Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) is a time-limited, interpersonally focused, psychodynamically informed psychotherapy that has the goals
of symptom relief and improving interpersonal functioning.

IPT is concerned with the ‘interpersonal context’—the relational factors that predispose, precipitate and perpetuate the patient’s distress. Within IPT
interpersonal relationships are the focus of therapeutic attention as the means to bring about change, with the aim of helping patients to improve their
interpersonal relationships or change their expectations about them. In addition, the treatment also aims to assist patients to improve their social
support network so that they can better manage their current interpersonal distress (Stuart & Robertson, 2003).

How does it work?

Sometimes problems with other people can lead to depression or other mental health issues. Solving these problems will then help recovery. However, even if the depression is caused by something else, solving problems involving other people may still help.

ipt interpersonal therapyIs it effective?

A number of studies show that interpersonal psychotherapy helps people with mild or moderate depression. It works as well as antidepressant drugs. However, interpersonal psychotherapy has not received as much research as some other treatments like antidepressants or cognitive behaviour therapy.

Where do you get it?

Interpersonal psychotherapy is not widely available. It generally needs a therapist such as a clinical psychologist, psychologist or counsellor who has been trained to provide this therapy. Most GPs do not have the time or the training to provide this treatment. Medicare provides rebates for visits to some therapists under the Better Access to Mental Health Care scheme. Interpersonal therapy may also be covered by some private health insurance funds and is sometimes available from therapists employed in hospitals or government-funded clinics.

Useful Links


  • Churchill R, Hunot V, Corney R, Knapp M, McGuire H, Tylee A, Wessely S. A systematic review of controlled trials of the effectiveness of brief psychological treatments for depression. Health Technology Assessment 2001; 5: No. 35.
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