Psychotherapists use interpersonal therapy (IPT) as short term limited-focus way to treat depression. This treatment has been proved to be as effective in addressing interpersonal problems as the use of antidepressants in brief period of time. It was initially developed with adult patients in mind but over time it became clear that ITP was also useful for children and adolescents. ITP recognizes that events that revolve around relationships between people do not lead to depression, however depression happens within the context of relationships thus affecting how people relate with each other and the roles they take up in relationships. Interpersonal therapy seeks to deal with issues that surround relationships, emphasizing the symptoms tied to how a person relates with others such as peers and family.
Therapists using ITP stick to a process of treatment whose effectiveness is also supported by evidence. Interpersonal therapy focuses on 3 main components which includes: social functioning, personality issues and onset of symptoms.
It is important to note that ITP is not a long term form of treatment; ideally it consists of intensive hourly sessions that take place over a span of 2 to 4 months. It does not deal with personality problems but seek to focus on problems that are identifiable as to how the patient either interacts or avoids interaction with others. As the identified problems are dealt with during therapy session the individual begins to see improvement in their mood and signs of depression may start to dissipate.
Usually, depression symptoms are not addressed by therapists except in instances where they might be very severe. Therapists using ITP works closely with patients either as an individual or in a group setting so as to pin point and deal with significant problems in their interactions. It often limits the number of problems to one or two in the course of the whole treatment. This has the effect of focusing on the required changes in interpersonal interactions that is brought to bear on depression.
Interpersonal therapy focuses on at least four problem areas which are liable for causing depression in individuals. Patients are assisted to figure out which specific areas are responsible for causing depression. This helps to focus therapy on those areas so as to assist the patient deal with the problematic issues concerned. The following are the basic problem areas identified by ITP:
This refers to grief that is either distorted or delayed and experienced after the individual has gone through some sort of loss in their life. In such instances, the person may not grieve in the usual sense, but is likely to exhibit other symptoms. Grief, especially through death of a loved one, is expected to last for several weeks or months as the person moves on with life. When this is stretched beyond the normal period or is excessive then it begins to pose problems in the life of the individual.
In some instances the individual may have some conflicting expectations with significant people in their lives about certain aspects of how they should relate. Role disputes occur in various areas such as in marriage, school, work and family settings. Problems that emanate from conflicts as result of expectations leads to distress which affects the individual
This refers to the inability of the patient to have or form meaningful relationships with others. Patients may reports impoverished relationships which may be in quality or quantity. This may lead to the patient withdrawing from or avoiding certain or all forms of social situations.
This refers to problems that may occur in the course of transitioning through life when the patient is expected to take on new roles which demands making certain changes. In some instances the individual may not be able to cope with sudden upheaval.
ITP uses certain techniques through the course of therapy, these may include:
Here therapists help the patient to identify their emotions and where they originate from.
Patients are assisted to express their emotions in a healthy manner.
Confronting and dealing with their unresolved emotions
The past has a way of catching up with people hence issues from past relationship often can influence current relationships. Therapists help patients to deal with their emotional baggage thus setting them free to be more objective in present and future relationships.
Interpersonal therapy focuses on all the above issues thus assisting the patient who is depressed get new way of making the necessary changes required to deal with interpersonal issues and improving their relationships.