Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a highly structured psychological treatment for interpersonal problems (bereavement and other loss, role disputes, role transitions, interpersonal deficits' such as loneliness).
Interpersonal therapy is based on the principle that interpersonal factors may contribute heavily to psychological problems. It is commonly distinguished from other forms of therapy in its emphasis on the interpersonal rather than the intrapsychic.
IPT takes structure from psychodynamic psychotherapy, but also from contemporary Cognitive Behavioural approaches in that it is time-limited and employs homework, structured interviews, and assessment tools.
The therapists focus on the interpersonal context and on building interpersonal skills, reducing the symptoms of depression and improving the client's interpersonal interaction with others.
The key elements: Four major problem areas are commonplace in IPT:
* interpersonal disputes,
* role transitions, and
The first is grief, and clients typically present with delayed or distorted grief reactions. Treatment aims include facilitating the grieving process, the client's acceptance of difficult emotions, and their replacement of lost relationships.
The second major problem area is role dispute, in which a client is experiencing nonreciprocal expectations about a relationship with someone else. Treatment focuses on understanding the nature of the dispute, the current communication difficulties, and works to modify the client's communication strategies while remaining in accord with their core values.
A third major problem area is role transition, in which an individual is in the process of giving up an old role and taking on a new one. Treatment attempts to facilitate the client's giving up of the old role, expressing emotions about this loss, and acquiring skills and support in the new role they must take on.
A fourth problem area commonly broached with IPT is interpersonal deficits. Clients presenting interpersonal deficits commonly engage in an analysis of their communication patterns; participate in role playing exercises with the therapist, and work to reduce their overall isolation, if applicable.
Specific methods are used for each of the four kinds of problem, which are considered by reference to specific situations and alternative ways of coping strategies tried out in homework, goals are set and progress towards them is monitored.
The therapist focuses on central issues that they contribute to emotional distress, placing strong emphasis on personal relationships.
Interpersonal therapy is recommended for the treatment of depression, incl. post-partum depression, eating disorders; bipolar disorder; bereavement and other loss; interpersonal problems and problems of role transition, role disputes, interpersonal deficits such as loneliness; peer pressure and sexual relationships; couples counselling; conflict with parents, problems such as drug abuse and isolation.
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