What is interpersonal therapy (IPT) for the treatment of major depressive disorder (clinical depression)?

Updated: Mar 28, 2019
  • Author: Jerry L Halverson, MD; Chief Editor: David Bienenfeld, MD  more...
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Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a time-limited (typically 16 sessions) treatment for major depressive disorder. While more structured than dynamic treatments, IPT has less structure than cognitive and behavioral approaches. IPT draws from attachment theory and emphasizes the role of interpersonal relationships, [134] focusing on current interpersonal difficulties. Specific areas of emphasis include grief, interpersonal disputes, role transitions, and interpersonal deficits. [135] The initial phase of treatment (sessions 1-4) focuses on building a working alliance as well as identifying an area of primary interpersonal focus based on the four areas previously mentioned, although other areas may be addressed as well. Patients are encouraged to assume the “sick role”, allowing them time to address their symptoms and have a brief respite from some responsibilities. During the middle phase of treatment (sessions 4-12), specific interventions are used to address the area of focus. Thisincludesproviding validation and support, improving communication skills, and working to solve interpersonal problems. The final phase of treatment (sessions 13-16) focuses on termination of therapy. This includes reviewing progress, developing relapse prevention strategies, and addressing emotions that come with ending the therapy relationship. [135]


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