What is interpersonal psychotherapy?

Interpersonal psychotherapy is a treatment plan that is used to treat depression, and is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on you and your relationships with other people. Interpersonal psychotherapy focuses on the idea that personal relationships are the center of psychological problems. Despite the fact that depression is not always directly related to a specific event or a relationship, those diagnosed with depression struggle with interpersonal relationships. It is very common for those with depression to lose a lot of connections because of the nature of their disorder; a lot of the time it is extremely difficult to maintain a relationship when you have depression. The goal of interpersonal psychotherapy is to help you build stronger communication skills with others, as well as focus on the things that trigger your depression.

Interpersonal psychotherapy can be used as a sort of relationship counseling as well, especially if your relationship problems are a significant factor of your depression. This type of treatment is based on the idea that feeling depressed can have an impact on your relationships, and has a focus on the way that your depression is expressed in your everyday relationships.

How does interpersonal psychotherapy work?

Interpersonal psychotherapy starts with a therapist learning about the significant relationships that you have had in your life, as well as those that you have currently. Your therapist will then divide these relationships into different groups:


Grief is a common contributing factor of depression and stems usually from the loss of a loved one. A major loss, such as the loss of a parent, sibling, or child can result in unresolved grief that can amplify the feelings of depression that you may already feel, or may be the cause of those feelings.

Role Dispute

Role disputes happen when you and the people in your life have different expectations. If you and your partner have different expectations about where your relationship is going, this can cause you or your partner to become depressed. Another common example of this is if you and your parents disagree about on decisions that you have made in your life. Any number of struggles in a relationship can cause you to feel depressed.

Role Transition

Role transitions occur when you and your partner are at the beginning or the end of a significant milestone in your relationship. Even something positive like first getting married can trigger depression. Other examples include having a baby or getting divorced; any major transition where you do not know how to cope with the associated changes.

Interpersonal Deficit

At the other end of the spectrum lies interpersonal deficit, or the absence of a significant life event. Also included in this category would be any feelings of inadequacy that you may have, or any other interpersonal deficits that you have that may be preventing you from properly communicating.

Your therapist will help you determine which area you need to work on the most, and which area is most responsible for causing your depression. After this is complete, your sessions will be focused on helping you deal with the specific issue.

Will interpersonal psychotherapy work for me?

Interpersonal psychotherapy can be used to treat depression. Interpersonal psychotherapy is also used to treat a wide number of other conditions such as eating disorders, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse disorder. This type of psychotherapy is also just one amongst many other treatment plans for those with mental health disorders. Other types of therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and even animal-assisted psychotherapy. The type of therapy that works best for you is up to you; it depends on your likes and needs and the severity of your condition.

Talking to your doctor or therapist, if you already have one, about the different types of therapy is a great way to begin the conversation about interpersonal psychotherapy. Sometimes, bringing the other person that you wish to talk about in therapy is helpful to clients as it allows you to work together on your problems. Talk to your therapist about the different forms of psychotherapy that are available, and they will work to help build your treatment plan. If you’re looking for help, here’s a good read.