Interpersonal Therapy


What Is Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)?

IPT is based on the idea that your relationships and social life can affect your mental health. The main goal of this therapy is to improve the quality of your interpersonal relationships and social functioning to reduce stress.

IPT can either take place in an individual or group setting, and it often lasts 12-16 weeks. Trained Mercy therapists offer IPT to help you work through interpersonal conflict and gain confidence in your social life.

When It’s Used

Interpersonal therapy was originally developed to treat major depressive disorder, however, it’s proven to be effective in treating bipolar disorder, eating disorders, substance use and addiction in addition to other behavioral conditions.

IPT can help resolve symptoms, improve personal relationships and increase social support. It can also be a component of a treatment strategy that includes prescribed medications.

Your Mercy provider will work with you to determine an individualized therapy based on your symptoms and personal goals, so structure and length of IPT sessions vary.

How IPT Works

IPT focuses on social roles and relationships, and provides strategies to resolve problems within four key areas:

  • Social connections – This may include identifying and working through unhealthy or unfulfilling relationships, or easing out of social isolation.
  • Unresolved grief – The loss of a loved one can cause great distress, whether it’s a recent or distant loss.
  • Difficult life transitions – Retirement, divorce or a move to a new city may create stress in interpersonal relationships.
  • Interpersonal conflict – IPT can also help you manage the conflict that may arise between family members, friends or co-workers. 

How it Differs from Other Psychotherapies

IPT differs from other psychotherapies because it focuses on your current situation, instead of searching for past origin. IPT investigates the social stresses that may be affecting your mental health more in-depth than other types of behavioral therapy.

IPT works from the premise that interpersonal distress and psychological symptoms are closely related. Your relationships and general social support provide context, good or bad, and affect your ability to cope with your distress.

IPT: What to Expect

IPT sessions can either be one-on-one or in a small group setting. Your therapist will ask guiding questions and provide prompts to get you thinking, and may give you some assignments to work on between sessions.

Typical courses of IPT range from 6-20 sessions with additional sessions as necessary. The first few sessions are dedicated to discussing your symptoms and identifying important relationships and social connections in your life. These are usually individual sessions.

During subsequent sessions, your therapist can help you find strategies to improve any problem areas you might have identified during the first phase of treatment. Your therapist may also recommend group sessions in order to work on interpersonal relationships in a safe setting. Even after the main IPT sessions are over, you can check in with your therapist to talk about your progress and discuss any questions you might have.

Mercy offers IPT and other mental health treatments for adults, seniors, adolescents and children. We provide care with compassion and dignity to help you restore a healthy emotional balance.

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