Mindpath Health’s Taish Malone, LPC, Ph.D., helps discuss IPT tools that can help you cope with everyday challenges that derail your mood and relationships.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is based on the idea that your mood and mental health symptoms relate to challenges you face in everyday life.
Researchers Gerald L. Klerman and Myrna M. Weissman created IPT in 1969 as a short-term treatment for depression.
IPT can also help you cope with difficult situations and circumstances, like the death of a loved one, loss of a job, or ongoing conflicts in your relationships.
How it works
IPT is a short-term treatment that typically consists of 12-16 sessions. Though mostly used in individual sessions, IPT can also work in group or couples counseling.
There are two main types of main interpersonal therapy:
- Dynamic interpersonal therapy, which emphasizes understanding your own thoughts and emotions and those of others better.
- Metacognitive interpersonal therapy, which emphasizes learning to express your emotions rather than avoiding or suppressing them.
Both types of IPT have three defined stages, says Heather Kent, a registered psychotherapist:
1. Opening sessions (1-3)
At the start of treatment, the therapist will ask lots of questions about your symptoms and relationship history so they can determine which of the four “problem areas” your sessions will focus on.
Those areas include:
- Grief: Unresolved or overly distressing feelings relating to the loss of a loved one
- Role dispute: Conflicting expectations within one or more of your relationships
- Role transition: Difficulty adjusting to big life changes like marriage, divorce, retirement, or parenthood
- Interpersonal deficits: General challenges in forming and maintaining quality relationships
2. Middle sessions (4-14)
For most of the therapy process, your therapist will guide you in identifying habits and behaviors that no longer seem to serve your needs.
Once you become aware of those unhelpful patterns, you can learn alternative tools to have more productive interactions in your daily life, according to Dr. Taish Malone, PhD, LPC, with Mindpath Health.
3. The final sessions (15 – 16)
These sessions focus on transitioning out of therapy. You’ll spend time reviewing your progress and dealing with any sense of loss associated with the end of therapy.
It’s natural to feel anxiety or sadness as therapy ends.
IPT might include some of the following techniques:
- Imagery rescripting: This involves reliving stressful or upsetting situations to understand your emotional responses and gain more confidence in handling similar scenarios in the future.
- Guided imagery: This exercise entails imagining a particular environment and describing it in great detail. While you explore the imagery and develop the scene, the therapist can guide you toward a deeper emotional understanding of yourself and your interactions with others.
- Mindfulness exercises: Body scans, breath work, and meditation can all help you become more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.
- Role-playing: By acting out imaginary scenarios with people in your life in therapy, you can manage unpleasant feelings in a safe environment, gain real-time insight into your own behavior, and reflect on how you might respond differently.
Benefits for depression
A wealth of research supports the benefits of IPT for various types of depression, including:
- Major depressive disorder (major depression)
- Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)
- Postpartum depression
The main goal of IPT involves resolving and healing from any disturbing life events while also building communication and social skills. That can lead to greater self-esteem and stronger relationships — which may, in turn, help reduce symptoms of depression.
Benefits for other mental health conditions
IPT can also help address a wide range of other mental health conditions and symptoms, including:
- Anxiety disorders. IPT may help reduce interpersonal issues that trigger or worsen symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks and social withdrawal.
- Borderline personality disorder. Core symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) include difficulty managing impulses, frequent shifts in mood, and challenges in interpersonal relationships — and IPT can help address all of these.
- Eating disorders. Interpersonal difficulties may contribute to eating disorders by lowering self-esteem. IPT can help you face any underlying interpersonal challenges that may worsen eating disorders.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder. If you live with PTSD, you might find it overwhelming and painful to revisit the traumatic experience. IPT doesn’t rehash past trauma. Instead, it aims to help you recognize and manage emotional responses as they’re triggered in the moment, so they don’t damage your relationships.
- Bipolar disorder. IPT can help you identify links between your daily interactions and routines and unwanted mood fluctuations, so it may help improve the extreme shifts in
In other words, using IPT techniques while creating a regular daily routine may help balance your mood and improve your social life.
To view the complete article with sources and learn more about how IPT can provide tools to help you cope with everyday challenges that derail your mood and relationships, click here.
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