Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal relationships are important for your overall physical and emotional happiness. Relationships help fight loneliness while also giving you a sense of purpose in life. For instance, the closeness you feel with family and friends is an essential part of your social support. Relationships in other aspects of your life outside of romance and family can also have a positive effect on you, such as getting together with acquaintances for a shared interest or hobby.


What is Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)?

IPT is a short-term form of psychotherapy, usually 12 to 16 sessions, that is used to treat depression and other conditions. As its name suggests, IPT focuses on your interpersonal relationships and social interactions—including how much support you have from others and the impact these relationships have on your mental health.

When IPT was first developed, many mental health professionals conceptualized depression as "person-based." That is, depression was not considered to be based on a person's environment. IPT, on the other hand, recognizes that a person's relationships can have a huge impact on mental health.


How Does It Work?

IPT takes the approach of improving mental health by improving relationships, it begins with the therapist conducting an interpersonal inventory. This inventory is a detailed review of your significant relationships, both current and past. These relationships are then grouped according to four main problem areas.

✽ Grief

Depression can occur as a result of the loss of a loved one. While it is normal to go through the stages of grief in this type of situation, a major loss can also result in unresolved grief. This is grief that is delayed (remains for a long time after the loss), distorted, or grief in which you may not feel emotions, but instead experience other symptoms related to depression such as insomnia and fatigue.

✽ Role Dispute

Role disputes occur when you and the significant people in your life have different expectations about your relationship. An example of this is if you feel that your spouse should display more affection or ask more questions about your day. The disconnect between expectations and real-life behaviour can cause feelings of depression.

✽ Role Transition

Mental health issues may occur during life transitions, when your role changes and you don't know how to cope with that change. Getting married, getting divorced, becoming a parent, and retiring are all examples of role transitions.

✽ Interpersonal Deficits

If you find it difficult to form and maintain good quality relationships, IPT can help identify your interpersonal deficits. This can include any feelings of inadequacy you may have, whether you find it difficult to express your emotions, and other feelings or beliefs that are preventing you from communicating effectively.



Like all forms of psychotherapy, IPT can empower a person to change the way they think about and interact with others. The focus on relationships may be especially helpful for those grieving lost relationships or struggling to make their relationships work. For people with depression, IPT is a highly effective treatment option that may be an alternative to medication.