50 Bipolar Interview Questions [Examples] You Can Ask a New Client

When someone begins talking to you about bipolar disorder, what does your mind jump to? For many, this would be symptoms, such as mania, that are associated with bipolar I disorder. There are, however,  various bipolar disorders that our clients may be  living with. This includes bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, cyclothymic disorder, and other types of bipolar disorder including those that are induced by substances or other medical conditions. Keep reading to learn 50 bipolar interview questions you can ask a new client you suspect has bipolar disorder.

It is important to understand the differences between the different types of bipolar disorder because there are significant differences among the symptoms that are present, and within their severity. As an example, individuals who experience manic episodes often require hospitalization whereas those who are in a hypomanic episode may not. Antipsychotic medications can be used for individuals who are currently experiencing a manic episode in a safe setting to help stabilize them. 

For those who are living with cyclothymic disorder, their symptoms do not meet the criteria for bipolar I or bipolar II disorder, however, they can have a significant impact on their overall health and wellness.

It is estimated that approximately 2% of the world’s population is living with bipolar I or bipolar II disorder, with another 2% of the population experiencing bipolar-related symptoms without meeting full diagnostic criteria. Effective treatment options for bipolar disorders can include psychotherapy and the use of psychotropic medications.

Something to be mindful of when working with clients who have bipolar disorder is that they may be impacted by the stigma associated with this mental health concern. Identifying someone as being “bipolar” in social settings can be done without a proper understanding of what bipolar disorder truly is. With a lack of proper understanding of mental health concerns, stigmas remain and can harm those who are living with related conditions. 

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Getting Ready for Your First Counseling Session

How you prepare for your first therapy session with a client will be determined by the type of session you are having. If you are completing an intake assessment, you will likely be completing a thorough assessment that looks for various mental health concerns and explores different aspects of your client’s history and life.  You may find it helpful to review and organize the various documents that you expect to complete or review with your client.

If your first session with a client is being done after an initial assessment, you may have a bit more freedom in the topics you cover. You will still be focusing on building rapport and establishing safety; however, you may not need to maintain a rigid structure as you would with an intake session.

In both scenarios, you may have received referral forms, screeners, or questionnaires, and other forms of documentation that provide you with some details about your client’s experiences. Spending time to review the paperwork you have received can help you use your time wisely, and respect the time that was put into getting those documents completed.

The initial goal when working with a client who is living with bipolar disorder would be to stabilize their symptoms, and then work towards maintaining their mental health symptoms. This is where using appropriate and targeted bipolar interview questions can help you understand your client’s current mental health symptoms and their history with bipolar disorder.

TherapyPatron has a variety of bipolar disorder worksheets that can be used throughout your work with clients who are living with bipolar disorders. This includes EDMR worksheets, Compassion-Focused Therapy worksheets, and CBT worksheets.

Examples of Bipolar Interview Questions to Ask Clients in Therapy

Bipolar interview questions are a great tool to learn more about your client’s experience. While you may have an idea of what your client’s experience has been based on the information you received before their session, hearing someone share with you the details of their experience can shift your perception of what you believe you know.

Using thorough questions regarding your client’s bipolar symptoms and history can help you paint a clear picture of their mental health which can then be used to develop a personalized treatment plan. Continue reading for 55 examples of bipolar interview questions that you could use!

