Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a short-term treatment originally developed for depression to address interpersonal issues as a depression therapy. Research has found that IPT can be just as beneficial as antidepressants for mild to moderate forms of depression. Although it was first used as depression therapy for adults, it has been used with children and teenagers with depression.
IPT believes depression happens within the context of interpersonal relationships. Therapy therefore examines interpersonal issues and how depression is associated with a person’s relationships.
Interpersonal Therapy and Relationships
IPT is goal oriented and solution focused, striving for rapid results. In the long-term, it is the therapists hope that the client will develop better communication and social skills, thus learning to manage their depression.
IPT is an instruction-based treatment that is practiced in a step by step fashion. The IPT therapist follows these steps closely in order to replicate the results seen in depression therapy studies using IPT. There are three steps to IPT:
- Symptom formation
- Social functioning
- Personality issues
Interpersonal Therapy and Depression
Because ITP is short term, it does not address personality disorders or dysfunction. The IPT therapist finds specific problems in the patient’s interactions with family and friends and identifies how this is contributing to their depression. Then those problems are addressed and the patient sees a reduction in their depression symptoms.
The patient’s depression symptoms are only discussed in therapy as they pertain to their interpersonal relationships. The IPT therapist works collaboratively with the patient to identify and improve significant problems in relation to others.
The therapist deliberately limits the number of problems to one or two in order to maintain focus. The hope is that the patient will take the problem solving techniques used to fix one problem and use them for other issues. The types of problems addressed in IPT therapy are as follows:
- Interpersonal conflicts. These are conflicts that arise in marital, family, social, school, or work relationships. The conflict typically stems from the different expectations of each party involved.
- Role transitions. A change in role is often from a change in circumstance, such as a career change or the end of a relationship. These types of events require flexibility and adaptation.
- Grief and loss. Grief and significant is the cause of significant stress and situational depression. Grief becomes a problem when it is not processed and bereavement interferes with the person’s ability to function.
- Interpersonal deficits. This is in reference to having difficulties in communication and connecting with family and friends in interpersonal relationships. This can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression.
By focusing on the issues from each of these categories, the IPT therapist assists the person with depression in making the needed adjustments in relation interpersonal issues in their relationships.