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Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) is a time-limited psychotherapy that focuses on the interpersonal context and on building interpersonal skills. IPT is based on the belief that interpersonal factors may contribute heavily to psychological problems. It is commonly distinguished from other forms of therapy in its emphasis on the interpersonal rather than the intrapsychic.
Interpersonal psychotherapy largely stems from the interpersonal psychoanalysis work of Harry Stack Sullivan, who, although coming from a psychodynamic background, was strongly influenced by ideas in sociology and social psychology.
Interpersonal therapy was first developed as a theoretical placebo for the use in psychotherapy research by Gerald Klerman, et al. IPT was, however, found to be quite effective in the treatment of several psychological problems.[How to reference and link to summary or text] IPT was later developed in the 1970s and 80s as an outpatient treatment for adults who were diagnosed with moderate or severe non-delusional clinical depression.
Although originally developed as an individual therapy for adults, IPT has been modified for use with adolescents and older adults, bipolar disorder, bulimia, post-partum depression and couples counseling. Over the last 30 years, a number of empirical studies have demonstrated the efficacy of IPT in the treatment of depression and various other disorders.
IPT takes structure from psychodynamic psychotherapy, but also from contemporary cognitive behavioral approaches in that it is time-limited and employs homework, structured interviews, and assessment tools.
In the initial stages of IPT, therapeutic goals typically include diagnosis, completing the requisite inventories, identifying the client's major problem areas, and creating a treatment contract.
In the intermediate stages of IPT, the client and therapist, focusing on the present, work on the major problem areas identified. Four major problem areas are commonplace in IPT. The first is grief, and clients typically present with delayed or distorted grief reactions. Treatment aims include facilitating the grieving process, the client's acceptance of difficult emotions, and their replacement of lost relationships. The second major problem area is role dispute, in which a client is experiencing nonreciprocal expectations about a relationship with someone else. Here, treatment focuses on understanding the nature of the dispute, the current communication difficulties, and works to modify the client's communication strategies while remaining in accord with their core values. A third major problem area is role transition, in which an individual is in the process of giving up an old role and taking on a new one. In this case, treatment attempts to facilitate the client's giving up of the old role, expressing emotions about this loss, and acquiring skills and support in the new role they must take on. A final problem area commonly broached with IPT is interpersonal deficits. Clients presenting interpersonal deficits commonly engage in an analysis of their communication patterns, participate in role playing exercises with the therapist, and work to reduce their overall isolation, if applicable.
In the termination stages of IPT, the therapist works to consolidate the client's gains, discuss areas which still require work, talk about relapse prevention, and process any emotions related to termination of therapy.
References & Bibliography
- Sundberg, Norman (2001). Clinical Psychology: Evolving Theory, Practice, and Research, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.
- Swartz, H. (1999). Interpersonal therapy. In M. Hersen and A. S. Bellack (Eds). Handbook of Comparative Interventions for Adult Disorders, 2nd ed. (pp. 139 – 159). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- Weissman, M. M. & Markowitz, J. C. (1998). An Overview of Interpersonal Psychotherapy. In J. Markowitz, Interpersonal Psychotherapy (pp. 1 – 33).Washington D.C.: American Psychiatric Press.
- Joiner, T. E., Brown, J. S., & Kistner, J. (2006). The interpersonal, cognitive, and social nature of depression. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Markowitz, 1999
- Weissman, M. M, Markowitz, J. C., & Klerman, G. L. (2007). Clinician's quick guide to interpersonal psychotherapy. New York: Oxford University Press.