How CIRCuiTS Rebuilt My Confidence
by Samuel Swidzinksi, PhD Student and former CIRCuiTS client
I’m diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder. Between the ages of 16 and 20, I had numerous episodes of mania and depression, which led me to lose all hope in life. Following fantastic psychiatric care, I managed to gain a stable mood. But I still struggled to function. I was unemployed and found it challenging to sit down and read a single page of text. I struggled to go to the shops or public transport by myself or to look after myself. Thanks to CIRCuiTS cognitive remediation therapy (CRT), I regained my ability to function.
I have gone from struggling to read a page of text to becoming an author. From struggling to remember information to being in my second year of a PhD. From seeing no hope to trying to help others gain hope. From being a CRT client to training to become a CRT therapist.
In 2015, I stumbled across an advertisement for research participation at King’s College London. The advertisement said they were looking for individuals diagnosed with bipolar 1 to be involved in a trial for cognitive remediation therapy (CRT). I was informed that this form of therapy could potentially help me to regain my functioning and feel able to achieve goals. I was excited, so I responded immediately.
When I began the treatment, my therapist (Dimos) educated me about thinking skills and how to improve them. He taught me that it is crucial to strategise when approaching problems, build self-awareness and learn how to plan effectively.
He showed me CIRCuiTS, an interactive computer programme that provided me with evidence-based cognitive tasks which helped me practice using strategies to solve real-world problems. Unlike brain training games which are not very helpful in improving cognitive functioning, the interactive nature of CIRCuiTS and the guided therapist by my side helped me to build my skills.
Over the 25 or so weeks I was involved in the therapy, my attention, memory, and planning skills increased. But, most importantly, my confidence and self-awareness increased as I now felt enabled to try to achieve goals in life.
I became so passionate about CRT that I started a psychology bachelor’s degree at the University of Sussex, wrote an application for a PhD at King’s College for CRT and am now a researcher assisting in a CRT trial at King’s College. I’m particularly excited that I will soon be able to do CRT with others with bipolar. This makes me happy as it will hopefully allow me to have the same impact on others' lives as Dimos had on me. I will be eternally grateful to both Dimos and CIRCuiTS.