What Does IPC Stand For? The Definition And More

Updated October 3, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you’re familiar with the mental health field, then you know that many different types of therapy exist. What type of therapy a person receives depends on their wants, needs, and symptoms. There are also several varieties of mental health professionals. These individuals perform different types of therapy, counseling, or other services depending on their background and training. IPC is just one type of counseling that is available to help people going through various trials in life.

What Does IPC Stand For?

Are You Struggling With Your Mental Health?

IPC stands for interpersonal counseling. It stems from interpersonal therapy, or IPT, and has been shown to be extremely effective in clinical settings, especially in treating depression. Interpersonal therapy has been recognized as a valid form of psychotherapy for treating different mental health conditions, particularly mood disorders.

What Is IPT?

IPT differs from IPC, but they are related to one another. Knowing the definition of interpersonal therapy is crucial to understanding its derivative, interpersonal counseling. IPT is an evidence-based psychotherapy model that focuses on social roles and relationships and how to improve those relationships in the present. IPT can provide benefits such as improved relationships, healthier coping skills, and a reduction in negative behaviors.

IPT is used for psychological and mental health assessments and mental health therapy and care. It is considered a short-term therapy, usually lasting a few months. It has been shown to be effective in treating depression specifically, but over the years has expanded in relevance. IPT can also be used to treat addiction, eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, among others. IPT seeks to enrich one’s interpersonal relationships so that they can live a more stress-free life. Clients are usually welcome to come back for a follow-up session, but most of the work is done in a few months.

What Is IPC?

IPC, or interpersonal counseling, is a derivative of IPT and can be briefer yet more structured than IPT. What sets it apart is that it is designed to be used in non-clinical settings. According to an article published in the American Journal of Psychotherapy, IPC is well suited to primary care settings and can make mental health care more accessible.

The introduction of IPC has greatly reduced the strain on primary care physicians by providing them with a better ability to refer their patients to mental health professionals.

IPC is mostly used in primary care clinics that specialize in treating and counseling people who have symptoms of depression. IPC has shown effectiveness in reducing symptoms of depression and can be used by mental health practitioners who are trained as counselors but not psychiatrists.

What Does IPC Look Like?

Interpersonal therapy will look different for everyone, but it does have some identifiable features. In general, clients will meet with their therapist weekly for one-hour sessions for about 12 to 20 weeks. How often the client has sessions will depend on their needs, schedule, and what they want out of therapy. In addition, the severity of their depression or other mental health condition will affect how long they may need to engage in IPC.

The first phase of IPC can be thought of like an interview. The therapist will typically work to discover whether there are any patterns the client shows in their interpersonal relationships. They may look over the person’s history and assess their close relationships, whether familial, platonic, or romantic. The therapist isn’t there to judge, but merely to gather as much information as possible about the person’s life. The more they know, the more they may have the ability to help.

Next, the therapist will usually try to figure out which areas of their client’s life are causing the most distress. Maybe it’s a breakup, taking on a new role at work, or experiencing the death of a loved one. Once problem areas are identified, the therapist can begin to come up with a treatment plan. Sometimes, medication will be part of that process, but not always. Every situation is different.

Since mental health conditions often affect every aspect of one’s life, interpersonal relationships are usually no exception. The therapist can come up with tools that their client will use to cope, in addition to giving them strategies for having better interpersonal relationships. They may teach their client how to communicate more effectively or help them move past social anxiety.

If the client is committed to implementing these changes in their life and sticking to them, they can often see improvements over time. This improvement can occur in their personal life, mindset, and general mental health. Small changes add up to become habits, and that is what often makes all the difference.

The Doctors Behind IPC

A manual was written in 1983 by Dr. Gerald Klerman and Dr. Myrna Weissman based on interpersonal psychotherapy. They then developed a simplified version that was used to train professionals who were not mental health specialists so they could treat primary care patients who were experiencing depression symptoms. The doctor/authors called the manual Interpersonal Counseling.

The manual was updated in the 2000s to provide instructions to nurses, social workers, and others who are carefully chosen to be trained. In this way, efficient and cost-effective services and accessible care could be provided to people with mental health concerns.

When the Affordable Care Act was implemented in the U.S., it encouraged the mental health services to be expanded to allow previously uninsured people access to primary care. Most GPs are not trained in psychotherapy, and having IPC-trained personnel was seen as a way to relieve the pressure on GPs to provide therapy. Thus grew the expansion of care providers who were trained in IPC to treat people in a limited number of sessions.

IPC Training And Qualifications

It has been proven that those who have IPC training can offer low-cost and effective counseling for depression and lessen the burden on physicians. IPC personnel can identify and triage those who need to be in long-term care and find and suggest resources for them. At the same time, they can offer support until they are transitioned to care via a psychiatrist or a mental health facility offering more comprehensive treatment and/or medication.

IPC personnel can also identify those patients who do not require long-term treatment or can be categorized as having depressive symptoms that are less severe. They recognize that depression is often caused by a reaction to external issues. These issues can often be eliminated or neutralized through sessions with a mental health provider in which the individual learns healthy ways to cope.

Chosen trainees can receive IPC training via the use of videos, written materials, small group instructional sessions, and the IPC manual. Consultation between an IPC and IPT is possible, encouraged, and found to be very effective.

Effectiveness Of IPC

A study was conducted in 2013 to determine the effectiveness of IPC treatments, and it was found that IPC improves depressive symptoms and improves the patient's ability to function. The researchers concluded that IPC was effective in treating depression, with easy-to-convey information and a format that works well in primary care situations.

One study pointed to the efficacy of IPC when treating women with breast cancer who have depression. This study revealed decreased depression reported by the women and by their partners after participating in IPC sessions by telephone. Parents experiencing postpartum symptoms have also found IPC sessions helpful.

IPC is not limited to mental health professionals. Across the globe, nurses, social workers, and others have all received training in IPC. With more providers receiving training in IPC, the door is open for full outpatient mental health treatment — an option that current healthcare systems can benefit from greatly.

Who Should Use IPC?

IPC isn’t the only form of therapy available. In fact, there are many other types that may be a better match for you. Some of these include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), humanistic therapy, art therapy, psychoanalysis, and more. While IPC has traditionally been used to treat severe depression, it has been used in recent years to successfully manage symptoms of other mental health conditions. So, even if you don’t have depression, IPC could still help you with concerns you’re experiencing.

Whether IPC is the right fit for you depends on your needs and what your past experiences have been like. The best thing you can do is talk with your doctor or a mental health professional to figure out which option might be most fitting for you.

Getting The Help You Need

Are You Struggling With Your Mental Health?

If you find yourself in need of professional mental health care, there are many resources available for you. Know that you are not alone when you seek treatment. BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that can help you find the tools and assistance you need on your mental health journey. You only need a phone, tablet, or computer and an internet connection to get started. Once you sign up, you can be matched with a qualified mental health provider within hours. Over time, you can hopefully see plenty of positive results and improvements in your life and interpersonal relationships.


Interpersonal counseling can be a quick and useful method for helping manage symptoms of depression and other mental health concerns. Having this accessible short-term option available has already helped lots of people get the support they need to move forward with life.

Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:

What does IPC standards stand for?
What is the full name for IPC?
What are IPC sections?
What is IPC training?
What does IPC stand for in high school?
What does IPC stand for in privacy?
What is punishment in IPC?
How many laws are there in IPC?
Who has written IPC?
Is IPC a part of Constitution?

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns

Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.