What is Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)?
IPT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on relieving symptoms by improving interpersonal functioning. It addresses current problems and relationships rather than childhood or developmental issues. Therapists are active, non-neutral, supportive and hopeful, and they offer options for change.
- is structured
- is time-limited (active phase is usually 12–16 weeks)
- focuses on interpersonal relationships and communication
- focuses on here-and-now relationships
- aims to improve interpersonal functioning and social support.
IPT is delivered in one-to-one and group formats.
How does Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) work?
A central idea in IPT is that psychological symptoms can be understood as a response to current difficulties in everyday relationships with other people.
IPT focuses on four areas:
- conflict in relationships that is a source of tension and distress
- life changes, such as job loss or the birth of a child, that affect people's feelings about themselves and others
- grief and loss
- difficulties in starting or sustaining relationships
When people learn effective strategies for dealing with their relationship problems, their symptoms often improve.
The structure of IPT
The opening sessions (1-3) focus on collecting information and making decisions about the focus of therapy. The therapist helps the patient create a list of all the key relationships in the patient’s life (interpersonal inventory). These relationships are grouped according to the four main problem areas.
In the middle sessions (4 – 14), the patient concentrates on trying to improve the chosen problem area or areas with the support of the therapist. The patient and therapist work to develop solutions to the problems, and the patient tries to implement the solutions between sessions.
The final sessions (15 – 16) focus on dealing with any sense of loss associated with the end of therapy as well as reviewing the issues that were identified in the interpersonal inventory and the progress made in dealing with them.
Who can Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) benefit?
IPT is most often used during the acute phase of major depression, but it can also be provided as a maintenance treatment to help prevent relapse and recurrence of illness.
It is also used to treat:
- bulimia nervosa
- chronic fatigue
- mood disorders such as bipolar and dysthymic disorders.
IPT has been adapted to treat patients from adolescence to old age. It is effective as a stand-alone treatment and in combination with medication.
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