Dr Elizabeth Tyler: Developing and evaluating a psychological therapy for older adults with bipolar disorder

Dr Elizabeth Tyler, a clinical psychologist based at the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health at Lancaster University has recently been awarded a NIHR Doctoral Fellowship.

The research will focus on developing and testing out a recovery focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) intervention for older adults with bipolar disorder (BD).

BD is a severe and chronic mental health problem that persists into older adulthood. Current estimates suggest around 0.5 per cent of people over 65 years of age are living with BD (Depp and Jeste, 2004). However this figure is set to rise as the UK experiences a rapid ageing of its population (United Nations, 2002). The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines for BD, 2006, highlight the absence of evidence for older adults with regards to psychosocial interventions and there are currently no published randomised controlled trials (RCT) studies evaluating psychosocial interventions for later life bipolar disorder.

The aim of the research is to adapt a recovery focused CBT intervention (RfCBT: Jones et al, 2013) developed by the Spectrum Centre for working age adults, for an older adult population. A recent RCT has found RfCBT to be effective on both functional and symptomatic outcomes (Jones et al, 2014) and recovery informed interventions of this type are now recommended by the UK government (Department of Health, 2011). Adaptation will be achieved through both literature searches and a series of focus groups with older adults with lived experience of bipolar disorder and an ‘expert’ academic/clinician group. Once adapted, RfCBT for older adults will be tested out using an RCT design.

The RDS NW were able to help Elizabeth in a number of areas including: trial design, mental health advice, structuring and writing the proposal and helping to review the application form.

RDS NW also carried out a mock interview which was found to be incredibly useful. It provided the opportunity to review the project with a number of academics who did not specialise in the area.