  1. How can we best use our time together today?
  2. How would you describe your mood since we last saw each other?
  3. Would you describe yourself as irritable or moody?
  4. How would you describe your mood on a typical day?
  5. Have you felt fatigued lately?
  6. Have you noticed any changes to your appetite or weight?
  7. Have you felt sad or hopeless recently?
  8. Can you tell me about your sleeping patterns?
  9. Have you ever thought about, planned, intended to, or attempted to kill yourself?
  10. Could you tell me a bit about your history of self-harm?
  11. What has your experience with depression looked like?
  12. When you find yourself experiencing depressive symptoms, how do you cope?
  13. Have you ever been hospitalized for your mental health? Can you tell me about this experience?
  14. Have you engaged in any outpatient treatment programs or psychotherapy before?
  15. Did you feel that therapy was helpful in the past?
  16. Have you noticed any shifts or changes regarding your interests and hobbies?
  17. Have you ever been more talkative or speaking faster than usual?
  18. Do you feel as though your mind is continually moving at a fast pace?
  19. Would you describe yourself as impulsive?
  20. Can you tell me about any risk-taking behaviors you’ve engaged in? This could be driving recklessly, engaging in unprotected sex, or using substances.
  21. Can you think of a time when your anger caused problems for you?
  22. What has been your experience with anger?
  23. Did you experience any challenges you would like to talk about?
  24. How long would you say that you have been living with your mental health symptoms?
  25. Can you recall around what age you began to notice your symptoms?
  26. Have you been prescribed psychotropic medications for your symptoms?
  27. Do you feel as though your medication regime is working for you?
  28. Do you feel as though you can comply with your medication regimen?
  29. Are you attending your appointments with your prescribing doctor?
  30. Can you think of a time when you experienced psychosis?
  31. Can you recall how many manic/hypomanic episodes you have had?
  32. Do you recall how many depressive episodes you have had?
  33. Can you share some details about your first, or most recent depressive episode?
  34. Can you tell me about your first or most recent manic/hypomanic episode?
  35. Who in your life would you say supports you?
  36. Do you have people in your life that you are comfortable leaning on for support?
  37. How do you believe therapy can help you at this time in your life?
  38. How have your symptoms impacted your relationships?
  39. Could you tell me about how you feel your shifts in mood have impacted your day-to-day life?
  40. Do you feel as though your mental health has impacted your ability to set or work towards personal goals?
  41. What changes will you see in your mental health, thoughts, or behaviors when you are making progress in therapy?
  42. Are you comfortable talking about your mental health with those who are important to you?
  43. Is there anything you hope to achieve or learn from engaging in therapy?
  44. Do you know of any family members who struggle with bipolar disorder?
  45. Do you have any family members who have mental health concerns or challenges?
  46. Was there ever a time that you experienced hallucinations or delusions?
  47. Can you tell me about your alcohol and drug use?
  48. Do you feel as though you use substances to cope with your mental health?
  49. Do you feel that you can control, limit, and stop using substances as you wish?
  50. What do you do to practice self-care?

Final Thoughts on Bipolar Interview Questions to Ask Clients

Thank you for reading this resource on 50 bipolar interview questions you can ask clients in a counseling session. Crafting thoughtful bipolar interview questions contributes significantly to tailoring treatment goals for clients and enhancing their quality of life. Each client’s unique needs must be woven into individualized treatment plans; while some may benefit from honing emotion regulation, others might require distress tolerance skills.

In cases involving bipolar disorder or related conditions, collaborative efforts with psychiatrists or prescribing doctors become essential to ensure holistic client care. Regular communication with these professionals not only ensures comprehensive support but also aids in identifying subtle signs of mental health challenges or shifts, allowing for timely intervention.

Bipolar disorder is an example of a mental health concern that you can encounter in various mental health settings. If you feel as though you would like to refresh your mind or learn more about bipolar disorder, we encourage you to look for appropriate continuing education and other training opportunities in your field.

TherapyPatron.com helps mental health professionals better serve their clients. Our (editable, fillable, printable PDF) therapy worksheets can help you streamline your practice, effectively deliver different types of therapy, and support your clients be the best version of themselves.

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Kayla VanGuilder, MA, LCMHC
Author: Kayla VanGuilder, MA, LCMHC

Kayla is a Mental Health Counselor who earned her degree from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. She has provided psychotherapy in a residential treatment program and an outpatient addiction treatment facility in New York as well as an inpatient addiction rehab in Ontario, Canada. She has experience working with individuals living with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and trauma.

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