Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

It’s not just in your head; sometimes when it rains, it pours. The dog got sick, your son forgot his backpack, you’re running late to work, and you just spilled coffee on your shirt, all before 9 am. These little annoyances can build up and lead to you getting frustrated with the people that you interact with on any given day. A co-worker, your kids, or your significant other all could be in the place you let out your aggression, despite the fact that it shouldn’t be directed toward them. This example may feel like a small part of your daily life, but for some people, these situations lead to demanding interpersonal skills and a frustrating lack of communication. Luckily, a tested therapy called interpersonal psychotherapy understands that life events can affect a person’s mood and that concise and focused treatment can help someone better handle these ups and downs.

What is Interpersonal psychotherapy?
Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a brief, attachment-focused psychotherapy that centers on resolving interpersonal problems and symptomatic recovery. It’s unique in the sense that it follows a highly structured and time-limited approach and is intended to be completed within 12–16 weeks. It was developed by Gerald Klerman and Myrna Weissman in the 1970s and was created to help treat major depression. It’s since then it has been adapted to help treat other mental disorders such as anxiety, postpartum depression, and bipolar disorder.

Its popularity and overall effectiveness has made it the gold standard of psychosocial treatment. In fact, IPT and Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are the only psychosocial interventions psychiatry residents are mandated to be trained in throughout the United States.

The primary goal of IPT is to help a patient improve their interpersonal and intrapersonal communication skills, develop realistic expectations in communication, and to positively react to their stressors so they can live a more balanced life. The beauty of this therapy is its nuanced nature and ability to understand that a person’s mood is a large factor in how they see and digest the world around them. IPT is based on the principle that relationships and life events impact mood and one’s mood impacts relationships and life events. The acceptance of this idea allows the practitioners of IPT to empathize with a patient and help them understand that little annoyances and stressors can truly lead to stress and overwhelm. By thoughtfully tackling how one sees the world and interprets stressors, a psychologist can help to rewire some of the instant reactions that patient experience. Bubbling anger and immediate annoyance can turn into calm understanding and thoughtful intention. A mind shift like the ones that patients experience when going through IPT allow them to be better communicators and listeners; and ultimately, better friends, partners, coworkers, and parents.

The limited timeframe of this therapy is also helpful for a lot of people as it makes them feel as if they’re completing a course or going through specific training. When someone knows that they’ll be going through a finite therapy, they tend to work more actively towards their end goal as compared to being a more passive observer.

Consider giving this useful therapy a try. A change in your mindset is on the horizon with IPT!

Dr. Takos is a Newport Beach Psychologist specializing in the treatment of adolescents and adults suffering from depression, anxiety, and trauma-and stressor-related disorders.