Interpersonal therapy (IPT) focuses on the problematic interpersonal experiences of individuals, which are highly regarded factors in the onset and maintenance of depression (Brakemeier & Frase, 2012). The therapy process is highly structured and time oriented to centre upon to improving the client’s wellbeing and social skills. By assisting clients to improve their communication, affect expression and active engagement with their interpersonal network, therapists aim to relieve difficulties and the resulting depressive symptoms (Brakemeier & Frase). The focus remains on current interpersonal relationships and the individual’s present social environment (De Mello et al., 2005). Rather than addressing the enduring aspects of personality, IPT addresses the depressive symptoms as a product of social dysfunction. IPT has been reportedly used in acutely depressed patients experiencing psychosocial problems, communication problems, or partnership conflicts (Brakemeier & Frase).

The efficacy of IPT has been examined and confirmed in over thirty years of research. A recent meta-analysis of 38 randomised trials (Cuijpers et al., 2011) regarded IPT as an effective therapy in the treatment and relapse prevention of acute depression, not only as a standalone treatment but as a combination therapy with pharmacotherapy. The superiority of combination therapy over pharmacotherapy alone was consistent with the findings of earlier meta-analytic research (Cuijpers, Dekker, Hollon, & Andersson,. 2009).

Although IPT was originally designed as a time oriented psychotherapy to treat acute, discrete episodes of depression, its principles have been applied as a maintenance therapy (Cuijpers et al., 2011). However, it has been argued that the therapy may be a less applicable treatment for patients with chronic major depression and dysthymia, which not only possess the ongoing risk of recurrence and relapse but the therapy focus on interpersonal events within the short term may be irrelevant to the patient’s longstanding illness (Cuijpers et al.). In a systematic review of the literature on the efficacy of interpersonal therapy in treatment maintenance, De Mello et al. (2005) reported that combined therapy was similar to the effects of pharmacotherapy alone. Similar outcomes were reported in a recent study of inpatients and outpatients by Brakemeier and Frase (2012), where the efficacy of interpersonal therapy as an acute treatment and a maintenance treatment. The prescription of any therapy should ultimately depend on client preferences and other moderating factors.

Resilience Kit delivers evidence-based group programs for positive mental health. The information in this document is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Brakemeier, E. & Frase, L. (2012). Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) in major depressive disorder. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 262(2), 117- 121.

Cuijpers, P., Dekker, J., Hollon, S. D., & Andersson, G. (2009). Adding psychotherapy to pharmacotherapy in the treatment of depressive disorders in adults: a meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 70, 1219–1229.

Cuijpers, P., Geraedts, A. S., Van Oppen, P., Andersson, G., Markowitz, J. C., & Van Straten, A. (2011). Interpersonal psychotherapy for depression: A meta-analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 168, 581-592.

De Mello, M. F., De Jesus, M. J., Bacaltchuk, J., Verdeli, H., Neugebauer, R. (2005). A systematic review of research findings on the efficacy of interpersonal therapy for depressive disorders. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 255, 75-82.