How Can Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) Help Mental Disorders?
What is interpersonal psychotherapy? IPT is a form of psychotherapy that helps treat mental health conditions. Read on to learn more.
What Is Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)?
Mental disorders can be debilitating for those who suffer from them and their loved ones. However, treatments are available that can help people manage their mental health. One of these treatments is interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), which can treat various mental disorders. IPT focuses on the relationships between people and how they interact with one another while helping people learn better ways to communicate and resolve conflicts. This can be beneficial for those with mental disorders, as they often have difficulty maintaining interpersonal relationships.
According to the International Society of Interpersonal Psychotherapy (ISIPT), IPT “is a time-limited, diagnosis-targeted, well studied, manualized treatment for major depression and other psychiatric disorders”.1
When Interpersonal Psychotherapy Used
Interpersonal therapy, also known as interpersonal psychology, is a psychotherapeutic intervention for mental health diagnoses, including mood disorders. The goals of interpersonal therapy include helping clients improve their relationships and circumstances associated with their mood symptoms.2
Types of Interpersonal Psychotherapy
Dynamic Interpersonal PsychotherapyDynamic Interpersonal Therapy (DIT) is a sixteen-week protocol that uses individual therapy sessions to treat mood disorders. Within interpersonal psychotherapy training communities, DIT is known as a brief psychodynamic treatment protocol for depression.3
Metacognitive Interpersonal PsychotherapyMetacognitive Interpersonal Psychotherapy (MIT) is a more integrated psychotherapeutic approach commonly used to treat personality disorders. This interpersonal psychology treatment is based on a twelve-month intervention model.4
Techniques Used in Interpersonal Psychotherapy
The focus for treatment and techniques used in interpersonal psychology is based on four important factors. The following sections will explore four potential problem areas that can be targeted during the interpersonal process in psychotherapy.
If someone important has died (or is otherwise lost to you), resulting in complicated bereavement or grief, this may become the focus of interpersonal relational therapy.
During interpersonal relational therapy, a therapist may focus on helping clients navigate essential life changes they have gone through or are currently going through.
Interpersonal deficits can focus on interpersonal therapy for depression, especially in the absence of the previous three. Essentially, interpersonal deficits acknowledge that there is not a current life event to focus on.
What Interpersonal Psychotherapy Can Help With
In the 1970s, clinicians began studying interpersonal counseling theory to treat major depressive disorder (MDD). Researchers worldwide also started looking into interpersonal counseling theory for mood and non-mood disorders. Although IPT is not an appropriate treatment for all disorders, it’s a widely applicable treatment. Keep reading to learn about the common disorders interpersonal therapy interventions can help with.
Researchers are currently investigating interpersonal therapy interventions as a complementary treatment to medication management for bipolar disorder. IPT may help individuals with a bipolar disorder manage their sleep patterns and reduce manic episodes.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Since IPT has successfully treated mood disorders, clinicians are beginning to conduct trials applying interpersonal therapy techniques to non-mood disorders, including borderline personality disorder (BPD). Research into IPT for BPD, insomnia, and body dysmorphic disorder is ongoing.
Interpersonal therapy for eating disorders is an established treatment approach. Extensive research has demonstrated improvement of eating disorder-related symptoms when interpersonal issues are addressed.5
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Substance and Alcohol Use Disorders
When considering the interpersonal process in psychotherapy, researchers investigated whether it could be applied to substance use disorders. Unfortunately, clinical trials have shown limited benefits for IPT and substance use disorders. However, additional research has shown that IPT can help with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders, including addiction and interpersonal relationship difficulties stemming from the disorders.7
Benefits of Interpersonal Psychotherapy
IPT is a psychotherapeutic intervention that a therapist can use to help clients feel understood, improve engagement, and address interpersonal thoughts while minimizing negative mental health symptoms. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of IPT.
As most people know, an individual’s life situations and mood are directly related. IPT focuses on connecting a client’s mood and disturbing life events. By treating the mood disorder and its symptoms, clients can improve their relationships.
Since depression is a common symptom following disturbing life events, IPT is a helpful therapeutic intervention. Clients that complete an interpersonal group or individual IPT counseling can reduce their depressive symptoms.
Effectiveness of Interpersonal Psychotherapy
Since its first trial in 1974, IPT has been described as an effective treatment for some psychiatric disorders, including major depression. The following sections will explore the efficacy of interpersonal psychotherapy and interpersonal groups.
As Effective as CBT for The Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder
Mood disorders are primarily treated using interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). These treatment interventions are effective, time-limited, and diagnosis-targeted.
Interpersonal Psychotherapy Can Help Prevent the Development of Major Depression
When interpersonal psychotherapy is effectively used to treat depressive symptoms following a life event, it can help prevent the development of major depressive disorder (MDD).
Showed Significant Effects in The Treatment of Mental Health Conditions
IPT is an effective therapeutic intervention for numerous mental health conditions, including major depression, bipolar disorder, binge-eating disorders, and PTSD.
Improve Depression and Reduce Relationship Issues
Key benefits of IPT include improvements in symptoms of depression, fewer relationship issues, greater social support, and, ultimately, a better understanding of one’s emotions and social signals.