Interpersonal therapy (also known as interpersonal psychotherapy) was first developed in the 1970s when tricyclic antidepressants were the main treatment for major depressive disorder. In fact, the tactics and techniques of interpersonal psychotherapy were designed for use in a treatment trial that would be used to determine the best combination and duration of treatment with tricyclic antidepressants and psychotherapy. This form of psychotherapy proved to be more effective than anyone imagined in emotional maintenance treatment.
Now, interpersonal psychotherapy, along with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), are recognized as the two most effective psychotherapeutic treatments for major depression and other mental health concerns. This treatment can be received in person or through online therapy services, and either individually or in a group setting. This treatment has also proven effective for anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, bipolar disorder, persistent mild depression (dysthymia), eating disorders, and social phobia.
Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a form of psychotherapy that takes into account your physical, mental, and social vulnerabilities, along with cultural and spiritual factors. Interpersonal therapy’s main focus is on social roles and interpersonal relationships because these factors have proven to be significant precursors to major depression and other mood disorders.
Interpersonal therapy is a scientific approach that builds upon interpersonal theory and psychosocial research on depression. In fact, interpersonal psychotherapy was originally developed as a research intervention, so it wasn’t until recently that anyone beyond researchers was using this form of psychotherapy. However, the research success of interpersonal therapy from the 1970s to the studies done by NIMH’s Depression Collaborative Research Program was consistent. Over time, it became clearer and clearer that interpersonal therapy was effective as a treatment of depression and should be utilized beyond research clinics.
Because of this research success, mental health professionals were eager to try this technique for their patients. Therefore, in 2004, an article in World Psychiatry announced that interpersonal therapy was officially being practiced by clinicians. Just two years earlier, the International Society of Interpersonal Psychotherapy was officially incorporated and created its own credentialing processes to ensure therapists were properly trained in this newer form of psychotherapy.
What makes interpersonal psychotherapy different from CBT are the concepts and techniques behind the treatment. First, the person with the disorder is viewed as having a medical condition. It isn't their fault, and there is no reason to blame themselves for not doing better or trying harder. Depressive disorders (such as major depression), mood disorders, anxiety disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, etc., happen to them; it is not caused by them.
Another unique feature of interpersonal psychotherapy is that it highlights the connection between the client's mood and any disturbing life situations (such as grief, divorce, or losing a job) that may have caused or compounded their disorder. Furthermore, interpersonal psychotherapy is a short-term, present-focused treatment method that is based on attachment theory, communication theory, and the biopsychosocial/cultural/spiritual genesis of disorders. Therefore, it incorporates multiple theories and ideas from multiple behavioral sciences.
Every type of therapy has its own goals. For instance, CBT has the goal of changing thoughts so that feelings and behaviors can also change. For interpersonal psychotherapy, the primary goals are to reduce psychiatric symptoms, work on relationships, and build a network of social support, all while teaching interpersonal skills and working on interpersonal deficits.
Several concepts, also called tactics, make up the core of interpersonal psychotherapy. Aside from the biopsychosocial/cultural/spiritual basis of interpersonal psychotherapy already discussed, this assumes an Interpersonal Triad and makes use of an Interpersonal Inventory. The main treatment with this interpersonal triad and interpersonal inventory takes place as you and the therapist discuss your problems and agree on goals for improving your coping skills.
Interpersonal psychotherapy theory suggests that depression, mood disorders, and other mental disorders begin after an acute interpersonal crisis. This crisis may be somewhat relieved, or it might be exacerbated, depending on your attachment style and biopsychosocial/cultural/spiritual strengths and weaknesses. If you also have inadequate social support, the problem with depressive symptoms or major depressive disorder is compounded further. The Interpersonal Triad is this combination of factors that add up to cause your distress. The Triad includes:
When all three factors in the Triad are going against you, it's more likely you'll succumb to a mental disorder.
Interpersonal psychotherapy may be quite different from what you imagine it to be. It is a focused, intensive, brief, and time limited modality that follows a specific set of rules and procedures. So, what is it like to see a therapist for interpersonal psychotherapy? Although your therapist will tell you everything you need to know to complete interpersonal psychotherapy, learning more may make the experience less stressful for you.
Interpersonal psychotherapy is a highly-structured treatment that has three distinct phases. No matter what happens during the time limited 45-60-minute weekly sessions, treatment continues along this path in standard interpersonal psychotherapy. The three phases are:
If you begin interpersonal psychotherapy, you might begin by taking a test called the IP Inventory. This tool helps the therapist understand where you're getting or lacking social support, who you confide in and how healthy those relationships are, who you're romantically attached to, the status of your current relationships and past relationships, how you communicate with others in daily life, interpersonal issues or interpersonal disputes, and any problems in your relationship that might have led to your depressive episode.
