Interpersonal Therapy for Depression (IPT)

What is IPT?

IPT is an evidence based treatment, primarily used for depression, that focuses on the interaction between an individual’s mood and their relationships with others. Its underlying principle is that depression affects relationships and can create problems with interpersonal connections. The goals of IPT are to help the client communicate better with others and address the problems that contribute to their depression. Studies have also shown IPT to be useful in the treatment of other issues such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and borderline personality disorder.

What happens during IPT?

During the initial sessions of IPT, the therapist will learn more about the symptoms of the client’s depression, recent life transitions, and their interactions with the important people in their life. The therapist will try to understand how the client’s depression is related to one or two of these four core areas: strained relationships, recent life transitions, grief related to the death of a loved one, or difficulty in making social connections.
The majority of the IPT sessions will be spent addressing these core areas. For clients experiencing conflict within their relationships, treatment will emphasize improving communication skills and role playing new ways to interact with significant others. For clients experiencing recent life transitions (like moving, getting a new job, etc), therapy will focus on processing the feelings of loss due to the transition and coping with the challenges of the new situation. For clients experiencing grief over a loved one’s death, therapy will focus on processing their emotions and making new connections to themselves and to others. For clients who struggle with making healthy long term connections with others, therapy will focus on building communication and social skills. During the last few IPT sessions, the therapist and client will review the client’s progress and discuss how the client can continue to use the skills from IPT in their daily life. Often patients will see their therapist for some maintenance sessions about once a month, after completing their weekly IPT sessions.

How long does treatment last?

IPT typically consists of 12-16 weekly sessions. Many clients then have a few monthly follow up sessions.

Is homework a part of IPT?

Often there will be homework to practice new communication skills or engage in a pleasurable activity. Homework assignments will usually take about 15-30 minutes to complete per day.
IPT (Interpersonal Therapy for Depression) Online Resources

International Society of Interpersonal Psychotherapy (ISIPT)
Provides more details about IPT treatment and the different tools used in IPT.

Provides an overview of IPT and has more information about the symptoms of depression.