Interpersonal therapy is a method of treating depression and it is a short-term therapy with a precise, therefore limited focus of treatment. It is a very spread therapy mainly because it proved to be no less efficient than a drug-based therapy (antidepressants), also with a short-term application. Even if it was developed at first just to treat adults, over time it has proved excellent results with adolescents and is probably the first choice when dealing with depression at children.
It’s not a succession of events in the surroundings of an individual that determine the depression to occur, but it is also true that it is in an interpersonal context that the depression appears and usually affect all the people involved in the relationships the depressed person has and, thus, inflicts changes on the relationships themselves. This is when the interpersonal therapy for depression steps in and it addresses the issues in the interpersonal context by studying the relationship between the symptoms of the patient and the people with whom he has relationships with, be it family or any other people.
The way the interpersonal therapy works is by quickly addressing each separate symptom, while also aiming for a quick social recovery and improvement by adjusting specific elements. While these are the short term objectives, a long term one would be to make the depressed person to be able to adjust whatever it takes in order to improve socially.
Applying the interpersonal therapy for depression means basically to go by the book, because all the methods it is comprised of are backed up by evidence and documented as being effective.
The International Society for IPT describes depression as having three distinct areas: the symptom formation, the personality issues and the social functioning.
Because interpersonal therapy is a short term therapy, it cannot deal with the personality issues; however, it easily deals with immediately identifiable problems and helps the patient to become aware of them and also find resolution, while gaining positive experience regarding his or her own symptoms.
Besides checking the seriousness of some symptoms and the effects of various treatment approaches, symptoms are not addressed in the short (twelve to sixteen hours per week) therapeutic sessions, the main focus being to address one or two problems at most for the entire period, from the interaction area of the patient.
Problems addressed during interpersonal therapy sessions are mainly included in four different categories. The first are interpersonal conflicts or disputes, which are generated by different expectations in different media like work, school, family, marriage or society itself. The second category, role transition, contains the distress caused by the changing of a role in one of the five media stated above, which is perceived as a loss and feeds the depression. Grief represents the loss experience due to someone passing away. It becomes a problem when it takes more than normal to manifest or it is more intense. The interpersonal deficits represent the fourth category and come into action when the depressed starts losing a number of relationships or loses intensity in the ones he has.