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What is Interpersonal Therapy?

Interpersonal Therapy

According to WHO, an estimated 3.8% of the population experience depression, including 5% of adults (4% among men and 6% among women) and 5.7% of adults older than 60 years. Approximately 280 million people in the world have depression. One of the therapy that has played a pivotal role in managing depression among individuals is Interpersonal therapy.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is a short-term, evidence-based form of psychotherapy that focuses on improving interpersonal relationships and addressing emotional issues. It was initially developed in the 1970s by Gerald Klerman and Myrna Weissman as a treatment for depression. Still, it has since been adapted and used to address various mental health concerns. IPT is typically delivered in 12-16 sessions, although the duration can vary depending on the individual's needs. This blog will help you learn about the therapy and how it can help you live better.

Understanding Interpersonal Therapy: A Path to Improved Relationships and Mental Health

In a world where the complexities of our daily relationships can often weigh us down, exploring practical ways to improve our interpersonal functioning and overall mental well-being is essential. Interpersonal therapy (IPT) emerges as a beacon of hope in this context, offering a unique approach to talk therapy that centers around current relationships and the challenges we face within them.

IPT aims to help individuals identify and address relationship problems and develop better interpersonal skills. It focuses on four key areas:

Grief: IPT helps individuals process and cope with grief and loss, such as the death of a loved one or the end of a significant relationship.

Role transitions: Life changes, such as marriage, divorce, retirement, or starting a new job, can be stressful and lead to emotional difficulties. IPT helps individuals adjust to these transitions.

Interpersonal disputes: Conflicts and disagreements with others can be a source of emotional distress. IPT helps individuals navigate and resolve these conflicts more effectively.

Interpersonal deficits: Some people may have difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships due to social anxiety, shyness, or low self-esteem. IPT helps individuals improve their interpersonal skills and build more satisfying relationships.

Interpersonal therapy is a form of psychotherapy that stands apart by its focus on addressing interpersonal issues and relationships rather than delving into past events, trauma, or developmental concerns. It operates on several fundamental principles, including

A Focused time frame: Typically spanning 12 to 16 weeks, IPT offers a structured and time-bound approach to therapy.

Addressing Current Relationships: IPT hones in on your current relationships, making it a relevant therapy for addressing your immediate concerns.

Interpersonal Therapy for Communication: A core aspect of Interpersonal Therapy for Communication is enhancing your communication skills and improving the quality of your interpersonal relationships.

Enhancing Social Support: IPT aims to bolster your social support network and elevate your interpersonal functioning to promote better mental health.

Group or Individual Settings: IPT can be conducted in a group therapy setting or through one-on-one private sessions, providing flexibility to cater to your preferences and needs.

While Interpersonal Therapy for Depression was initially designed as a short-term treatment for major depression, it has proven effective in addressing a wide range of mental health conditions, including:

  • Interpersonal Therapy for Anxiety
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  •  Eating disorders
  • Dysthymia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Perinatal and postpartum depression
  • Substance abuse and use disorders
  • Social anxiety disorder

IPT also excels in improving essential relationships in your life. It starts by taking inventory of your current interpersonal connections, allowing you to address issues related to:

  • Grief
  •  Relationship conflicts
  • Major life changes
  • Role disputes
  • Role transitions
  • Interpersonal deficits.


The Mechanism Behind IPT

Initially developed to treat major depression in a highly structured manner, IPT has evolved to cater to individuals of varying age groups, including adolescents and the elderly. It operates on the premise that your symptoms may arise from challenges within your everyday life and your relationships with the people in it.

Key facts

Affordable, effective, and feasible strategies exist to promote, protect, and restore mental health.

The need for action on mental health is indisputable and urgent.

Mental health has intrinsic and instrumental value and is integral to our well-being.

A complex interplay of individual, social, and structural stresses and vulnerabilities determines mental health.

Interpersonal therapy process aligns in four key areas:

1. Major Life Changes: Events like the birth of a child, the loss of a loved one, job changes, or other significant life events can deeply impact your self-perception and outlook on the world.

