How to Benefit from Interpersonal Therapy

Three Parts:Seeking Professional TreatmentUndergoing Interpersonal TherapyUnderstanding Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy focuses on your interactions with others, communication skills, and social roles. It is used in psychotherapy treatment for depression and related conditions. Interpersonal therapy can benefit you by helping you solve problems and disputes, improve communication skills, and learn to cope with emotions and life changes. By seeking treatment from a therapist, identifying a few interpersonal issues, and committing to treatment, you can benefit from interpersonal therapy.

Part 1
Seeking Professional Treatment

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    Talk to your doctor. The decision to use interpersonal therapy for your depression or other mental illness should be discussed with your doctor. You may decide to try interpersonal therapy prior to medication, or you may decide to combine medication with the therapy.[1]
    • If you don't already have a therapist or psychologist, ask your doctor for a referral. You can also search online for therapists who treat your mental illness and use interpersonal therapy.
    • When you find a therapist, you can call them or make an appointment to discuss whether they offer interpersonal therapy as a treatment.
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    Set therapy goals. When you and your therapist decide that interpersonal therapy is right for you, you will then work on setting goals for your therapy session. Together, you will decide what is the most important problem or issue to work on through interpersonal therapy.[2]
    • You and your therapist may list all of your interpersonal issues. Then, you may organize them based on severity, and then choose a few issues that are the most immediate problem. These are the issues you will work on in your interpersonal therapy sessions.
    • For example, you may work on your most recent breakup, conflicts with friends, your relocation away from your family, or the death of a loved one. You may make a goal about learning how to communicate better or more effectively. Your therapist may say, “You are experiencing a role dispute, which is leading to your depression. We should spend the next 12 weeks working on this problem.”
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    Commit to the duration of therapy. Interpersonal therapy is generally given over a 12 to 20 week period. You attend one session each week that is 45 to 60 minutes in length. Though this is not an ongoing or extremely lengthy therapy process, it still takes a commitment to follow through and finish your therapy treatment. Interpersonal therapy is supposed to help you see improvement and lessen your symptoms quickly.[3]
    • When you consider interpersonal therapy, decide if you are willing and able to attend one session per week. If you are already attending weekly therapy sessions, you may be able to just replace them temporarily with your interpersonal therapy sessions.
    • Interpersonal therapy may last for over a year. Therapy may continue until your symptoms lessen and you improve.[4]
    • Commitment to treatment is a factor that affects your success.
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    Approach interpersonal therapy with an open mind. You will get the most benefit from interpersonal therapy if you go in willing to make a change. You should go to each session with an open mind and ready to work with your therapist. Be honest with your therapist, try to think of solutions for problems, and be willing to try things to improve.[5]
    • You should also be ready to incorporate what you learn during your daily life. You are only in therapy one hour a week. You should make sure to practice the rest of the time.
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    Consider a interpersonal therapy group. You may consider joining an interpersonal therapy group. These groups consist of six to eight people and one to two therapists. They meet once a week for 75 to 90 minutes. In a group setting, you will work through interpersonal and relationship issues.[6]
    • Interpersonal group therapy may be used alongside individual therapy as a way for you to practice what you learn in therapy. You may also use it after your individual therapy ends.
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    Use interpersonal therapy for depression and related conditions. Interpersonal therapy is most often used for depression. Many times, depression stems from unresolved conflicts, role changes, or grief. Therapists also use interpersonal therapy for other mental conditions related to depression as well. You can use interpersonal therapy to help with:[7][8]
    • Anxiety
    • Bipolar
    • Postpartum depression
    • Borderline personality disorder
    • Post-traumatic stress
    • Social phobia
    • Substance abuse
    • Dysthymia
    • Eating disorders

