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Interpersonal Therapy for Depression

(continued)

What Is the Process for Interpersonal Therapy? continued...

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.

Another important aspect of the IPT process is an emphasis on terminating therapy. From the beginning the patient is aware that therapy is defined by a limited amount of time. In the final four or so weeks of therapy, the sessions will turn to termination issues.

With IPT, termination of therapy is seen as a loss to be experienced by the patient. So you would be asked to consider what the loss means to you. What issues does it bring up, and how can you apply the interpersonal adjustments that you've learned to make over the course of therapy to evaluating and getting through the loss? The idea is for the patient to become more aware of his or her ability to deal with interpersonal problems that have kept him or her from being able to actively manage the symptoms of depression.

Can IPT Work in a Group Setting?

There are several advantages to interpersonal therapy being applied to group therapy. First, the members of the group have an opportunity to learn through observing what other members in the group are learning. Learning also takes place through a process of modeling the adjustments and behavior of others in the group. There is also more opportunity to see various types of interpersonal interactions and associations. These can help the individual better understand various approaches to making interpersonal adjustments.

Before you would join a group, you would have one or two individual sessions in order to learn about the group process. You would also use those sessions to identify the one or two interpersonal issues that you will want to focus on during therapy.

Initially, the group would go through a process of engagement. This would involve identifying the common goals and common focus of the group. The therapist would then facilitate the group's establishment of a collaborative approach. That would be followed by members of the group differentiating themselves and figuring out how to work on their individual issues. During this second phase, conflicts are likely to arise and partnerships or alliances formed.

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