What Is Interpersonal Psychotherapy?

Updated July 11, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a type of treatment which is designed to help people who struggle with various mood disorders, according to Psychology Today. Another focal point of interpersonal psychotherapy involves improving the quality of relationships with others and helping the patient better themselves in social settings.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy Can Help With Managing Mood Disorders

The Inner Workings Of Interpersonal Psychotherapy

Generally, when a person has to undergo interpersonal psychotherapy, there are a host of issues which they are faced with. Some of the issues addressed by interpersonal therapy commonly include grief, isolation from others, deficits, grief, unsettling transitions in life and more. Typically, interpersonal psychotherapy treatment lasts for approximately three to four months.

Phase One

Phase one of interpersonal psychotherapy involves the assessment of relationship patterns, past traumas, recurring themes in interactions with others, and the existence of depressive symptoms. Generally, one to three sessions is required before the specialist can develop a concrete gathering of the variables above.

For phase one of interpersonal psychotherapy to work, the patient must be willing to open up to the therapist. This can be challenging, particularly if the afflicted individual has not had the best relationships with other people. Nevertheless, the fact that they are willing to undergo the process of interpersonal psychotherapy is a major step forward. For the process to be successful, however, the patient must be willing to push themselves, let the specialist in, and allow themselves to be helped.

Phase Two

Following the completion of phase one, phase two of interpersonal psychotherapy involves the implementation of solutions for various issues which were discovered in the previous phase. The nature of the suggested treatment solutions will be based upon the patient, their history, and what they are currently struggling with. However, each solution is ultimately designed to better the patient, help them achieve a better quality of life and improve their ability to function in social settings while maintaining healthy relationships with other people.

When going through phase two, it's important for patients to understand that solutions take time. Moreover, the solutions which the interpersonal psychotherapist suggests may not always be comfortable or easy. By doing the work and pushing themselves, patients will eventually notice improvements and steps forward. Getting better and improving the quality of one's interpersonal relationships is not always easy, but in the long run, it certainly makes a difference and leads to a more fulfilling quality of life.

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Phase Three

Phase three of interpersonal psychotherapy treatment generally comes along as the results from phase two begin to materialize. In this case, the aims of the treatment might change. Individuals who struggle with interpersonal relationships generally have more than one area which is holding them back. After one issue has been thoroughly addressed, it's important to move on to the next in order to ensure the effectiveness of the psychotherapy process.

By phase three, patients who are undergoing interpersonal psychotherapy should feel at least somewhat more comfortable than they did during phases one and two. At this point in the treatment process, the results should already be starting to manifest; this should, in turn, provide a sense of confidence in the patient who is getting better and bettering their interpersonal skills.

What Makes for a Great Interpersonal Psychotherapist?

In and of itself, Interpersonal psychotherapy is an amazing treatment process; however, the quality of the process will be greatly impacted by the specialist who is working with the patient. For this very reason, knowing what makes for a great interpersonal psychotherapist is highly important.

Noting the Existence of Interpersonal Issues

The ability to take note of existing interpersonal issues is a critical skill for any interpersonal psychotherapist. After all, this is the inherent foundation of the treatment process. These issues must not only be identified but also ranked in order of importance. This ultimately allows the specialist to determine which issues should be tackled first throughout the therapy process. Any interpersonal psychotherapist who is unable to perform this task has no business working with patients.

Noting Communication Styles

Whenever an interpersonal psychotherapist works with a patient, that specialist has the duty of observing how the patient communicates. In many situations, communication styles can be very insightful into the issues which the patient might be facing as it pertains to their interpersonal relationships. The ability to effectively communicate with others is the lifeline of interpersonal relationships; after all, how can you maintain a connection with someone if you are unable to communicate with them effectively?


Last, but certainly not least, on the list of attributes which makes for a great interpersonal psychotherapist is the ability to listen. Believe it or not, one can learn a lot simply from listening to others, and in therapy, listening can be very revealing and informative. What someone says, how they say it and more can be extremely revealing and provides insight to the specialist.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy Can Help With Managing Mood Disorders

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Listening is not only beneficial for the interpersonal psychotherapist, but also the patient as well. People like to be listened to. They like to feel important, and they like to think that others care about what they have to say. When a patient feels like they are being heard and listened to, they're likelier to open up, which helps the interpersonal psychotherapist build rapport with the person they are helping. Anyone serious about helping others will most certainly need to be willing to listen to them.

Areas Where Interpersonal Psychotherapy Can Help

Interpersonal relationships are very broad and while interpersonal psychotherapy is designed to help people who struggle with the relationships as mentioned earlier, this type of treatment can also prove useful in a variety of other areas. By exploring the many ways in which interpersonal psychotherapy can make a difference, this opens the door for more and more individuals to receive treatment if they need it.

Upsetting Life Transitions

Believe it or not, interpersonal psychotherapy can be very helpful for people who are undergoing seriously upsetting life transitions. Some examples of these transitions can include divorce, the death of a loved one, loss of employment and more. Individuals who are undergoing these transitions may not require the same extent of therapy of those with serious interpersonal issues. However, the treatment can still be effective for a series of reasons.

When many people are faced with trauma or difficulties, they tend to shut out the world or isolate themselves. This may be a justifiable defense mechanism to them, but in the long run, it can prove to be harmful. Having healthy relationships with other people, even when times are tough is critical to enjoying a high quality of life. Interpersonal psychotherapy can help people maintain healthy relationships even when they are dealing with significant struggles of their own.

Conflicts Within Interpersonal Relationships

People who specialize in interpersonal psychotherapy are some of the most qualified individuals to assist in situations where conflict is involved between other individuals. There are a variety of reasons why conflict might exist. Sometimes it's due to a misunderstanding; in other cases, the conflict could be due to unresolved issues or simply growing apart from one another. Regardless of what the reason may be, it never hurts to work with a professional who can get to the bottom of the issue and help all parties involved arrive at the best possible resolution.

Lack of Fulfillment in Existing Interpersonal Relationships

Interpersonal psychotherapists can truly play a role in helping individuals who feel trapped in unfulfilling relationships. Generally, when this issue is present, it's indicative that the person's needs in the relationship are not being met. Perhaps he or she feels overlooked, unappreciated or uncared for. There may also be certain situations where the relationship is toxic and getting out of it is the best possible solution. By working with an interpersonal psychotherapist, an afflicted individual can get the help they need while gaining tools to enter into fulfilling, healthy relationships in the future.

In Closing

Interpersonal psychotherapy is a form of treatment which has yielded favorable results for countless individuals. No matter who you are or what you may be going through, life gets tough sometimes. The dynamics of a relationship can change, and sometimes this can cause confusion, uncertainty and a lack of clarity of what one should do next. However, working with a professional who specializes in interpersonal relationships can be a very eye-opening experience.

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Are you going through a difficult time in your life? Are you struggling with various relationships? Are you dealing with or coming out of an upsetting transition in life? Regardless of who you are, where you come from, or what your story is, it's important to understand that you are not alone. There are resources available and many people who can help you.

Here at BetterHelp, our number one priority is to be of assistance to those who come to us. Don't hesitate to reach out today and make the rest of your life the best of your life.

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