Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

What is Interpersonal Therapy?

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) or Interpersonal psychotherapy is a type of therapy that focuses on improving relationships and interpersonal skills. It recognises that emotional well-being is greatly influenced by the quality of interactions with others. 

According to Stuart and Roberston (2012), interpersonal therapy is built upon two fundamental theoretical principles. The initial principle is attachment theory, which provides a framework for comprehending the challenges individuals face in their relationships. The second principle, interpersonal theory, explains how ineffective communication patterns can contribute to difficulties in current interpersonal interactions. In IPT, the ultimate goal is to aid individuals in enhancing their relationships or modifying their expectations surrounding them.  Moreover, the treatment endeavors to support clients in strengthening their social network, thereby equipping them with effective coping mechanisms to navigate their present interpersonal challenges.

When is Interpersonal Therapy Used?

IPT is used in psychology when individuals are facing challenges in their relationships or when their emotional state is affected by interpersonal issues. It can be beneficial for various concerns such as depression, grief, conflicts in relationships, and major life changes. IPT is typically a short-term therapy that spans around 12-16 sessions.

What to expect in an Interpersonal Therapy session

During an IPT session, you will collaborate closely with your psychologist in a safe and supportive environment.  Together, you will explore your interpersonal struggles and identify specific areas that may be contributing to your emotional difficulties. Your psychologist may assist you to develop strategies and acquire skills to enhance communication, resolve conflicts, and establish healthier relationship patterns.  Generally, there are five distinct phases of IPT; assessment, initial sessions, middle sessions, conclusion, and maintenance sessions (Wurm et al. 2008). Remember, therapy is personalised to your unique needs and experiences. Your psychologist will adapt the approach to ensure it is respectful, empowering, and supportive of your therapeutic journey.


Stuart S and Robertson M (2012) Interpersonal Psychotherapy 2E: A Clinician’s Guide (2nd ed.). CRC Press.

Wurm C, Robertson M and Rushton P (2008) ‘Interpersonal psychotherapy: an overview’, Psychotherapy in Australia. Kew, Vic.: PsychOz Publications, 14(3), pp. 46–54.

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