Interpersonal therapy as a treatment for depression: Is it right for you?


If you are feeling depressed and seeking help via therapy, you may find that your counsellor recommends the use of interpersonal therapy (IPT).  If this is something you have not heard of before and feel slightly concerned about it, let’s take a look at what this form of therapy involves and how it works.

What is interpersonal therapy (IPT)?

This is a method used to treat depression and is a form of psychotherapy.  Your therapist will make use of it by taking an in-depth look at your relationships with others; hence the name ‘interpersonal’.  It focuses on the belief that whatever is going on in your life and no matter what type of psychological problems you are experiencing, your relationships with others may be at the root of the issue.  That does not mean that depression is always due to things going awry with relationships but it would be true to say that whilst depression has a knock-on effect upon relationships, it can also bring into play complications with interpersonal connections.  As an expert in the field of interpersonal therapy, your counsellor will use it to show you the way to improve your communication with others and get to grips with any problems that may be getting you down and contributing to your depression.

It can work incredibly well and even be as effective as using medication for depression; however, your doctor or psychiatrists will decide whether you need both or not.

How does interpersonal therapy work?

To begin with, your therapist will normally sit down with you and ask a lot of questions.  With these answers in hand, they can then formulate a treatment plan, setting in place goals and focusing on key issues.  How long IPT takes will depend upon how deeply ingrained your depression is but expect to be involved in the treatment for months rather than weeks.

And don’t be confused, thinking that interpersonal therapy is all about tapping into your unconscious feelings.  Rather than do this, it looks at the practicalities that are contributing to your symptoms and how they are exacerbating your problems.

Why should you need interpersonal therapy?

You may find yourself suddenly hit with depression after a major event in your life, or it may creep upon you suddenly.  Things such as loss of a loved one, end of a relationship, being told that you have a serious disease or even job loss can be triggers.  No matter what has brought on your depression, your therapist will work with you, looking at events in your life that may have led to your depression. Once these issues are identified, work can begin on providing you with the skills to deal with these upsetting and difficult emotions in a positive way.

Interpersonal therapy can also be used to treat bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders and addictions, feelings of panic and relationship disputes.  It is not the only therapy that can be used to treat depression and your doctor or counsellor will decide which is the most suitable for you, given your circumstances.

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