Depression is not necessarily caused by an incident or a relationship. However, depression impacts relationships and can lead to issues in intimate relationships. In turn, issues with interpersonal relationships may lead to depression. Interpersonal therapy (IPT) seeks to help you properly connect with others and resolve issues that lead to your distress.

Several studies have demonstrated that IPT can be as effective as antidepressant medications in the treatment of depression. Psychiatrists often use IPT combined with medications.

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What is Interpersonal Therapy?

Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a time-limited, centered, evidence-based approach to mood disorders. The primary purpose of IPT is to increase the consistency of the client’s intimate interactions and social functioning and help reduce their anxiety. IPT lays out methods to address challenges in four main fields.

Next, it discusses psychological deficits, including social alienation or participation in unfulfilled partnerships. Second, it will help people cope with unresolved grief—if the onset of depression is related to the loss of a loved one, whether recent or historical. Third, IPT can assist with tough life changes, such as retirement, divorce, or relocation to another area.

Fourth, IPT is suggested for coping with relationship conflicts resulting from contradictory perceptions between spouses, family members, close friends, or colleagues.

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Interpersonal psychotherapy

How does Interpersonal Therapy work? 

Treatment typically starts with an appointment with the psychiatrist. Based on the issues you have identified, they will define the challenges of your intimate relationship and develop a recovery outline that is compatible with your priorities. You and your doctor are going to work on the main problems you’re trying to address. A standard schedule consists of up to 20 average hour-long counseling sessions.

IPT is similar to most mainstream psychotherapy (e.g., CBT) but it’s not about discovering the unconscious root of the present thoughts and actions. In this way, it is distinct from conventional types of psychotherapy, such as psychoanalysis.

Instead, IPT reflects on how more immediate problems in communicating with others lead to symptoms.  Symptoms of depression can complicate personal relationships. This also causes individuals with depression to shift within or to express anger or irritation towards others.

Feelings of sadness can arise for a variety of causes and can always accompany a significant shift in your life, but they don’t always have to be pursued. Such modifications or “adjustments” come into one of four categories:

  1. Adjusting challenges, also associated with changes in life, such as transfers, work cuts, etc.
  2. Role transition, start or end of a partnership or marriage, or diagnosis of a disease
  3. Role conflict, a relationship problem
  4. The interpersonal deficit, the lack of a significant incident in the life

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Your doctor will help to recognize the events that contributed to depression in your life. They will try to empower you with the resources you need to handle difficult feelings in constructive ways.

For example, they can give you realistic strategies about how to communicate more efficiently with family members or relationship partners.

These approaches may be structured to fulfill your emotional needs with the least friction possible, or even to accommodate the emotional needs of others.


This can be frustrating at first, but it can be a successful means of implementing new coping strategies to make them a routine over time.  Continued application of these strategies has been found to lead to a decline in depression over time.

What to expect from Interpersonal Therapy for depression? 

Interpersonal Therapy

IPT recovery normally consists of individual counseling sessions or group work that is done within 12 to 16 weeks. Treatment is structured—including homework, ongoing evaluation, and therapy interviews. The first phase of IPT typically includes one or three sessions during which the psychiatrist assesses depressive symptoms and discusses the social experience and close interactions, including possible shifts in patterns of relationship and desires. The psychiatrist then meets with the patient to incorporate recovery plans tailored to any defined problem areas. When therapy continues, a particular problem area can change.

Correspondingly, so should the suggested techniques of the psychiatrist. Community sessions—like individual sessions—are time-limited, semi-structured, and interpersonal dynamics oriented. Groups offer additional opportunities for patients to learn leadership skills in a healthy and welcoming environment. Community counseling also involves pre-treatment, mid-treatment, and post-treatment sessions to discuss priorities, strategies, and improvement.

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What to look for in an Interpersonal Therapy Therapist? 

IPT is a comparatively new psychotherapy that has been established as a scientific intervention and, until recently, the bulk of IPT clinicians have been academics. Its research success has contributed to IPT’s incorporation in clinical care recommendations and increasing interest among physicians, but the criteria for clinical preparation for non-researchers are still being established. The International Society for Interpersonal Psychotherapy (ISIPT), an international umbrella body, addresses teaching issues and helps countries to establish their IPT accreditation systems.

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The psychiatrist should help the patient recognize and rate any relationship problems that he or she needs to discuss. The psychiatrist can also assist in the fields of clarity, communication interpretation, and constructive listening.

Conditions that Interpersonal Therapists treat: 

IPT is not just about depression. It can also help to treat:

  1. Bipolar illnesses (when used along with medication)
  2. Borderline personality disorder
  3. Depression triggered by illness, such as HIV, cancer
  4. Depression as a result of caregiving
  5. Dysthymia
  6. Eating disorders
  7. Marital Conflicts
  8. Panic disorders
  9. protracted bereavement

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Should you consider Interpersonal Therapy?

Interpersonal Therapy psychotherapy is just one of a kind. There are many others. The success of Interpersonal Therapy depends on what you’ve encountered and the severity of the problems you’ve faced.  Speak to your physician or therapist about the various types of psychotherapy available. Acting with your psychiatrist and therapist will help you create a recovery plan that fits your unique needs.