When we are feeling depressed it is common to withdraw from those that we are close to, to shut ourselves away, turn down social invitations and generally pull away from friends and family. By doing this we are refusing the help and support of others, possibly because we feel bad about ourselves or that we have failed in some way, or that we will burden others. Friends and family may feel hurt and rejected by our withdrawal, they may not understand and feel that they are being shut out consequently may start to pull away from us. We may then interpret this behaviour as confirmation of our view of ourselves as ‘a burden’ or ‘a failure’ consequently perpetuating, and even increasing, our symptoms of depression. Thus a vicious cycle is inadvertently created.
This example illustrates the fundamental concept of IPT – that depression can be understood as a response to current difficulties in relationships and in turn depression can affect our relationships. If a focus on your current relationships makes sense to you then IPT could be the therapy approach for you.
IPT is time limited, usually between 12 and 16 sessions, its structured and is recommended in the NICE Guidelines (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). NICE is like the NHS Bible and recommended treatments are well researched and evidence based.
The main focus of treatment is on relationship difficulties and on helping you to identify how you are feeling and behaving in your relationships. IPT typically focuses on the following relationship problems:
- Conflict within relationships – this can often be difficulties within a significant relationship where the relationship has become ‘stuck’ in arguments or disagreements and has become a cause of stress and is having a significant impact on mood.
- Change in circumstances such as redundancy, breakup of relationship or other life event that has affected how you feel about yourself. This can include happy changes such as becoming a parent or moving. However significant change can be difficult to adjust to and have an impact on how we feel about ourselves and others.
- Bereavement – it is natural to grieve for the loss of a loved one however sometimes we don’t seem to be healing from the loss. We can continue to struggle to adjust to life without that loved person.
- Isolation – Difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships – this can be due to not feeling close to others or not having many people around. Not having company or support of others can be stressful and leave us feeling very alone.
During the first few sessions of therapy we will gather information about your difficulty, create a time line of your symptoms and discuss current and past relationships in your life. Once we have gained a good understanding of the problem and the connected relationship difficulties we will collaboratively agree on which of the 4 areas therapy will focus on.
The benefits that IPT can bring include: Improvement in relationships, including relating to others and communication, learning to cope with emotions and life changes, problem solving, processing loss and grief, and overall an improvement in mood and psychological distress.
Rebecca Mead is an accredited, registered and experienced Psychotherapist offering Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) to individuals adults. Rebecca is available at our Brighton and Hove Practice.