What is the process of interpersonal therapy for depression?
Interpersonal therapy typically takes place in one-hour sessions, usually weekly, that continue for 12 to 16 weeks. Depending on the severity of the depression, sessions might be continued for an additional four or more weeks.
If you were being treated for depression with interpersonal therapy, the first few sessions, usually from one to three weeks, would be used for assessing your depression, orienting you to the IPT focus and process, and identifying specific interpersonal issues or problems you have.
Together, you and the therapist would create a record of your interpersonal issues, rank them, and decide which one or two issues seemed most important to address in terms of your depression.
At least the next eight sessions would be focused on addressing those issues -- understanding them more, looking for adjustments that you can make, and then applying those adjustments. Throughout this portion of the therapy, the therapist would use a number of different techniques, including among others:
- Clarification, which has the purpose of helping you recognize and get beyond your own biases in understanding and describing your interpersonal issues.
- Supportive listening.
- Role playing.
- Communication analysis.
- Encouragement of affect, which is a process that will let you experience unpleasant or unwanted feelings and emotions surrounding your interpersonal issues in a safe therapeutic environment. When you do, it becomes easier to accept those feelings and emotions as part of your experience.
The entire focus of the sessions will be on addressing the identified issues. This is hard for some individuals to get used to -- especially those who are familiar with more traditional, open-ended and introspective approaches to therapy. It may take you several weeks before your own primary focus shifts to the IPT approach.