Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is a time-limited, focused, evidence-based approach to treat mood disorders, particularly depression. Developed in the 1970s by Gerald Klerman and Myrna Weissman, IPT is grounded in the understanding that interpersonal relationships and life events play a significant role in the onset and course of depression. By addressing issues in these areas, IPT aims to improve mood and interpersonal functioning. The therapy is structured and typically delivered over 12-16 sessions, concentrating on the here and now rather than delving into extensive personal history.

Understanding Interpersonal Therapy

IPT is based on the principle that improving communication patterns and how individuals relate to others can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. The therapy identifies and focuses on interpersonal issues in four key areas that are closely linked to mood disorders: grief, role disputes, role transitions, and interpersonal deficits.

Core Principles of Interpersonal Therapy

  • Interpersonal Focus: Emphasizes the impact of current relationships and social context on an individual’s mental health.
  • Time-Limited Nature: Typically conducted within 12-16 sessions, focusing on specific interpersonal issues contributing to the client’s distress.
  • Here and Now: Concentrates on current feelings and relationships rather than exploring extensive past history.
  • Building Social Skills: Aims to improve interpersonal skills, including communication and problem-solving abilities, to enhance relationships and mood.

Methodologies in Interpersonal Therapy

IPT employs a variety of strategies to address and improve interpersonal functioning:

Initial Assessment

Identifies the primary interpersonal issues impacting the client’s mood and categorizes them into one of the four key problem areas.

Education about Depression

Involves educating the client about the nature of depression and its connection to interpersonal experiences.

Exploration of Emotions

Encourages clients to express and explore their emotions related to interpersonal situations, fostering emotional awareness and expression.

Communication Analysis

Examines specific incidents in the client’s relationships to identify and alter problematic communication patterns.

Role Play

Used to practice new interpersonal skills and behaviors in the safety of the therapy session before applying them in real-life situations.

Benefits and Application

IPT has been proven effective for a wide range of populations and settings, offering benefits such as:

  • Reduced Symptoms of Depression: Studies have shown significant reductions in depression symptoms following IPT treatment.
  • Improved Relationships: Enhances interpersonal skills, leading to more fulfilling and supportive relationships.
  • Increased Social Support: Helps clients build and utilize social support networks, which are crucial for mental health recovery.
  • Adaptability: While initially developed for depression, IPT has been adapted to treat other mood and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and for use across different age groups and cultural settings.

Who Can Benefit from Interpersonal Therapy?

IPT is suitable for individuals experiencing depression and other mood disorders, particularly those who can identify stressors related to interpersonal issues. It is also effective for people undergoing significant life transitions or experiencing difficulties in their relationships.

Training and Practice

Practitioners of IPT are mental health professionals who have undergone specialized training in the IPT approach. Training programs typically involve coursework on IPT theory and techniques, as well as supervised clinical practice.


Interpersonal Therapy offers a targeted approach to treating depression and other mood disorders by focusing on the interpersonal context of an individual’s life. By improving communication patterns and enhancing relationships, IPT provides a robust framework for individuals to achieve improved mental health and well-being.