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Interpersonal Therapy

Introduction to Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Mental Health Problems

Recognizing the mental disorders are as widespread, debilitating, potentially lethal, and economically expensive has stimulated the interest in treating them. Antidepressant drugs work with most people as long as people keep taking the drugs, although there are limitations to all these. A large proportion of respondents to drugs have residual effects that occur due to their mood problems to recurrence or relapse (Everitt et al., 2018). Other patients may not react to medicines, hesitate to accept it, or simply can't afford it in many regions of the world. Psychotherapies can have value for all these patients. Some counseling styles follow similar lines to the various psychotherapy styles. A tool for various mental disorder treatment is interpersonal therapy (IPT) (Weissman et al., 2017). It is based on the premise that the root of psychological issues is personal relationships. IPT aims to help people better connect with others, and resolve concerns that lead to depression or other mental illnesses. Though the IPT has strength and limitation which solely depends on the therapist to make it effective for the patient depending on the severity of patient conditions (Cuijpers et al., 2016). IPT also helps the therapist to learn and retain professional awareness, which is the ability to first recognize the patient background and adapt to it for providing better care to the patient.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

In the 1970s Gerald Klerman and Myrna Weissman founded interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), built on the research of Adolf Meyer, Harry Stack Sullivan, and John Bowlby. IPT is a form of therapy that uses a specific method for patients with mental health problems. The IPT is intended to make people solve current issues and strengthen personal relationships focused on connection and communications concepts. IPT is merely a form of psychotherapy. Many forms include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), therapeutic or integrative therapy, and psychoanalytic (Hetrick et al., 2016).

First developed as a brief depression therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy. Since individuals with symptoms of depression almost always encounter personal and social relationship issues, IPT is a commonly prescribed alternative for individuals with mental illness. Though its anxiety itself does not every time lead directly from interpersonal relationships, relationship problems tend as one of the most prevalent symptoms mostly during early anxiety stages. Enhanced social interactions once resolved can act as an essential support system throughout the subsequent process of recovery (Xu & Koszycki, 2020).

Interpersonal therapists generally provide active, non - confrontational therapy to help people in treatment manage challenges successfully, and improve quality of life. Things that may be acknowledged during therapy may include disputes over roles, interpersonal deficiencies, transitions in the life stage, relational confrontation, sadness, as well as other emotional problems. IPT is well studied as an efficient depression treatment, and it has been altered to address many other psychological problems including anxiety, disordered eating, dysthymia, problems of substance abuse, schizophrenia, the anxiety of the postpartum, social anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Asrat et al., 2020).

IPT Processes

Often physicians may use IPT along with medicine. Treatment typically starts with an interview taken by a psychiatrist. They will define expectations based on the issues identified by the patient, and create a treatment plan. The patient and therapist then concentrate on the main problems and will search for solutions to the problems. A standard program requires a maximum of 20-hour therapy sessions a week. During the therapy within a short period, typically in 20 weeks or less the person in therapy may encounter symptomatic relief and begin working on any underlying problems faster than might be feasible in many other treatment modalities (Johnson et al., 2019). Therapists may use different strategies, such as role-play, which can help people change how they relate to their environment in therapy. Typically, an interpersonal therapist will concentrate on one of the most urgent interpersonal conflicts to respect the candidate who wishes to make improvements. IPT is a type of adaptive therapy. It imparts itself to adjustments that make it more suitable besides treating multiple psychological problems. Besides, IPT may be performed individually or with infants, teenagers, and adults in a group environment. The therapist try to recognize patient-life events that lead to depression. The therapist also try to equip patients with the skills to guide challenging feelings in positive ways. Patients may be required to participate in social events that are unpleasant or uncomfortable in the past. This can be a way of bringing new coping strategies into motion (Bruijniks et al., 2020).


IPT is recognized by specialist bodies such as the American Psychological Association ( APA) and the National Institutes of Health ( NIH) as an important mode of care for mental health problems. Since its introduction in the 1970s, numerous studies have established that IPT is both flexible and successful. While not appropriate with every community, certain depressive symptoms similar to those observed in antidepressant drug regimens have been demonstrated to provide relief. IPT can be given as a single form of therapy or in combination with other drugs (Markowitz et al., 2018). The choice to either take IPT, medicine or a balance of either is open to the counselor and counseling client. Most researches, even so, seem to imply that the balanced approach and interpersonal therapy could be more advantageous than either alone. There are several positive effects to obtain from interpersonal therapy as the client becomes more healthy and productive with everyone. The counseling also allows enhancing problem-solving abilities to quickly decrease the symptoms. The counseling helps people improve their ability to cope and function through grief and loss. Good coping strategies that will benefit enormously people long after treatment (Bleiberg & Markowitz, 2019). It also helps individuals develop improved communication skills and a better ability to properly display emotion. IPT gives a heightened understanding of interpersonal problem trends by stabilizing mood, reducing anger, hostility, and self-destructive behavior patterns.


