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Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a brief, attachment-focused psychotherapy that centers on resolving interpersonal problems and symptomatic recovery. It is an empirically supported treatment (EST) that follows a highly structured and time-limited approach and is intended to be completed within 12–16 weeks. IPT is based on the principle that relationships and life events impact mood and that the reverse is also true. It was developed by Gerald Klerman and Myrna Weissman for major depression in the 1970s and has since been adapted for other mental disorders. IPT is an empirically validated intervention for depressive disorders, and is more effective when used in combination with psychiatric medications. Along with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), IPT is recommended in treatment guidelines as a psychosocial treatment of choice, and IPT and CBT are the only psychosocial interventions in which psychiatry residents in the United States are mandated to be trained for professional practice.
Originally named "high contact" therapy, IPT was first developed in 1969 at Yale University as part of a study designed by Gerald Klerman, Myrna Weissman and colleagues to test the efficacy of an antidepressant with and without psychotherapy as maintenance treatment of depression. IPT has been studied in many research protocols since its development. NIMH-TDCRP demonstrated the efficacy of IPT as a maintenance treatment and delineated some contributing factors.
The content of IPT's therapy was inspired by Attachment theory and Harry Stack Sullivan's Interpersonal psychoanalysis. Social theory is also influenced in a lesser role to emphasis on qualitative impact of social support networks for recovery. Unlike psychodynamic approaches, IPT does not include a personality theory or attempt to conceptualize or treat personality but focuses on humanistic applications of interpersonal sensitivity.
- Attachment Theory, forms the basis for understanding patients’ relationship difficulties, attachment schema and optimal functioning when attachment needs are met.
- Interpersonal Theory, describes the ways in which patients’ maladaptive metacommunication patterns (Low to high Affiliation & Inclusion and dominant to submissive Status) lead to or evoke difficulty in their here-and-now interpersonal relationships.
The aim of IPT is to help the patient to improve interpersonal and intrapersonal communication skills within relationships and to develop social support network with realistic expectations to deal with the crises precipitated in distress' and to weather 'interpersonal storms'.
It has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for depression and has been modified to treat other psychiatric disorders such as substance use disorders and eating disorders. It is incumbent upon the therapist in the treatment to quickly establish a therapeutic alliance with positive countertransference of warmth, empathy, affective attunement and positive regard for encouraging a positive transferential relationship, from which the patient is able to seek help from the therapist despite resistance. It is primarily used as a short-term therapy completed in 12–16 weeks, but it has also been used as a maintenance therapy for patients with recurrent depression.
Interpersonal psychotherapy has been proven as an effective treatment for the following:
- Bipolar disorder
- Bulimia nervosa
- Post-partum depression
- Family therapy
- Major depressive disorder
- Cyclothymia
IPT for children is based on the premise that depression occurs in the context of an individual's relationships regardless of its origins in biology or genetics. More specifically, depression affects people's relationships and these relationships further affect our mood. The IPT model identifies four general areas in which a person may be having relationship difficulties:
- grief after the loss of a loved one;
- conflict in significant relationships, including a client's relationship with his or her own self;
- difficulties adapting to changes in relationships or life circumstances; and
- difficulties stemming from social isolation.
The IPT therapist helps identify areas in need of skill-building to improve the client's relationships and decrease the depressive symptoms. Over time, the client learns to link changes in mood to events occurring in his/her relationships, communicate feelings and expectations for the relationships, and problem-solve solutions to difficulties in the relationships.
IPT has been adapted for the treatment of depressed adolescents (IPT-A) to address developmental issues most common to teenagers such as separation from parents, development of romantic relationships, and initial experience with death of a relative or friend IPT-A helps the adolescent identify and develop more adaptive methods for dealing with the interpersonal issues associated with the onset or maintenance of their depression. IPT-A is typically a 12- to 16-week treatment. Although the treatment involves primarily individual sessions with the teenager, parents are asked to participate in a few sessions to receive education about depression, to address any relationship difficulties that may be occurring between the adolescent and his/her parents, and to help support the adolescent's treatment.
IPT has been used as a psychotherapy for depressed elderly, with its emphasis on addressing interpersonally relevant problems. IPT appears especially well suited to the life changes that many people experience in their later years.
=For those who find psychodynamic therapeutic approaches too nebulous, and those who find the take-home demands of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to over-resemble their high school homework, Interpersonal Therapy or "IPT" would be a rather appealing alternative. IPT has been specifically modified for adolescents, so that there now weighs more emphasis on their interpersonal relationships as opposed to just more homework. As teenage angst can often equate to a mistrust of technical, psychiatric jargon, what suits them is a far more expressive and emotional language. More evidence, such as a study conducted by C.G. Fairburn in 1997, suggests that patients with bulimia, along with their therapists, prefer the IPT model over CBT.However, one must not neglect the implications this may have on patient-compliance, and the morale of the IPT itself.
For most psychiatrists, on the other hand, a perceived limitation of IPT is that it has not yet been modified for the management of psychosis, despite this limitation being true of many prominent psychotherapeutic models. Yet, the most prognostically friendly Congnitve Behaviourial approach must bely on years of experience in order to fine tune and fully develop. 
As most therapist-client treatment settings require both to be fully present, the therapist by default should expect the client to wholly attend scheduled CBT sessions at minimum. Contrarily, not nearly as much is expected from the client when she returns home. However, what captivates both the minds and hearts of adolescents and adults alike, is the comparatively tremendous effort that clients make when they traverse the oftentimes dysphoric and traumatic stressors of their past. Within Interpersonal Therapy, such dangerous exposure almost always amplifies associated pain, and such steep curves do elevate the risk of symptomal worsening before the client ever finds relief over the top. Regardless, with significantly more effort required in significantly less time, the process of empirical therapy likely requires a more condensed effort when in likely comparison with CBT. Paley et al. (2008) found both IPT and CBT to conclude with similar efficacy. Although the test group in the IPT study displayed greater efficacy than the placebo, it yielded similar results in comparison with other psychotherapy models in a meta-analysis of 38 published studies.. Another 1996 study concluded that both IPT and CBT were hard pressed to sustain full remission. 
Insofar, studies that produced efficacy often fail to account for poor attrition rates. Through common misconceptions of poor prognosis, patients will not complete the course of treatment in its entirety.
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