2. Relationship Conflicts: Serious conflicts within your relationships, which cause distress or hinder your ability to function, are a central focus of IPT.

3. Establishing and Maintaining Relationships: If you find initiating or sustaining relationships challenging, IPT can provide valuable insights and skills to improve in this area.

4. Grief and Loss: Navigating grief and loss is an essential component of IPT, allowing you to address these emotions constructively.

Phases of Interpersonal Therapy

IPT follows a structured approach divided into three distinct phases:

Phase 1 (Sessions 1 – 3): In the initial phase, your therapist gathers extensive information about your life and relationships. Together, you create an interpersonal inventory, cataloging all your relationships, which then helps identify which areas of IPT treatment to focus on.

Phase 2 (Sessions 4 – 14): The middle sessions are dedicated to actively working on improving the aspects of your life that you wish to enhance. Your IPT therapist provides guidance and support while you work collaboratively to develop solutions to your interpersonal challenges.

Phase 3 (Sessions 15 – 16): The final sessions revolve around addressing any lingering grief or loss you might be experiencing. You revisit the issues you initially identified and assess the progress you've made in dealing with them.


Types of Interpersonal Therapy

There are two primary forms of Interpersonal Therapy Techniques to consider:

1. Metacognitive Interpersonal Therapy (MIT): This is one of the integrative Interpersonal Therapy Techniques and can be beneficial if you struggle with emotional inhibitions related to a personality disorder. MIT helps you identify and deal with emotions more effectively.

2. Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy (DIT): Also known as Psychodynamic, interpersonal therapy, or mentalization-based therapy, DIT enhances your understanding of your own emotions and thoughts while fostering insight into the thoughts and feelings of others.

Embracing the Benefits of IPT

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) offers several benefits for individuals struggling with emotional and interpersonal challenges. Here are some of the critical advantages of IPT:

Effective Treatment for Various Disorders: IPT was initially developed as a treatment for depression and has since been adapted to address various mental health issues. It has been found to be effective in treating not only depression but also conditions like anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and personality disorders.

Focus on Relationships: IPT recognizes the importance of interpersonal relationships in our lives. It helps individuals identify and address issues within their relationships, which can be a significant source of emotional distress. By improving these relationships, individuals often experience better overall mental well-being.

Structured and Time-Limited: IPT is typically a short-term therapy, which means it can provide significant benefits in a relatively brief period. A typical course of IPT may last 12-16 sessions, making it a practical option for those looking for more immediate results.

Evidence-Based: IPT is a well-researched and evidence-based therapy with a strong track record of effectiveness. Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated its efficacy in improving symptoms and enhancing the quality of life for individuals with various mental health concerns.

Problem-Focused: IPT is highly focused on addressing specific problems within interpersonal relationships. It helps individuals identify and work through issues related to grief, role transitions, interpersonal disputes, and deficits, providing practical tools and strategies for resolution.

Improved Communication Skills: IPT helps individuals develop better communication and interpersonal skills, which can lead to healthier and more satisfying relationships both in personal and professional life.


Interpersonal therapy is a powerful tool for improving mental health and enhancing relationships. If you're navigating the complexities of your interpersonal world or dealing with mental health conditions, IPT might be the right path for you.

Remember, seeking professional help can make a significant difference in your journey toward better mental well-being. If you're considering IPT or any form of therapy, consider exploring convenient, affordable, and opinionated counseling from the comfort of your home. Discover the transformative potential of therapy and take a step towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Frequently Asked Questions

IPT treatment strategies focus on four specific interpersonal problem areas: grief, interpersonal role disputes, role transitions, and interpersonal deficits.

IPT focuses on addressing interpersonal challenges, while CBT focuses on identifying thought patterns that may negatively impact your behaviors and, therefore, your mood.

In the Interpersonal Therapy Process, people are encouraged to reflect on their relationships and discuss their interactions with those around them. Interpersonal Therapy for Anxiety and Interpersonal Therapy for Relationships is designed to help people who have experienced a major loss or chronic stress and its subsequent symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

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