Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) is a time bound, evidence-based approach to treat major depressive disorder. IPT’s goal is to improve client’s interpersonal relationships and social functioning, thus helping to reduce their distress. IPT helps in four key areas:
- Addresses interpersonal deficits in relationships, including social isolation
- Helps in managing unresolved grief from the death of close relative or friend, whether recently or in the past.
- Addresses issues from recent life events such as divorce, breakups, retirement, relocation
- Dealing with interpersonal disputes emerging from mismatch in expectations between partners, family members, friends or work colleagues.
IPT was originally intended for treatment of major depressive disorder. Over time it has evolved and is now recommended by APS for treatment of depression, social anxiety, borderline personality disorder, sexual disorders, binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa. IPT is focused on current relationship dynamics and recognises the mismatch in expectations which can lead to internal conflicts.
Interpersonal therapy differs from cognitive and behavioural therapies as it addresses maladaptive thoughts and behaviours that impact interpersonal relationships. The psychologist would like to change the relationship patterns to improve relationships so that the associated emotional and behavioural impacts are reduced. IPT does not focus on personality traits of the clients and targets specific relationship issues.
What Happens in Therapy
IPT treatment can be delivered in individual or group sessions. It can last over 20 sessions. Treatment would consist of interview, assessment and homework for the client. Usually, the decision whether to proceed with IPT or other cognitive behavioural approaches is made in the initial one or two sessions after assessing clients symptoms, history and impact of relationship on the clients. Treatment plan is prepared keeping in the mind the identified treatment goals. The target goal may change as the treatment progresses and if that happens, so would the treatment plan. When the psychologist decides to use group sessions, it would be to facilitate practice of interpersonal skills in a supervised and safe environment.
The Science Behind Interpersonal Therapy
IPT development happened over 20 years ago. Developed initially for treating major depressive disorder, IPT can now be used across other mental health issues also. The proponents of the therapy believe that social environment plays a key role in emotional issues being experienced by people. IPT was initially developed for adults, but now it has been modified for use in certain cases with adolescents and elderly too.
Use of Interpersonal Therapy at Potentialz
The team of psychologists at Potentialz use IPT at times when they observe that the conditions being experienced by clients are a direct outcome of the relationship issues being faced by them. This is usually identified during the initial couple of sessions where client history and treatment goals are captured. Alternatively, the psychologist may proceed with Family Therapy or other cognitive and behavioural therapies such as CBT, DBT.