Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a type of treatment for patients with depression which focuses on past and present social roles and interpersonal interactions. During treatment, the therapist generally chooses one or two problem areas in the patient’s current life to focus on. Examples of areas covered are disputes with friends, family or co-workers, and also grief and loss and role transitions, such as retirement or divorce.  IPT does not attempt to delve into inner conflicts resulting from past experiences. Rather it attempts to help the patient find better ways to deal with current problems. IPT identifies four basic problem areas which contribute to depression. The therapist helps the patient determine which area is the most responsible for their depression and therapy is then directed at helping the patient deal with this problem area.

The four basic problem areas recognized by Interpersonal Therapy are:      

1. Unresolved grief – In normal bereavement, the person usually begins to return to normal functioning within a few months. Unresolved grief is generally grief which is delayed and experienced long after the loss or distorted grief, in which the person may not feel emotions, but instead experiences other symptoms.    

 2. Role disputes – Role disputes occur when the patient and significant people in his/her life have different expectations about their relationship.      

3. Role transitions – Depression may occur during life transitions when a person’s role changes and one doesn’t know how to cope with the change.   For example when one retires or when a loved one dies.   

4, Interpersonal deficits – This may be an area of focus if the patient has had problems with forming and maintaining good quality relationships.

Interpersonal Therapy, was developed for the treatment of depression and its efficacy for this application is backed up by several large-scale randomized control trials. It may also be used as couple’s therapy for those whose marital troubles contribute to their depression.   In addition, preliminary data show it to be of potential use in treating adolescent depression, dysthymic disorder, bipolar disorder and postpartum depression.