Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) may be a form of psychotherapy during which the main focus is on a patient’s relationships with peers and members of the family and therefore the way they see themselves. The discovery of Interpersonal Psychotherapy may be a great example of scientific serendipity, in that, it was discovered by accident. IPT is based on exploring issues in relationships with other people.

Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is an empirically supported treatment (EST) that follows a highly structured and time-limited approach and is intended to be completed within 12–16 weeks. IPT is based on the principle that relationships and life events impact mood and that the reverse is also true. It has been developed by Gerald Klerman and Myrna Weissman for major depression within the 1970s and has since been adapted for other mental disorders.

The main goal of IPT is to improve the quality of a client’s interpersonal relationships and social functioning to help reduce their distress. IPT provides strategies to resolve problems within four key areas. It is recommended in treatment guidelines as a psychosocial treatment of choice, and IPT and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is the only psychosocial interventions in which psychiatry residents in the United States are mandated to be trained for professional practice.

IPT was originally developed to treat major emotional disorders. Originally named “high contact therapy”, IPT was first developed in 1969 at Yale University as part of a study designed by Gerald Klerman, Myrna Weissman and colleagues to check the efficacy of an antidepressant with and without psychotherapy as maintenance treatment of depression. IPT has been studied in many research protocols since its development. NIMH-TDCRP demonstrated the efficacy of IPT as a maintenance treatment and delineated some contributing factors.

The theory behind Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) can be as complex as we want it to be, drawing from attachment theory and the personality theory of Harry Stack Sullivan. Sullivan first noted that personality is shaped by our interactions with other people and encouraged therapists to explore the tensions clients experience in key relationships. IPT does this by helping clients to pay close attention to their (current) social interactions and explore interpersonal tensions and conflicts.

The content of IPT’s therapy was inspired by Attachment theory and Harry Stack Sullivan’s Interpersonal psychoanalysis. Social theory is also influenced in a lesser role to emphasize the qualitative impact of social support networks for recovery. Unlike psychodynamic approaches, IPT does not include a personality theory or attempt to conceptualize or treat personality but focuses on humanistic applications of interpersonal sensitivity.

The aim of IPT is to assist the patient to enhance interpersonal and intrapersonal communication skills within relationships and to develop a social support network with realistic expectations to deal with the crises precipitated in distress and to weather ‘interpersonal storms’.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) also used effectively to treat eating disorders, perinatal depression, drug and alcohol addiction, dysthymia, and other mood disorders including bipolar disorder. IPT differs from other traditional psychodynamic approaches in that it examines current rather than past relationships, and recognizes but does not focus on internal conflicts.

The IPT therapist helps identify areas in need of skill-building to enhance the client’s relationships and reduce the depressive symptoms. Over time, the client learns to link changes in mood to events occurring in his/her relationships, communicate feelings and expectations for the relationships, and problem-solve solutions to difficulties within the relationships. IPT has been used as psychotherapy for depressed elderly, with its emphasis on addressing interpersonally relevant problems. IPT appears especially similar temperament to the life changes that a lot of people experience in their later years.


Information sources:

  3. wikipedia