Part 2
Undergoing Interpersonal Therapy

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    Focus on problem areas. Interpersonal therapy helps you by identifying issues in basic problem areas. You may only have issues in one of these areas, or you may identify problems in all four. The problem areas are role disputes, role transitions, unresolved grief, and interpersonal deficits.[9]
    • Using these areas, you may focus on disputes between you and your family, grief due to death or loss of a friend, or your inability to adequately communicate with others or resolve conflicts.
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    Express emotions in healthy ways. One benefit of interpersonal communication is that you will learn how to express emotion in healthy ways. When you go into therapy, you may repress all your emotions or overindulge in emotional behavior. Through IPT, you will learn a way to cope with your emotions and express them in a more balanced way.[10]
    • For example, if you have recently experienced the death of a loved one, you may have bottled up all of your emotions. You ignore them or push them inside until you are unable to function because everything is bottling up. During interpersonal therapy, you will work on letting go of those emotions, feeling those emotions, crying, grieving, and anything else.
    • You will learn how to deal with emotions you feel.
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    Learn problem-solving skills. Some issues that lead to depression or other mental illnesses are unresolved conflicts or problems that will not go away. You may ignore problems, or you may yell and throw accusations during a conflict. IPT can help you learn how to approach a problem and solve in it a calm, healthy way.[11]
    • During IPT, you may discuss possible solutions for a problem. You may work through the possible outcomes of the solutions so you can make an informed decision.
    • For example, if you and your friend have had a major argument, you both may have yelled, expressed blame, and said hurtful words to one another. In IPT, you will learn how to approach your friend and speak calmly. You may say, “I am angry at you for these reasons. Let’s find a resolution instead of yelling at each other.”
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    Work on communication skills. One major facet of interpersonal therapy is working on your communication skills. You may feel depressed because you are alone, you feel no one understands you, or you are never able to adequately speak your mind. IPT can help you figure out how to express yourself and find your voice.[12]
    • IPT can help you identify if you are a passive personality and how to start standing up for yourself.[13]
    • For example, you may feel alone because you have relocated to a new city away from your friends and family. IPT can help you learn how to meet people and communicate with them. You will also learn how to communicate your needs to your family and friends. For example, you may say, “I feel isolated in this new place. I would like to stay in touch via text, phone, and Skype so we can maintain our relationship.”
    • Communication skills can also help you if you have social anxiety. You can learn how to confidently approach new people and talk with them.
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    Accept uncomfortable feelings. During interpersonal therapy, you may be encouraged to identify feelings and biases surrounding your interpersonal issues. After you are able to describe them, you will work on facing and accepting the feelings in a safe space.[14]
    • For example, you may feel anger, jealousy, bitterness, or sadness. These feelings may be something you don’t want to feel, so you ignore them or let them build up. During IPT, you will work on acknowledging that these feelings exist. You may be asked to tell yourself, “I feel anger and bitterness towards this person. These are just feelings.” This helps you accept these feelings instead of letting them become destructive.
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    Participate in role-play. Role-play is a common activity used in interpersonal therapy. Role-play allows you to practice saying things in a safe environment that you are unable to in your everyday life. You may also be able to vocalize ideas or sentiments that you were never able to before.[15]
    • For example, if you are struggling with grief, you may role-play and tell the person you lost words you never got to say to them. If you are dealing with unresolved conflict, you can role-play and say things you haven’t been able to say in person to them yet.
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    Provide an overview of your week. Another thing you will do in interpersonal therapy is to go over your week with your therapist. You will talk about any challenges you had and how you dealt or tried to deal with those challenges. Then, you will suggest ways you may be able to deal with those things in the future.[16]
    • This exercise benefits you by helping you see how you have improved over the weeks. You will see the changing pattern of how you deal with challenges each week and see how you learn to more successfully deal with challenges you face.

Part 3
Understanding Interpersonal Therapy

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    Identify what interpersonal therapy is. Interpersonal therapy, or interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), is a type of psychotherapy used to treat mental illness. It is used to analyze the relationship between the person’s mental condition and events related to personal relationships.[17] It also works on developing and understanding social roles.[18]
    • For example, interpersonal therapy may be used if someone in your life has recently died, if you had a breakup or major fight with someone, or if you have recently moved away from people.
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    Know that the theory focuses on attachment and communication. Two of the theories that interpersonal theory uses are attachment theory and communication theory. These two theories explore a person’s relationships based on the types of attachments they form and the kind of communication they use.[19]
    • People form attachments differently. Some form stronger attachments that may make it more difficult to recover if the other person dies or moves away.
    • Communication skills can affect a person’s depression and mental state. Some people have difficulty communicating, while others may be isolated with no one to talk to and help them during tough times.
    • Interpersonal therapy works on developing communication and social skills so you can improve your current relationships.[20]
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    Learn the connection between interpersonal therapy and medication. Interpersonal therapy has been used since the 1970s and has been proven to be effective in treating depression and other related mental illnesses. Interpersonal therapy can be used alone to help with depression symptoms.[21][22]
    • Interpersonal therapy works best when combined with medication to treat depression.
    • Interpersonal therapy may not be effective for everyone.
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    Recognize the role of the therapist. During interpersonal therapy, the therapist acts in a supportive role. The therapist is your ally, helping you face problems and seek solutions. You are encourage to take an active role in your treatment by coming up with solutions, identifying problems, and facing challenges outside of the sessions. Your therapist will act as a cheerleader when you succeed in facing challenges.[23]
    • The limited duration of the treatment forces you to take the treatment seriously and work on making changes. Only seeing your therapist once a week makes you more actively responsible for your recovery by working on it in your everyday life and reporting back to your therapist.
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    Identify the positive outcomes of interpersonal therapy. There are many benefits of undergoing interpersonal therapy. You will learn how to have healthier and more fulfilling relationships. This is achieved through learning how to more effectively communicate and how to solve problems efficiently. You also improve your connections by learning how to express emotions.[24]
    • You learn how to cope with challenges and negative life changes in a healthier way.
    • You develop more self-awareness of problematic patterns of behavior.
    • Your depression or other mental health symptoms decrease and your mood becomes more stable.

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Categories: Emotional Health