Interpersonal Psychotherapy

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)


Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) is a time limited approach aiming at teaching individuals resolving disturbing life events, building social skills and increase organisational life skills. This is done by encouraging assertive communication, increasing adaptability, increasing supports, conflict resolution training and nurturing relationships.


Interpersonal Psychotherapy Phases


There are three phases in IPT. To illustrate these, an Example of someone with Major Depression whose mother has passed seeks therapy is used:


1. Beginning: This phase is usually 1-3 sessions long. The Psychologist makes a diagnosis and the interpersonal context in which it presents. That is, the Psychologist links it to the person’s internal focus: “As we have discussed, you are suffering from major depression, which is a treatable medical condition.” This is very important to state in therapy as people experiencing depression often blame themselves for experiencing depression and see themselves as weak. “It seems your depression is related to what is currently happening in your life: since your mum dying, you have been having sleep difficulties, your appetite has changed and you have socially withdrawn. This is what we call complicated bereavement. Let’s focus the next few sessions on addressing this. Once this interpersonal problem is addressed, your moods will improve and your life will be better.”



2. Middle: There are four areas to consider in the phase: the person’s disturbing life events; the person’s interpersonal struggle with a significant other or other life upheaval (role dispute); the person’s important life changes (role transition) and the person’s interpersonal deficits. In the above example, this phase would be focussed on addressing appropriate mourning, resolving the person’s interpersonal struggle, helping the individual mourn the loss of an old role and assume a new, and decrease the person’s social isolation. The person is encouraged to assert their needs and wants as well validate their emotions. The person learns to express them efficiently.


3. End: In this phase the Psychologist reminds the person therapy will be concluding soon and that itself is another role transition with inevitable positive and painful aspects. The person is encouraged to acknowledge and review their accomplishment thus far. Healthy interpersonal skills in interpersonal situations are celebrated and positively reinforced by the Psychologist. On the other hand, when the person reports an undesirable or harmful outcome, the Psychologist brain storms and problem solves with the person on what went wrong and what could be done differently. Role playing ifs often used to explore and illustrate interpersonal options.


Reference: Adapted from: Markowitz, J.C, Weissman, M.M. Interpersonal psychotherapy: principles and applications. World Psychiatry. 2004. 3(3):136-139

Always There To Care