Most IPT study covers very few IPT limitations. Nevertheless, IPT does have a few things to bear in mind. First, the therapeutic mechanism of IPT is focused on believing the individual is driven to improve in therapy. For IPT to be successful, the therapy individual must be able to consider his or her role in the issue. In addition, individuals in recovery need to have a degree of knowledge and comprehension of interpersonal relationships to focus on. In certain cultures or for some people with certain mental health problems this may not be feasible (Sockol, 2018). With some, IPT could be a desirable treatment option since it is a framework for short-term therapy. For mental health professionals, this implies that there would be less chance of people dropping out of treatment in therapy. All in all, interpersonal psychotherapy is a credible form of treatment for several problems and population groups with mental wellbeing. Maybe one of the biggest disadvantages of interpersonal therapy is that this can be a tough transition before beginning the process for patients who have already had more traditional therapy. For example, the method isn't constructed in psychodynamic psychotherapy and there's no time constraint (O'Hara et al., 2019). Therapy can last several months, a year, or maybe even a couple of years. It can make it slightly demanding to adjust to the highly organized, tightly defined, time-limited method adopted in IPT.

IPT Is a Sensitive Therapy

Acquiring cultural expertise and being a multicultural psychologist requires having the right skill set that helps therapists to fulfill their clients' specific needs. The IPT offers the forum through the participation of multicultural counselors, mostly obtained through education and experience. The daunting but important aspect of implementing multicultural advice is to look within and evaluate one's perceptions and privileges. The IPT gives freedom to the individual to be connected to one beliefs and religious faith. A good counsellor always respects the patient faith and beliefs throughout the therapy sessions and be sensitive towards them. During the counselling sessions, the therapists make sure that he must be self-aware and analyze how their experience and experiences affect the way they handle their patients. The IPT benefits patients as in-person therapists can combine behaviors with improved understanding and insight, treating each client with sensitiveness (Lundh & Falkenström, 2019). The IPT stresses the knowledge the counselor has of the context, culture, and religious beliefs of a patient. Therapists should integrate cultural awareness into their practice to recognize variations in views, beliefs, and behaviors of diverse cultures and different views and to appreciate them.

IPT also helps the therapist to learn and retain professional awareness, which is the ability to first recognize and understand one's background and how it affects one's relationship with a client, then to consider and adapt to a completely different culture from one's own. A need for this awareness may be focused on features including age, nationality, ethnicity, race, gender, faith, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status (McPherson et al., 2020). Activities of cultural sensitivity can be extended to any form of therapy; such activities can make the client feel quite relaxed, making the care more successful. Research can help track the positive outcomes of cultural awareness activities and has provided examples of how counselors and their encounters with people who come from different cultures could be more culturally responsive (Huang & Zane, 2016). One research, for instance, indicated that care with Latino clients was less successful whenever the counselor was perceived as remote. For instance, knowing and applying the social belief of transparency may help clients communicate with their therapist through certain personal information. Other studies indicate that certain habits can play a significant role in certain cultures, such as common language use and a generalized display of personal traits; ignoring these methods can alienate clients (Chui et al., 2016).

Implications of IPT

IPT efficacy depends on you and the seriousness of the disease. Pharmacotherapy has demonstrated strong benefits for major mood illness acute and chronic care, including major depressive disorder ( MDD), dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder. IPT is experimental, time-limited, present-centered therapies that allow the patient to recover mood control and function (Huang et al., 2016). IPT is based on the so-called traditional psychotherapy factors: a therapeutic relationship in which the therapist empathically includes the patient, allows the patient to feel heard, stimulates the effect, provides a simple purpose and pattern of care, and produces good experiences. IPT imposes two key concepts on this foundation: Depression is a medical disorder, instead of the patient's fault or mental defect; however, it is a debilitating condition. The purpose of this description is to describe the issue and to protect patients from symptomatic self-blame (Levy & Johnson, 2019). And secondly, the situation of mood and life is related. Based on interpersonal theory and psychosocial depression studies, IPT provides a functional connexion between the mood of the patient and upsetting events in life that either cause or result from the emergence of the mood disorder (Gaab et al., 2018).

