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Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

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IPT is a treatment for depression that focuses on relationship issues that may be the cause or the result of depression. Many studies have been done that support the usefulness of IPT for depression. Also, studies have shown IPT to be useful in the treatment of other issues such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and borderline personality disorder.

IPT is typically delivered during 16 weekly sessions over three phases of treatment (Initial Sessions, Intermediate Sessions, and Termination). During the Initial Sessions, the therapist will provide you with education about depression, how your life situations may be contributing to depression, and how depression may affect your daily life. The Intermediate Sessions focus on one or two problem areas that are most concerning to you and may be contributing to your depression. These areas include dealing with major life changes, conflict with others, grief related to the death of a significant person, or problems making or keeping social connections. During Termination, the therapist will work with you to review progress, explore possible stressors that may contribute to depression, discuss how skills learned in IPT can continue to be used, and evaluate the need for further treatment.

Goals are established early in treatment. One of the most important factors in the success of therapy is a commitment to participating in treatment and regularly attending sessions. In IPT, you would typically meet one-on-one with your therapist for 12-16 sessions. Sessions are generally held on a weekly basis and last approximately 50 minutes. The information you learn during the therapy sessions will be important to you as you apply it to everyday life in order to feel better.

If you decide to participate in IPT, you will be asked to:

  • Attend sessions regularly
  • Work with your therapist to set therapy goals
  • Discuss relationship issues during each session
  • Practice new skills – both in and outside of session

*This treatment may not be available at every VHA point of care. Please check with your VA provider.

Return to VA Mental Health Services Information page on Depression

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