What's Interpersonal Therapy and When Is It Recommended?

Interpersonal therapy is focused on treating depression linked to the psychosocial context. Would you like to know more? Here, we'll tell you all about it.
What's Interpersonal Therapy and When Is It Recommended?

Last update: 03 September, 2021

Personal relationships tend to be complex. Therefore, it’s normal for us to have problems managing them properly and for conflicts to arise that end up affecting our mental health. In order to address these in the best possible way, interpersonal therapy was developed in 1969.

It was Gerald Klerman and Myrna Weissman who discovered a new way of doing therapy by associating each patient’s illness (depression, low self-esteem, anxiety) with the psychosocial context in which they lived.

This therapy often focuses on major depressive disorders, although it now addresses other conditions as well. Its benefits include resolving interpersonal conflicts, dealing with grief, or overcoming depression.

How does interpersonal therapy work?

This type of therapy focuses on depression, eating problems, or other disorders whose origin lies in the poor management of, and approach to, interpersonal relationships. Behind it, we can detect certain current methods such as psychoanalysis, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or humanism.

However, interpersonal therapy is unique and doesn’t fall within any of these areas. The mechanisms on which it focuses are the patient’s symptomatology, the conflicts they have, and the interpersonal relationships they maintain.

  • Symptomatology: The patient may feel sad, have very low self-esteem, have lost the desire to do what they used to be passionate about, have a complete lack of motivation, and so on.
  • Conflicts: There are some that are evident and clear, such as having an abusive boss, a harmful relationship, contact with a toxic family, among others.
  • Relationships: Emotional dependency, being unable to set limits, not knowing how to communicate one’s own desires, and not knowing how to cut off relationships that only cause harm.
A male patient in a therapy session.
Interpersonal therapy is ideal for overcoming episodes of depression and conflicts that affect emotional well-being.

Read: 5 Risks of Emotional Dependence on a Significant Other

The interpersonal therapy process

Once all these problems are detected, the interpersonal therapy process can begin. To do this, a preliminary interview must be conducted to allow the professional to make a diagnosis and find out what’s happening to the person in question.

Then, what the therapist does is go deeper into all these problems. If the patient has a deep depression, they may need pharmacological treatment to complement the interpersonal therapy they’re receiving. In some cases, this is beneficial.

It will be the evolution of each individual that will determine the number of sessions needed and their frequency. The professional will make the changes that are necessary in order to adapt the therapy so that there begins to be a noticeable improvement.

When is interpersonal therapy a good idea?

Interpersonal therapy is beneficial when there are conflicts in relationships that cause a lot of discomfort. It’s normal not to have the resources to manage them adequately, and that’s why psychological therapy is so necessary.

Likewise, this type of therapy is useful when a loved one dies. Managing grief is complicated and can plunge the bereaved into a deep depression. Therefore, this resource can contribute to helping the mourning process.

We can also mention relationship problems resulting from poor communication, lack of boundaries, negative relationships, and so on. This type of therapy can treat and solve all of these problems, which will provide very useful resources not only for the present moment, but also for the future.

When suffering from depression and nothing has been helpful so far, interpersonal therapy can make a big change. Drugs alone won’t help to overcome this life-limiting disorder. Therefore, it’s a very useful type of therapy.

What are the results?

After receiving this type of therapy, the most obvious result is that the patient will feel much better. They may not yet have completely overcome their depression, but this is a very long road. Even so, in the short term, you’ll feel more eager to do things and you’ll find motivation where it seemed to have disappeared before.

Something very important that’s worth adding is that relationships will be much healthier. The way you relate to others will be different because, now, you’ll have more resources to manage conflicts, set limits, and find solutions to different interpersonal problems. What’s more, you’ll find it less difficult to get away from toxic people. Therefore, this will be very positive.

A female patiet smiling during a therapy session.
Interpersonal therapy not only helps individuals overcome depression problems, but also provides the resources to improve relationships with others.

When to see a professional?

You should see a professional who’s trained in interpersonal therapy when other types of therapy don’t work. You should also do this when you’re having problems in relationships, even if you may consider them to be trivial. The improvement will be noticeable.

Feeling sadder than usual, having problems at work, not fitting in with anyone, difficulty getting out of a depression, etc… are reasons enough to seek this type of help. There’s no reason to continue feeling bad, and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help.

Laziness, what people might say, or the cost of therapy are all common excuses. But investing in this type of therapy will be the best thing you can do to get out of depression or to improve interpersonal relationships now and in the future.

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