This is when a therapist might study references to your environment, previous or current mental illness, relationships, and medication history all come into play. The efficacy of this stage can be found through success in those working through trauma, finding new strategies to approach depressive episodes, and the principles at play.
Since interpersonal psychotherapy is a scientific treatment, it has specific rules about how to proceed. The first step after the IP assessment is to identify the problem area to focus on or any interpersonal deficits. In interpersonal psychotherapy, there are only four options to choose from here. They are:
Many of the techniques used in interpersonal psychotherapy are quite different from those used in cognitive-behavioral or other types. The focus, as always with interpersonal psychotherapy, is on improving interpersonal relationships.
Interpersonal incidents are things that happen in a relationship. When you or your loved ones behave in ways that keep you from meeting your needs, you have a crisis that may lead to symptoms of a mental disorder, such as depressive symptoms. The therapist must examine and analyze these interpersonal relationships to help you find better ways of behaving within them while improving your interpersonal functioning and addressing any interpersonal deficits.
Role-playing is a common technique used in many different treatment modalities for interpersonal relationships. It is especially helpful in interpersonal psychotherapy because it gives you the opportunity to explore interpersonal situations you're in and work on your interpersonal skills.
Your therapist may do an exercise called communication analysis to help you find problems in your interpersonal communication skills. You begin by thinking of an interaction that happened between you and another person. You write out the scene as if you were writing a play, including the setting and all the words and gestures of the "actors."
The therapist will read your "movie script" and may ask you questions about it. For example, they might ask you what you or the other person intended when they said or did something. They might then ask you to tell what they actually communicated.
After you've analyzed this incident of interpersonal communication, it might proceed to a role-playing exercise in which the therapist coaches you on better ways to handle such an incident.
Explaining interpersonal behavior requires a certain amount of detail. Theories and details help explain this treatment, but at this point, you may be wondering, "Yes, but what's the bottom line? How does interpersonal psychotherapy really help with mental disorders like depression and social phobia?"
The key is in the word "interpersonal." Interpersonal psychotherapy is designed for situations where the problem is poor interpersonal functioning.
Interpersonal psychotherapy assumes that what happens between you and the people you interact with is the cause of your mental disorder. Assuming that is true, the best possible solution is to improve your skills.
Perhaps you find yourself having a crisis. You're grieving, arguing with your partner, or settling into a new position at work. Perhaps you live with depressed adolescents, or you have recurrent depression. If you recognize that you're getting depressed, anxious, developing mood disorders, or otherwise disturbed, you may realize that the problem lies in your skills. If so, you might want to try interpersonal psychotherapy for emotional maintenance treatment and help in an interpersonal context or to treat mood disorders and major depression. Treatment progresses with you, ensuring that interpersonal psychotherapy is helping you through clinical treatment guidelines to accomplish your treatment goals.
Finding a therapist for interpersonal psychotherapy may be easy or difficult, depending on what your personal resources are and where you live. Transportation may be an issue for people who live in rural areas or have to drive through heavy traffic to reach the therapist's office.
Fortunately, you can have convenient, inexpensive mental health treatment through individual or group therapy by going online to BetterHelp if you are looking into treating depression or any other mental health disorder. There, licensed therapists with clinical training are available to help their patient's ability to learn better ways to interact, build their support system, and gain physical and emotional strength no matter if they are struggling with mood disorders or looking for help with big life changes.
With BetterHelp, you can have treatment wherever you like. You can remain anonymous if you choose, too. In addition, there are therapists with different specialties so that you can choose someone with experience in the type of therapy you prefer, whether that's cognitive-behavioral or IPT.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
What Is The Focus Of IPT?
Unlike other types of therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy is a time-limited and evidence-based approach to improving the quality of a clients interpersonal issues and relationships, as well as their social functioning, in an effort to reduce distress. There are four key areas that interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) focuses on: addressing interpersonal deficits, managing unresolved grief, handling difficult life decisions, and dealing with disputes stemming from conflict. Again, IPT is a time limited approach that typically takes 12 to 16 weeks for individuals, unlike other longer types of counseling that focus on long-term symptom reduction. This form has still proven to be helpful with a range of mental health and general health issues such as major depression or depressive symptoms, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, bulimia nervosa, mood disorders, and more. If you believe this strategy may help, find a therapist near you who specializes in this approach.
Which Technique Is Used In IPT?
