Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) focuses on troubles arising out of interpersonal interaction i.e. interactions with other people in one’s own existence. These people can include a parent, sibling, boss, employee, friend, spouse or partner. When the issue at hand is placed on the table and analyzed in terms of interpersonal relationships and their impact on the person’s thought, behavior and feelings, it amounts to interpersonal therapy. Sometimes one may feel socially inept, depressed or paranoid and this influences their interpersonal associations. Here IPT enables the therapist to see the client in the entire social context and use these connections to make the person sense more competence than he or she currently feels.
All forms of psychotherapy are defined by their structured outline and methodical processes. When adopting a time limited technique, therapeutic goals can be easily established. When clients present and select this option, mutual alliance is established with the therapist. The aim is to promote the client’s independence, not dependence on the therapist. Following the fundamental principle of the therapist and client in a treatment alliance; the therapist thus becomes responsive to the needs of the client, helps him or her feel understood, arouses expression of emotion, formulates the therapeutic goals and processes, and targets the best outcomes which include a transformation of the client’s worldview for the better.
Detection to intervention
We usually like to offer a 13-15 week treatment option in IPT. The commencement phase involves one or two initial sessions of problem recognition with a structured assessment of its interpersonal context. Part of the ‘detection’ thus utilizes diagnostic tools that help assess interpersonal functioning; these do offer an estimate of what the client is truly experiencing. Objective and projective tests help identifying the framework in which the problem could be occurring. The second phase involves psycho-education with instillation of insight and self-awareness of the times people throw obstacles in their own path of interpersonal prowess. When clients feel secure of their interpersonal abilities and accept resolution of conflict, these strategies are ‘practiced’ in real life and are implemented as habit. Subsequent monthly follow up sessions are encouraged on order to ascertain that clients’ thinking, reasoning, judgment and efficacy in their relatedness are maintained on track.
Back to basics
There are core problem areas involving interpersonal relationships: loss of a significant other or “complicated bereavement” (could be loss of a friend, relative, partner; and not essentially by death), struggle with an important person or “role dispute” (unable to balance roles with parents, siblings, spouse, boss etc.), significant life change or “role transition” (marriage, divorce, loss of job or promotion too), or in their absence the default emphasis is placed on “interpersonal deficits” (it disallows connectedness with the external world).
MINDFRAMES: Reframing relationships
We believe that the therapist client duo plays an instrumental role in determining success in interpersonal psychotherapy. The therapist by rule is the ally; empathic and non judgmental. A relaxed and supportive stance facilitates an environment of healthy interaction. Structured and emotive homework of solving the focal interpersonal problem motivates the client to take targeted action. Previous interpersonal relatedness levels are reviewed before progress is made to the next step. Behavior principles and behavior shaping are applied for reinforcing healthy interpersonal skills. Supportive psychotherapy, problem focus, brainstorming, role-plays and role reversals; all emphasize and build upon tenets of social interaction. It is not surprising that clients who engage in interpersonal therapy learn new interpersonal skills, which are then successfully implemented in their relational exchanges on a day to day basis. Relationships are the hey to survival. Man being social (as well as occasionally asocial) needs human interaction. Interpersonal connectedness is of utmost importance.