Interpersonal Therapy: A New Way Of Seeing And Treating Depression

Interpersonal therapy: a new way of seeing and treating depression

Depression is the term for the greatest inner, incapacitating and personal sadness. The very one that many do not consider to be associated with the social context in which we operate. We are nonetheless social beings. Context is therefore as important a part of us as the skin can be. Following this line, today there are different types of interventions / therapies that attach great importance to the relationship with our environment. One of them is interpersonal therapy for depression.

In this article, we will explain what interpersonal therapy for depression is and  its history. We will see what makes it so different from other psychological interventions aimed at ending this problem. In addition, we will discuss its effectiveness, both in adults, children and adolescents.

Characteristics of interpersonal therapy

Interpersonal therapy was originally developed by Gerald L. Klerman and his team as therapy to prevent depression. But after analyzing its benefits, it was concluded that it is also a therapy that makes us strong or more resistant to other disorders.

The power of interpersonal therapy lies in the fact that it  takes into account the current and most important connections and relationships to the person. The immediate social context to which it relates, too.

Interpersonal therapy conceptualizes depression as a set of three components. These are symptomatology, social functioning and personality. Its purpose is to influence the first two components. The therapeutic model emphasizes four interpersonal issues:

  • Interpersonal conflicts:  whether family, social, professional or in any other situation. These conflicts are inevitable since they are based on the opposition of two or more points of view. They will only be included in therapy if they cause great discomfort and interpersonal therapy is the best way to approach them.
  • role transitions:  interpersonal conflicts or role conflicts are generated from a conflict: the affected person and one or more other important people have different expectations as to their function. In other words, there are  unrequited expectations of how the person should behave as a father, mother, or boss.
  • Bereavement:  when the discomfort resulting from a loss is too intense or lasts too long, we can speak of pathological mourning. IPT or interpersonal therapy helps us analyze loss realistically, manage our emotions, and fill that void in healthy and positive ways.
  • Interpersonal deficits:  This problem arises when the person does not have an adequate or sufficient social support network. This multiplies the feelings of loneliness and isolation. Interpersonal therapy will help us find our social space here, notably improving our social skills.

These variables are very important when it comes to depression. Indeed, we are pushed into a “vital crisis” when one of them kicks in. These crises give rise to many psychological problems, depression being the most common. But this is not the only area where this intervention can help us. Interpersonal therapy, for example, has also been shown to be effective  in the treatment of eating disorders.

 interpersonal therapy

Interpersonal therapy in children and adolescents

Interpersonal therapy is considered effective for the treatment of depression not only in adults, but also in adolescents. We emphasize this fact because it shows the importance of having skills to manage the social relationships and the emotions that can appear from the relationships that we have with others, those that we have maintained or those that we generate.

It should also be recognized that learning to manage loss from an early age is a huge vital benefit. Indeed, we will unfortunately all have to deal with losses, regardless of whether we are prepared for it or not.

Let us not forget that we live in a constantly changing social environment. Adapting to it, knowing how to deal with social problems and understanding that our own emotions are influenced by social and contextual causes will improve our coping strategies. Depression doesn’t have to be the result of a personal or internal problem. It can also be the result of a contextual and / or relational problem.

Bibliographical references:

Comeche, Mª Isabel; Vallejo, Miguel Ángel (2016):  Lessons in behavior therapy. Madrid: Dykinson.

Vallejo, Miguel Ángel; Comeche, Mª Isabel (2016):  Manual of behavioral therapy in childhood. Madrid: Dykinson.

Vallejo, Miguel Ángel (2016):  Manual of Behavioral Therapy (Volume I) . Madrid: Dykinson.


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