There are a variety of techniques that may be used in this form of psychotherapy, such as role-playing, which helps the patient relate to how they interpret the world psychiatry wise, as well as address any symptoms that may occur as a result. These pressing relational problems with family members or others are focused on, and the benefits are seen for the person wishing to deal with social isolation or relationship difficulties. Interpersonal psychotherapy can also be used to help a client work through life changes, life events, job loss, or life transitions. The exact type of technique or treatment process used during interpersonal psychotherapy as maintenance will depend entirely on a client. Find a therapist or counselor who can help and who specializes in interpersonal psychotherapy if you believe this strategy can be effective in your unique situation.
When do you use interpersonal therapy?
IPT is used to discuss and analyze relational problems, role transitions, or even a new business interest. If you're looking for help with mood disorders, like anxiety disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression symptoms, ect, then a group setting or behavioral therapy might be a more effective treatment. Research institutions, like the National Institutes of Health, have performed meta analysis on the effectiveness of IPT, proving the research success of this form of treatment. Counselors use interpersonal therapy with families, couples, children, and individuals alike.
What Is The Difference Between Cognitive Behavioral Therapy And IPT?
CBT, as outlined by the World Psychiatry and many research program studies, typically focuses on the modification of biased information processing and dysfunctional beliefs that arise from social anxiety or mood disorders. On the other hand, interpersonal psychotherapy focuses on resolving interpersonal behavioral patterns that may play a large role in the maintenance of a major depressive disorder or anxiety. The goals of both types are to better a client’s life and outlook on situations, but the exact method of achieving this goal through maintenance treatment varies from type to type. Whether a person is facing postpartum depression, knows depressed adolescents or adults in their family, or faces a mental health crisis, therapy can help. Find a therapist in your area who specializes in interpersonal psychotherapy if your issues stem from relationships with others in your life.
How Long Does IPT Last?
In the United States, the guide to interpersonal psychotherapy outlines how IPT is a time based treatment that helps the patient by addressing interpersonal issues in three stages. There is a beginning stage that typically lasts one to three sessions, a middle stage that varies in length, and an end stage that usually is three sessions. All in all, this process can take around 12-16 weeks of treatment where a therapist helps the patient deal with a group setting or other interpersonal issues that may be causing depressive symptoms. The treatment of depression or anxiety with primary care interpersonal psychotherapy takes a different approach that cognitive based therapies, but the treatment guidelines are evidence based and supported. Mental health professionals can help you to work through and resolve any mental health problems you may be experiencing, and patients should understand the context, benefits, forms, and approached to IFT before beginning their journey.
What Are The 3 Types Of Therapy?
There are three main types, all of which are outlined in World Psychiatry and examined through research program studies: psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and humanistic therapy. Psychodynamic therapy places an emphasis on the unconscious mind and actions that may result from suppressed emotions. This could be tackling the treatment of depression or general maintenance treatment that can help a client diagnose the underlying cause for their actions. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses more on the manifestation of behaviors themselves and how they contribute to existing symptoms within the treatment of depression, anxiety, or other maintenance treatment. Finally, humanistic therapy tends to place more focus on a holistic approach to therapy where the entire individual is examined, including their spirit. When trying to find a therapist for your needs, it’s important to choose a therapist who has practice in the type that you wish to undergo.
How Do I Choose A Therapist?
The importance of a good match between a client and a therapist will determine how effective this treatment option will be. First things first, ask a primary care physician if there are any therapists they can recommend or health information they can give you to help you make a decision. Secondly, determine why you are wishing to visit a therapist. For example, if the cause is due to an underlying condition such as bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, recurrent depression, bulimia nervosa, or some other cause, you will want to find a therapist or support group that relates to your issue. If your motivation to see a therapist is more general, then a general therapist from a treatment center will work just as well. The treatment of depression or anxiety, for example, can be long and arduous, so choosing a therapist who aligns with your requirements is important. Visit a treatment center or the world psychiatry site to see if you can find a therapist or a support group in your area.
How Long Should A Therapy Session Be?
A session may run different lengths of time depending on the type of therapy. The international society for interpersonal psychotherapy outlines that interpersonal therapists will typically take 12-16 weeks over 10+ sessions. These sessions may run for around 40-60 minutes, which is an ideal length of time as according to data from research program studies. Treatment center sessions may be shorter, especially if you are a first-time visitor, but 40-60 minutes is fairly standard. The goal of a therapy session is to gain as much as possible and whether the cause for your visit is something such as postpartum depression, depressed adolescents in your family, a support group not being enough, or any other reason, it’s important to find a therapist where they treat your time valuably.