Interpersonal Therapy is a type of talking therapy that can be used to treat mental health conditions. It is a very popular type of therapy, and it is helped many people overcome their mental health condition, or at least reduce the severity of its symptoms.

There are many different types of talking therapy. Therefore, it is important to consider your choices. This article provides some key areas worth knowing in regards to Interpersonal Therapy.

Interpersonal Therapy can help in the treatment of many different mental health conditions

What is Interpersonal Therapy?

Interpersonal Therapy: Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is a type of therapy that helps people with mental health problems to address issues with their behaviour towards family, friends and colleagues. It is primarily designed for Depression, but can be used for other conditions too. It revolves around the idea that a person’s mood is impacted by relationships with others, and vice versa. Therefore, by improving a person’s relationships with others, it should ease their psychological suffering. A range of techniques are used to achieve this.

1. The evidence is good!

Studies that have looked into the effectiveness of Interpersonal Therapy paint a very positive picture. IPT appears to be especially effective for Depression [1].

IPT was originally designed for depression, and it is one of the most widely-used types of therapy in the United Kingdom for depression.

2. IPT puts relationships at the heart of mental health

IPT works on the idea that depression, or any other mental health problem for that matter, is caused by relationship problems.

The idea is that relationship problems affect moods – then leading to bad moods impacting other relationships, leading to an even worse mood – and so this vicious cycle continues.

3. IPT aims to improve a person’s relationship with others around them

With the above in mind, IPT aims to disrupt this vicious cycle, and improve a person’s relationships with others. Specific relationship problems will first be identified.

IPT is very goal-oriented, the patient will set goals based on their current situation, and look to put these plans into practice in their real life.

Over the course of the IPT process, they will hopefully see a vast improvement in their relationship with others, and the subsequent improvement in mood.

4. IPT lasts for around 12-20 sessions

IPT has been around for a long time – and in that time, the approach and structure of IPT has been moulded into a highly-effective system. Part of this system is for IPT to last between 12-20 sessions.

IPT can therefore potentially be a 5-6 month commitment. For some people, they may prefer a shorter course of treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

Others however may require something longer. Most people find that 12-20 sessions is a great amount – and offers a good balance between short and long-term types of talking therapies.

5. Only takes the present into account

While certain problems in the past that have caused difficulty will be discussed briefly, the focus of IPT is very much on the “here and now” – meaning that the present day is given the priority.

Many people will find this works perfectly – as it gives them the opportunity to make immediate changes in their life, and help them put into practice what they have learned in therapy.

But for those with past traumas, IPT may not be suitable – as these past traumas won’t be focused on. If they are having a marked effect on a person many months or years later, it may be suitable to look at a type of therapy that looks into the past.

Interpersonal Therapy is especially useful for cases of Depression

6. IPT isn’t just for depression

While IPT was designed for depression, it can be used for other mental health conditions too. It is mainly used for depression, though IPT can be relevant for many people.

Research shows that IPT can be effective in treating some Eating Disorders and Bipolar Disorder [2]. It is feasible that many people could benefit from IPT – especially those who struggle with relationships.

7. IPT requires the patient to acknowledge their contribution to relationship problems

One of the most difficult aspects of IPT is that the patient is expected to acknowledge that they have played a part in some of their relationship problems – something that can be difficult to do.

It can be easy to think that you didn’t do anything wrong, and that the other person was entirely at fault. But the therapist will encourage you to find areas you were responsible for, which is something that isn’t easy for many people.

8. IPT requires active commitment

For a patient to get the most out of IPT, they need to fully commit to the process. This involves being attentive to the therapist, being truthful and co-operative.

Most importantly, the patient needs to be willing to put into practice what they have learned during therapy sessions. This will help the patient to maximise their chances of success with IPT – with the aim of seeing a marked improvement in their mental well-being.

See Also


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[1] Cuijpers, P., Geraedts, A., van Oppen, P., Andersson, G., Markowitz, M., & van Straten, A. (2011). Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Depression: A Meta-Analysis. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 168 (6), p581-592.

[2] Weissman, M. M., & Markowitz, J. C. (1998). An Overview of Interpersonal Psychotherapy. In: Markowitz, J. C Interpersonal Psychotherapy. London: American Psychiatric Press. p1-33.