Interpersonal psychotherapy can be defined as a psychotherapy-based approach that has been used for over the past 20 years. It is a way of treating individuals experiencing depressive disorders. IPT usually focuses on interpersonal relationships and the individual social function of the clients. According to the IPT highlights, depression is caused by four factors. When working in collaboration with an interpersonal therapist, the client can identify which of the four areas have a higher impact on their depression. Once such has been put into determination, therapy can shift toward coping or/and healing with the areas the therapists need to identify.

Four main problems cause depression. These include the following.

  1. Unresolved grief: A loved one’s loss is usually accompanied by difficult moments and grieving looks differently for various people. However, there is typically a link between a healthy grieve and what circumstances could negatively impact the health of the individuals (referred to as complicated and unresolved grief). A person who has experienced healthy grief can return to his/her normal functionality within a few months (although this does not affect taking away sadness and feelings attached to the depression). Unresolved grief can be viewed in these two perspectives; first, grief usually negatively influences an individual’s return to normalcy for an extended time frame. Second, the grief experienced and delayed long after the occurrence of a loss.
  2. Role disputes: The Role disputes occurs when a significant individual and a client (a parent, a spouse, a close friend, etc.) have a contradictory expectation about their individual goals and roles in an agreement/relationship.
  3. Role transitions: Depression is usually a major crisis for individuals experiencing major life transitions. Major life transitions usually involve a change in individual roles (such as retiring, becoming a new father, joining a new institution, etc.), which can leave many uncertain about what to do to cope with the prevalent situation.
  4. Interpersonal deficits: If a person has a history of constraints in the formation and the sustenance of relationships, this can usually relate to the deterioration of their well-being and mental health. The interpersonal deficits area also involves involvement in unfulfilling relationships or social isolation.

Interpersonal psychotherapy suggests that improving individual communication patterns, interpersonal relationships, and the capacity for grieving due to relationship loss, personal well-being, and mental health will be improved.

During its origination, the IPT is, to some extent, the psychodynamic approach to therapy is also greater. This is because there is a similar focus on individual emotion and significant relations between the therapists and the clients. It is, however, worth noting the distinctness of IPT relative to the psychodynamic therapy in that it is mainly focused on the present-day. Therefore, it creates more emphasis on the current situations faced by the client and the struggles affecting the relationships (and the resolution strategy) instead of the exploration of the deeper sources of their symptoms. Interpersonal therapy is also strongly based on behavioral and cognitive-based approaches. It aims to evaluate individual maladaptive behaviors and thoughts, but only as long as they keep the right and healthy relationships.

What To Expect In Interpersonal Psychotherapy?

IPT is many people’s attractive alternative. This is because it is time-limited (usually 16 weeks). According to the existing research studies, the short-term IPT nature enables therapists to retain for their treatment course compared to the long-term treatment approach where the rate of client dropouts is prevalent. According to studies, interpersonal psychotherapy is usually less directive than other approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. However, interpersonal psychotherapy has a definite structure as a result of the approach framework. This framework can be viewed in the three phases related to interpersonal therapy.

Phase 1 – the first three sessions form a platform from which the therapist will access the symptoms and signs which affect a client and have an efficient exploration of their relationship and social history. In this phase, the client’s unhealthy expectations and unhealthy patterns are evaluated and determined. (Problem areas).

Phase 2 – the next several sessions form a basis from where the therapists will assist the clients by ensuring effective implementation of the healthy strategies that cope up and relate directly to the pre-identified areas, which are associated with the cause of the problems.

Phase 3 – the last phase is usually aimed at assisting the client in planning for maintenance as they begin to undergo a phase of transition away from therapy back to their own normal functionality. This phase can also be used to address any other problem areas identified during the therapeutic process.

An interpersonal therapist is likely to assign therapeutic homework in some instances throughout treatment, along with an ongoing progress assessment and emerging struggles. It is also critical to note that IPT clients must have an internal motivation towards change. Moreover, they should be willing to explore their own role in presenting the problems to ensure that the treatment process is effective.

Who Can Benefit From IPT?

Although the treatment of depression was the original intention for the invention of interpersonal communication, it has been applied in many fields over the years to achieve an effective effect. More and more research studies have been conducted regarding IPT. Hitherto, interpersonal therapy is considered a flexible and versatile psychotherapeutic approach; thus, it has largely been used to treat diagnoses and health struggles associated with mental disorders. Interpersonal therapy is nowadays considered an empirically validated treatment for the various infections to ensure progress in the treatment of mental disorders. Such infections include depression, dysthymia, issues related to alcohol and substance issues, disordered eating manners, post-traumatic stress, phobia associated with social issues, postpartum depression, and bipolar disorder. More studies have been conducted to ensure that mental disorders victims have received proper medication to mitigate the risks attached.