Interpersonal therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on enhancing individuals’ interpersonal functionality by relieving symptoms. According to Rajhans et al. (2020), the philosophy behind interpersonal therapy is that responses to current challenges in everyday interactions with other people cause psychological symptoms. Thus, interpersonal therapy’s primary objective is to address prevailing relationships issues rather than developmental problems. The level of support one gets from others significantly impacts their mental health (Rajhans et al., 2020). This type of psychotherapy structure is time-limited, usually 12 to 16 weeks. Therapists can deliver it to one person at a time or to groups.
Interpersonal therapy can be categorized into two, dynamic and metacognitive. Dynamic interpersonal therapy (DIT) helps individuals with psychological disorders better understand their feelings and thoughts and those of the people surrounding them (Fonagy et al., 2020). On the other hand, metacognitive interpersonal therapy (MIT) involves an integrative method to treat personality disorders (Sebastian et al., 2022). Irrespective of the type of interpersonal therapy adopted, this psychotherapy intervention focuses on four areas, including conflicts in relationships, life changes, grief, loss, and challenges in establishing and sustaining relationships.
The Structure and Potential Beneficiaries of Interpersonal Therapy
The interpersonal comprises three phases, the opening, middle, and final sessions. The opening session starts from week 1 to week 3 where a collection of information and decision about the therapy occurs. Patients create lists of all key relationships with the help of a therapist. Middle sessions start from the fourth to the fourteenth week, where therapists support patients to address and improve identified problem areas (Rajhans et al., 2020). Final sessions are executed in weeks 15 and 16, where the main objective is to deal with any sense of loss associated with the therapy and review identified issues and progress made. Individuals with depression, anxiety, eating, bipolar, and stress disorders are some of the potential beneficiaries of interpersonal therapy.
Techniques Used By Practitioners to Deliver Interpersonal Therapy
Therapists use different techniques to deliver interpersonal therapy to patients with psychological disorders. Bodily work and mindfulness are methods practitioners use to administer interpersonal therapy. The bodily work approach involves guiding patients to exercises such as grounding, physical training, and breathing regulations. According to Louise Bell et al. (2019), these exercises enhance patients’ ability to their behaviors and emotions and access to positive self-images besides improving physical and mental wellbeing. For instance, a therapist can ask a patient to alternate sit-ups and breathing regulations after two minutes for a half-hour session. Mindfulness can be an effective technique to address psychological disorders such as depression, major depression, and anxiety (Mahan et al., 2018). Mindfulness involves awareness of one’s present thoughts and moments, emotions, and physical sensations using a nonjudgmental attitude. The steps to effective mindfulness are breathing deeply and relaxing, dropping worries and concerns, including more awareness, and slowly counting breaths. These steps are followed by deep immersion into the breathing process; avoid drifting away from thoughts in your mind and settling into peaceful awareness.
Conditions Treated Using Interpersonal Therapy
Psychotherapists use interpersonal therapy to treat a wide range of psychological conditions. According to Rajhans et al. (2020), some illnesses that should be treated using this psychotherapy are depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, postpartum depression, eating disorders, and dysthymia. Therapists must conduct a thorough assessment of their clients to decide whether they are suitable candidates for interpersonal therapy before initiating the intervention. Interpersonal therapy is contraindicated for active substance abuse, psychosis, antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and individuals with severe cognitive deficits.
Effectiveness of Interpersonal Therapy
Interpersonal therapy has been recognized as an effective intervention for various psychological disorders across different demographic groups. Schramm et al. (2020) indicate interpersonal therapy reduces depression and work-related stresses better than standard interventions. Another study by Oral and Tuncay (2021) found that interpersonal therapy effectively decreases levels of depression and increases social adaption among women with major depressive disorder. A comparison of dynamic interpersonal therapy with low-intensity treatment for major depression by Fonagy et al. (2020) showed the former is superior to the latter. Further, Sebastian et al. (2022) found metacognitive interpersonal therapy as a promising intervention for avoidance personality disorder. These studies are evidence that interpersonal therapy is an instrumental approach for managing depression and other related diseases. However, Oral and Tuncay (2021) note that a combination of interpersonal therapy other treatment methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants can yield better outcomes for major depressive disorders. Therefore, therapists can opt to use this psychotherapy alone or combine it with other treatment options.
The Overall Impression about Interpersonal Therapy
Most people in society are affected by psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety. Interpersonal therapy is one of the interventions used by a psychotherapist to treat and manage various mental health problems. There are different techniques that psychotherapists can use to administer this treatment method individually or to groups. Although interpersonal therapy is time-consuming, multiple studies have shown that it effectively manages psychological disorders. Therefore, individuals with mental disorders such as depression, stress, and anxiety should consider it as a treatment option for their conditions.
Fonagy, P., Lemma, A., Target, M., O’Keeffe, S., Constantinou, M., Ventura Wurman, T., Pilling, S. (2020). Dynamic interpersonal therapy for moderate to severe depression: A pilot randomized controlled and feasibility trial. Psychological Medicine, 50(6), 1010-1019. Web.
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Mahan, R., Swan, S., & Macfie, J. (2018). Interpersonal psychotherapy and mindfulness for treatment of major depression with anxious distress. Clinical Case Studies, 17(2), 104–119. Web.
Oral, M., & Tuncay, T. (2021). Effectiveness of group interpersonal psychotherapy among women with major depression in turkey. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 71(1), 180-202. Web.
Rajhans, P., Hans, G., Kumar, V., & Chadda, R. (2020). Interpersonal psychotherapy for patients with mental disorders. Indian J Psychiatry, 62(2), 201-212.
Schramm E, Mack S, Thiel N, Jenkner C, Elsaesser M and Fangmeier T (2020) Interpersonal psychotherapy vs. Treatment as usual for major depression related to work stress: A pilot randomized controlled study. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, 193.
Sebastian, S., Raffaele, P., Sophie, J., Frederik Weischer, F., & Giancarlo, D. (2022). Treating avoidant personality disorder with combined individual metacognitive interpersonal therapy and group mentalization-based treatment. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 210(3), 163-171.