IPT is considered an evidence-based therapy for depression, shown through decades of well-controlled trials to be effective for adolescents, adults, and older adults, as well as women experiencing depression in the perinatal period (e.g., antenatal (while pregnant) or postpartum) (more information about IPT for perinatal depression is below). Evidence is also emerging for the effectiveness of IPT in treating PTSD.
IPT is based on the idea that depression arises from a multitude of causes, with the onset of symptoms typically associated with an interpersonal trigger. The overall goals of treatment are to improve your interpersonal functioning, increase social support and decrease isolation, and reduce symptom severity. Treatment involves identifying goals, understanding interpersonal contributors to depression in the areas of grief, conflict, transition, and interpersonal skills/social isolation, and learning skills both to cope with problems in identified interpersonal areas and relieve symptoms. IPT typically consists of 12-16 weekly 50-minute sessions. Partners or loved ones may be integrated into treatment for support as needed.
IPT for perinatal depression
IPT is an evidence-based treatment for perinatal depression (e.g., depression during pregnancy and/or the postpartum period), and is thought to be one of the most effective therapy models for treating these difficulties. In addition, research suggests that women experiencing moderate or more severe levels of depression in the perinatal period benefit markedly more from IPT relative to other forms of treatment (e.g., educational programs that focus on increasing social support and parenting). Women with milder forms of depression, on the other hand, may find such programs to be effective. Given the diverse needs of women experiencing depression in the perinatal period, careful assessment must be conducted to determine which interventions and providers are the best fit. Although this research has almost exclusively been conducted with women, men can also experience depression in the perinatal period and benefit from treatment.
In IPT, you and your therapist work together to identify the roots of your distress and depression in four key areas: is based on the premise that postpartum distress is rooted in four “problem areas”: grief (e.g., grief associated with specific losses, like miscarriages, stillbirths, or other deaths), role transitions (e.g., changes to sense of self and relationships, life stage transitions, loss of independence), interpersonal conflict (e.g., conflicts related to unmet expectations, intimacy struggles within partnerships, or loss of a child); interpersonal skills/social isolation (e.g., relationship disruptions that may be causing distress). Partners or loved ones may be integrated into treatment for support as needed.
Although IPT is highly effective for the perinatal period, it is not a good fit for everyone. Fortunately, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be just as effective. Elements of Dialectical Behavior Therapy or Mindfulness-Based Therapy may also be useful, as well as Cognitive Processing Therapy, Prolonged Exposure Therapy, or Skills Training in Affective and Interpersonal Regulation, or Conjoint Behavioral Couples Therapy for PTSD, if you have experienced a trauma or loss.
If you are a parent struggling with antenatal or postpartum depression, or traumatic experiences during the perinatal period, and aren’t sure which of these treatments might be the best fit for you, please feel free to contact us to talk more. We’re happy to help and want to ensure you’re getting the treatment that most suits your needs.