder is a chronic, recurrent condition characterised by periods of depression interspersed with periods of elevated mood. Despite the severity and impact of bipolar disorder, effective treatment is inadequate at present, with both pharmacological and psychological approaches showing limited success. 

Over the past two decades there has been an upsurge in the use of mental imagery techniques in cognitive therapy, particularly for ‘hard to treat’ groups. Alongside these clinical developments, an increasing body of experimental data has demonstrated that imagery has a more powerful effect on emotion than verbal cognition, has perceptual equivalence with real experience, and can guide learning and behaviour. 

The Mood Action Psychology Program (MAPP) is a novel imagery-based approach to targeting mood instability in bipolar disorder developed by Emily Holmes’ research group. In this talk, the theoretical rationale of the MAPP intervention approach will be discussed, with reference to recent studies on imagery phenomenology in bipolar disorder. Case examples will be presented to illustrate the imagery techniques used and the outcomes of the recent MAPP trial will be discussed. Implications for psychological treatment innovation in bipolar disorder and beyond will be emphasised.

 

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