Conclusion on Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Mental Health Problems

IPT is a relatively new form of therapy that addresses unique psychological disorders. Similar to several other psychotherapeutic approaches, its attributes are very well established, and its effectiveness is well known. In addition , individuals in recovery need to have a degree of knowledge and comprehension of interpersonal relationships to focus on. In certain cultures or for some people with certain mental health problems this may not be feasible. However, far more remains unclear regarding its implications for diverse circumstances, it is appropriate dosing, its conjunction with drug therapy, its efficacy in multiple formats, and so forth. While including some of the best-studied outcome research interventions, especially for mental illnesses, IPT has only been expanding into clinical settings. IPT requires a therapeutic relationship in which the therapist empathically includes the patient, allows the patient to feel heard, stimulates the effect, provides a simple purpose and pattern of care, and produces good experiences. Learning for already qualified mental health professionals is a relatively straightforward intervention but its usefulness in the possession of less-skilled counselors is questionable. Spreading this relatively "clean" care thus brings both benefits and dangers.

References for Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Mental Health Problems

Asrat, B., Lund, C., Ambaw, F., & Schneider, M. (2020). Adaptation of the WHO group interpersonal therapy for people living with HIV/AIDS in Northwest Ethiopia: A qualitative study. PloS one15(8), e0238321.

Bleiberg, K., & Markowitz, J. (2019). Interpersonal psychotherapy for PTSD: Treating trauma without exposure. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration29(1), 15.

Bruijniks, S., Lemmens, L., Hollon, S. D., Peeters, F., Cuijpers, P., Arntz, A. & van Den Boogaard, M. (2020). The effects of once-versus twice-weekly sessions on psychotherapy outcomes in depressed patients. The British Journal of Psychiatry216(4), 222-230.

Chui, H., Hill, C., Kline, K., Kuo, P. & Mohr, J. (2016). Are you in the mood? Therapist affect and psychotherapy process. Journal of Counseling Psychology63(4), 405.

Cuijpers, P., Donker, T., Weissman, M., Ravitz, P., & Cristea, I.(2016). Interpersonal psychotherapy for mental health problems: A comprehensive meta-analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry173(7), 680-687.

Everitt, H., Baldwin, D., Stuart, B., Lipinska, G., Mayers, A., Malizia, A. L. & Wilson, S. (2018). Antidepressants for insomnia in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (5).

Gaab, J., Locher, C., & Blease, C. (2018). Placebo and psychotherapy: Differences, similarities, and implications. International review of Neurobiology, 138, 241-255.

Hetrick, S. E., Cox, G. R., Witt, K. G., Bir, J. J., & Merry, S. N. (2016). Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), third‐wave CBT and interpersonal therapy (IPT) based interventions for preventing depression in children and adolescents. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (8).

Huang, C. Y., & Zane, N. (2016). Cultural influences in mental health treatment. Current Opinion in Psychology8, 131-136.

Huang, T. C. C., Hill, C. E., Strauss, N., Heyman, M., & Hussain, M. (2016). Corrective relational experiences in psychodynamic-interpersonal psychotherapy: Antecedents, types, and consequences. Journal of Counseling Psychology63(2), 183.

Johnson, J. E., Stout, R. L., Miller, T. R., Zlotnick, C., Cerbo, L. A., Andrade, J. T. & Wiltsey-Stirman, S. (2019). Randomized cost-effectiveness trial of group interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) for prisoners with major depression. Journal of Consulting nd Clinical Psychology87(4), 392.

Levy, K. N., & Johnson, B. N. (2019). Attachment and psychotherapy: Implications from empirical research. Canadian Psychology/psychologie canadienne60(3), 178.

Lundh, L. G., & Falkenström, F. (2019). Towards a person-oriented approach to psychotherapy research. Journal for Person-Oriented Research5(2), 65-79.

Markowitz, J. C., Choo, T. H., & Neria, Y. (2018). Do acute benefits of interpersonal psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder endure? The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry63(1), 37-43.

McPherson, S., Wicks, C., & Tercelli, I. (2020). Patient experiences of psychological therapy for depression: A qualitative metasynthesis. BMC psychiatry20(1), 1-18.

O'Hara, M. W., Pearlstein, T., Stuart, S., Long, J. D., Mills, J. A., & Zlotnick, C. (2019). A placebo controlled treatment trial of sertraline and interpersonal psychotherapy for postpartum depression. Journal of Affective Disorders245, 524-532.

Sockol, L. E. (2018). A systematic review and meta-analysis of interpersonal psychotherapy for perinatal women. Journal of Affective Disorders232, 316-328.

Weissman, M. M., Markowitz, J. C., & Klerman, G. L. (2017). The guide to interpersonal psychotherapy: Updated and expanded edition. Oxford University Press.

Xu, H., & Koszycki, D. (2020). Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Late-life Depression and its Potential Application in China. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment16, 1919.

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