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Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (or IPT) is a structured, time-limited treatment, based on evidence that changes in one’s social environment are key factors in the onset and continuation of depression. Originally developed 20 years ago for adults, IPT has been modified for practice with adolescents and elderly patients. 

IPT’s goal is to help clients solve an interpersonal crisis as a way of both improving their lives and relieving their symptoms, with a focus on resolving problems in four key areas:

Interpersonal deficits, such as social isolation or involvement in unfulfilling relationships 

Unresolved grief, linked to a past or recent death of a loved one

Difficult life transitions, such as retirement, divorce or moving 

Interpersonal disputes, among partners, family members, close friends or coworkers

Originally, IPT was part of a research study on antidepressants for treating major depressive disorder and was found as effective as medication. It is now used to treat eating disorders, perinatal depression, drug and alcohol addiction, dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder) and bipolar depression

IPT differs from traditional cognitive and behavioral therapy (CBT) by focusing on current rather than past relationships and recognizes—but does not focus on—internal conflicts. The practice differs by addressing only undesirable thoughts and behaviors that apply to relationships. 


Individual treatment is structured—including continuous assessment and interviews by the therapist, along with homework—and typically consists of weekly sessions over 12-16 weeks. One-on-one therapy helps clients understand their emotions as social signals, use this understanding to change relationship patterns rather than depressive symptoms and mobilize social supports. 

    • First, the therapist assesses depressive symptoms and examines social patterns, including changes in relationships and expectations. 
    • Next, the therapist helps the client identify and rank interpersonal issues and implement treatment strategies specific to problem areas. 
    • As treatment progresses, a targeted problem area might change, along with the therapist’s recommended strategies.

Like individual therapy, group therapy is also time-limited, semi-structured and focused on interpersonal dynamics. Groups provide more opportunities for clients to practice interpersonal skills in safe, supportive environments.

Learn more about Evidence-Based Treatments offered at CFI…



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