Published: Jan. 25, 2017

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Bipolar disorder affects about 5.7 million American adults, or 1.8 percent of the population. Yet, many people are misdiagnosed, don’t have access to information about the mental health disorder or can’t afford treatment.

Through a free public seminar series that starts Jan. 30, the Robert D. Sutherland (RDS) Center for the Evaluation and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder, housed in CU Boulder’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, hopes to increase understanding about the disorder.

The eight-week series will be held Mondays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. through March 20 at Longmont Church of Christ, 1351 Collyer St., in Longmont. The seminars are free, although a suggested donation of $10 per session is requested. Registration is not required. Each session focuses on a different aspect of the care and treatment of the disorder.

The series was started nine years ago to provide information to those with a bipolar disorder, their families, mental health professionals and anyone interested in knowing more.

“Education is such a powerful tool in managing this and other illnesses,” said Alisha Brosse, a licensed clinical psychologist and the center’s associate director who leads the series. “The goal of the series is to increase visibility of the center and the diagnosis, and to let people know there are resources available.”

If you go

What: Public Seminar Series on Bipolar Disorder
When: Mondays, Jan. 30 through March 20, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: Longmont Church of Christ, Fellowship Hall, 1351 Collyer St., Longmont
Cost: Free; suggested donation of $10 per session
RSVP: Not required.

Each drop-in session focuses on a specific topic and is independent from others in the series. Feel free to attend as many sessions as you are able. Series recordings can also be purchased online.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is characterized by extreme shifts in mood, energy level, behavior and functioning. These shifts are called mood episodes, and there are three types of episodes that comprise bipolar disorder: manic, hypomanic and major depressive episodes.

The disorder typically emerges in adolescence or early adulthood, although it may also appear in childhood or later adulthood. The specific causes of bipolar disorder are not known, although research suggests genes as well as environmental factors can play a significant role in the development of the disorder and the triggering of mood episodes, Brosse said.

The RDS Center opened its doors in 2002 and offers evaluation services as well as individual, group and family therapy to about 70 adult clients each year who receive treatment on a sliding-fee scale. The center is primarily funded through the Robert D. Sutherland Memorial Foundation and also receives funding through a CU Boulder Outreach Award.

Psychology graduate students who work at the center are required to attend the seminar series as part of their clinical training, Brosse said.

“We have graduates of our training program all over the country with specialty skills in treating bipolar disorder,” she said. “The more you know about what you are treating, the more quickly you can educate people about themselves, which leads to better outcomes.”

The training includes working with a variety of patients using different treatment methods, which helped develop the ability to provide compassionate care in a flexible and empathetic manner, said Ashley Smith Watts, who received her doctorate from CU Boulder in clinical psychology with a certificate in behavioral genetics.

Smith Watts said she frequently draws on this experience in her position as a postdoctoral fellow in neuropsychology at Brown University.

“The experience of working in a clinic with the mission of providing services to individuals with limited access to psychological treatment was eye-opening and inspirational,” she said. “My experiences at Sutherland deeply instilled the goals of improving and increasing access to care, and I plan to take that forward throughout my career.”

Jedediah Bopp, who received his doctorate in clinical psychology, said the center prepared him to respond to complex cases during an internship and postdoctoral fellowship, and continues to inform his work in private practice, where he specializes in working with people with serious and chronic mental illness.

“I cannot overstate the importance and influence of this training opportunity,” Bopp said.

Please visit the center website for more information about the seminar series. Series recordings can also be purchased online.