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Interpersonal Therapy

What is Interpersonal Therapy?

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is a short-term treatment for youth with depression and interpersonal problems. It focuses on relationships, life transitions and how to improve the way your youth communicates and relates to others. IPT helps youth learn to identify emotions and the links between events and feelings. It shows those who are dealing with a loss or major life change like starting high school or losing a good friend how to build new skills and supports. With IPT, youth begin to see how the way they communicate can cause problems. They learn how to think through issues and express themselves more effectively.

IPT is an evidence-based treatment. It can be delivered in either individual or group format (see section on group therapy for more information). IPT can be combined with family therapy for younger teens.

What types of challenges are best suited for IPT?

IPT is used mainly as a treatment for depression. It can also help youth deal with specific issues, including grief, conflict, and with major changes at home, school, work and in their social life.

IPT can be modified for the treatment of:

  • problems with substance use
  • eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa
  • bipolar disorder
  • dysthymia

How long will it take?

IPT usually lasts for 8 to 20 sessions, but this depends on the individual. Older youth normally meet with the therapist alone and parents are included in sessions at the start, middle and end of therapy.  Research shows that follow up sessions (once every 1-2 months) will decrease chances of relapse.

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