What is Interpersonal Therapy?
Interpersonal therapy as the name implies is a well-structured time-limited therapy that focuses on recognizing and resolving interpersonal conflicts. It is a short-term therapy that lasts for twelve to sixteen sessions used to treat anxiety, depression, and other symptoms associated with mental health.
Having a relationship (family-based relationship, friendship, acquaintanceship, or romantic relationship) is part of what makes us human. Most relationships make us happy and enrich our lives. Relationships can be complicated at times, and how we handle them has a huge impact on our mental health. Interpersonal therapy focuses on how our relationship impacts us, how other mental health issues affect our relationship, and how to enhance our general well-being.
In interpersonal therapy the patient and IPT therapist play an important role in identifying the core issues and resolving them; it is a collaborative effort. IPT therapists are engaging, non-neutral, encouraging, and optimistic; they offer opportunities for change.
How does Interpersonal Therapy work?
Interpersonal therapy is a well-structured therapy with three distinct phases that take 12 to 16 sessions. Depending on the intensity of the patient’s symptoms of interpersonal stress, each phase can span 3 to 5 sessions. The three stages are as follows:
- Beginning or initial phase
- Middle phase
- Final phase
Beginning or Initial phase
In this phase, the therapist works with the patient to identify the diagnosis and interpersonal context. The IPT therapist collects key information on the relationships and social life of the patient. Typically, this session assists in identifying the problem to focus the therapy on one of four areas.
In the second phase, the therapist works with the patient to improve one or more of the four chosen focal areas. The four focal areas of conflict include:
- Relationship conflict that causes stress
- Transition, life changes such as the end of a marriage, the birth or return of a child, or a work change.
- Interpersonal deficits
The therapist delves deeply into the chosen area of conflict to generate solutions and assist the patient in implementing them within and outside of IPT therapy sessions.
This is the final phase and end of the interpersonal therapy session, it focuses on reviewing the progress made during the therapy session as well as the patient’s progress. It also focuses on the patient’s increased self-esteem and independence.
Why is Interpersonal Therapy Important?
Several studies discovered that interpersonal therapy (IPT) can help improve symptoms of several mental health conditions. Here are some reasons why IPT is important:
- Improved relationships: IPT helps people understand how their mental health influences their relationships and how their relationships affect their daily lives. The IPT psychotherapist concentrates on recognizing and resolving relationship issues, which can considerably improve social life.
- Reduced depression: Relationships can either worsen or reduce depression, and depression can have an impact on one’s health and relationships. IPT focuses on relationships that contribute to depression and how to relieve depressive symptoms.
- Cultivate social skills: IPT’s long-term goal is to equip people with adaptive social skills to deal with difficulties in relationships and other social circumstances.
- Increase self-awareness: Interpersonal therapy helps people in better understanding their own emotions as well as the emotions of others. People can modify and adopt more adaptable communication and expressive patterns to establish better relationships with increased awareness.
Who does Interpersonal Therapy benefit?
A plethora of research supports that interpersonal therapy can solve major depression and it is also a highly effective treatment for other mental health issues. IPT can be used to treat:
Changes in an interpersonal environment, such as a breakup, increasing relationship disputes, or the death of a loved one, frequently initiate depression. IPT helps to resolve these life events, in turn decreasing symptoms of depression.
IPT can help in reducing interpersonal issues that trigger or worsen anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, selective mutism, or social anxiety disorder.
IPT can assist in identifying connections between daily routine and episodes of mood swings, as well as in developing a regular pattern to lessen symptoms of excessive mood fluctuations and improve social life.
Borderline personality disorder
IPT can help in treating BPD symptoms such as erratic mood swings, poor impulse control, and cognitive distortions.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):
A person with PTSD finds experiencing traumatic events to be overwhelming. IPT does not bring back past trauma; rather, it tries to use social support to help patients in identifying and treating PTSD symptoms.
How Will I Know if IPT is for me?
Different types of people, conditions, and diagnoses require different therapy strategies to be effective. Interpersonal therapy works best when the patient is willing to communicate and collaborate with the IPT therapists. In general, IPT is a solid alternative if:
- You are depressed as a result of your interpersonal relationships
- You are abruptly struck by depression as a result of the loss of a loved one or learning that you have a terrible ailment
- You have bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, eating disorders, addictions, Borderline personality disorder, and relationship problems.
How long does IPT last?
As stated earlier IPT is a time-limited therapy that can be completed in 12 to 16 weeks (12 to 16 sessions). The beginning or initial phase which focuses on identifying the target diagnosis and interpersonal communication lasts for 1 to 3 sessions. The middle phase which focuses on improving the chosen areas of conflict lasts for 4 to 14 sessions. The final phase reviewing the progress made during the sessions lasts for 15 to 16 sessions.