by Dr. Becky Spelman on 24/08/2020
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is a therapeutic approach that focuses on improving interpersonal issues and the reduction of symptoms in a specific, limited time frame. IPT is a short terms or a maintenance type therapy, given over as little as eight sessions in IPT-brief and up to three years in IPT- maintenance.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is based on the premise that the relationships we have and the things we experience in our lifetimes, and especially during challenging or transitional times, have an impact on our mood, affect, and well-being. In other words, for most people, achieving mental wellness depends not just on internal factors, but also on a variety of external factors, including the relationships they have with the people in their lives.
From birth, we are social creatures, and we need the emotional support and feedback that come from being in relationships of various kinds with others. Therefore, IPT addresses troubling issues specifically in terms of how they manifest in social, interpersonal contexts—in other words, in our interactions with our close family members, friends, and so forth—rather than by exploring the origins or unconscious elements of the behaviours that are contributing to the problem.
WHO IS INTERPERSONAL THERAPY FOR?
Patients for whom IPT is recommended engage with their Therapist in a positive, warm and empathetic environment in a highly structured manner over a specific period of time, which is typically from twelve to sixteen weeks. Sometimes patients are also prescribed medication such as anti-depressants to help them in the short-term, but the goal of IPT is to help patients to develop positive interpersonal relationships that will help them to manage their issues more effectively.
IPT, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, involves the use of structured interviews, codified tools to assess the patient’s current situation and progress, therapeutic approaches including role play and communication analysis, and tasks that the patient is asked to carry out at home between sessions.
The first few weeks of therapy typically involve working together to explore the patient’s personal history and relationships, as well as identifying specific areas in their life that they might experience as particularly problematic. Working together, the patient and therapist may identify different areas to address as they go through the time-limited therapeutic process.
IPT helps patients to understand themselves better and to develop and improve close relationships and effective communication skills so as to become able to develop networks of social support that will be there for them during the difficult periods of their lives.
WHAT DISORDERS CAN HELP TREAT?
IPT is proven to help with a range of psychiatric and psychological issues, including depression, bipolar disorder, social phobia, eating disorders, and substance addiction, as well as during particular challenges such as bereavement, adjusting to parenthood and/or postnatal depression, or a change in one’s life circumstancessuch as conflict in interpersonal relationships (for example, during a period of marriage breakdown), the recent diagnosis of a life-changing ailment, or when the patient is experiencing social isolation and associated problems. For many patients, IPT has been proven to be as effective at reducing symptoms as medication—but without the potential side effects and psychological dependency that can result from the long-term medication of symptoms.
During the therapeutic period, the client learns the problem-solving skills they need to manage their own emotional landscape more effectively in the future, thereby strengthening their social acuity and ability to interact with others in a positive manner and reducing their need for further intervention and for treatment in the form of medication.
Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy
For patients who need to see results in a brief period of time, dynamic interpersonal therapy offers a proven technique. By teaching them how to manage changes in how they respond to challenges in their lives, our therapists can help them quickly start to make positive change.
Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy, known as DIT, is a type of “brief” therapy, which means that the therapeutic process is designed to lead to tangible improvements in well-being in a relatively short period of time, with the course of treatments offered with a clear start and end point. DIT is a short (16 session) psychodynamic psychotherapy developed for the treatment of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Patients often have weekly sessions for three or four months. DIT is often used to help patients with depressive disorders or problems with anxiety, sometimes in conjunction with medication, such as an anti-depressant, that helps them with their immediate presenting problem. DIT is often recommended for patients who actively prefer a dynamic approach to their treatment, or for whom cognitive behavioural therapy is not suited.
WHAT CAN DIT HELP WITH?
By working with their therapist, patients gain insights into how what they are feeling and experiencing is linked to their experience of relating with others from childhood. The first few sessions of therapy tend to focus on teasing out and understanding the nature of the relationships in the patient’s life. Often, they find that they have developed a particular way of interacting with others that is repeated in every important relationship in their lives. With this understanding, they can figure out what is going wrong in their lives and why, and how this is contributing to the stress or anxiety they are experiencing. In most cases, when people are able to improve the way they interact with others, their psychological health also improves.
In the context of the therapeutic process, patients can learn ways of relating to others and coping with challenging relationships that are healthier for them. As the therapy moves into the middle part of the process, the focus shifts to helping the patient make proactive choices and changes in their lives. In this way, DIT is a dynamic, interactive process in which the patient engages fully with their therapist to tease out the issues in their past that may have contributed to the problems they are suffering from today, while also figuring out what they themselves can change to make their lives better. Patients are also expected to participate in their own treatment plan so that they and their therapist can keep track of their progress from week to week. Between sessions, they are invited and expected to modify their behaviour as discussed during therapy, and to observe how these changes are impacting on the important relationships in their lives.
As this is a form of therapy with a limited time frame, anxieties and concerns can arise in patients as they approach the end of the therapeutic period. The final sessions provide an opportunity for the patient and their therapist to reflect on all they have learned and develop an understanding of how these new insights can continue to make a lasting, positive difference in their lives.
If you would like to talk to someone about having Dynamic Interpersonal therapy or Interpersonal Therapy in London, please get in touch with us at the Private Therapy Clinic by telephone at: 020 3882 0684 or book online by clicking below.
We are based in London but also treat anyone via phone or Skype.
- Kiesler, Donald J.; Watkins, Lucy M. (1989). “Interpersonal complementarity and the therapeutic alliance: A study of relationship in psychotherapy”. Psychotherapy. 26 (2): 183–94.
- Markowitz, John C.; Weissman, Myrna M. (2012). “Interpersonal Psychotherapy: Past, Present and Future”. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy. 19 (2): 99–105.
- Weissman, Myrna M.; Markowitz, John C. (1998). “An Overview of Interpersonal Psychotherapy”. In Markowitz, John C. (ed.). Interpersonal Psychotherapy. American Psychiatric Press.
- Wilfley, Denise E., & Shore, Allison L. (2015). Interpersonal Psychotherapy. In International Encyclopedia of the Social &Behavioral Sciences (pp. 631-636).