Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is an evidence-based therapy most predominantly used in treating Depression, but also incorporated in treatment for Eating Disorders and other Mood Disorders, such as Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder.  Teen Interpersonal Therapy specifically focuses on the interpersonal issues in the teens’ lives that are factors in creating and/or aggravating the teens’ current distress and symptoms.  By therapists working with teens to alleviate stress caused within these relationships, they can help teens to gain relief from their overall symptoms.  As such, the general focus within Teen IPT is symptom resolution, increased and improved social support, and improved social functioning, so that teens can experience significantly less stress in their relationships, which will thereby reduce and/or diminish their feelings of Anxiety or Depression.

Some examples of “role transitions” include events such as moving to a new town or new school, losing or becoming distant from a friend, or any other event that demands significant adaption from the teens.

Teen Interpersonal Therapy helps teens to evaluate and address the different problematic aspects of their relationships that may likely be contributing to, and/or causing their negative symptoms.  During the short-term intensive treatment, therapists work with teens both individually and group settings, to identify one or two significant problems in their interactions.  Therapists help teens to recognize what struggles they’re having in relationships that extend across multiple areas of their lives such as family, school, and peer relationships.  These struggles then become the overall focus of treatment.

Teen Interpersonal Therapy is broken up into three different stages: the initial phase, the middle phase, and the termination phase.  The initial phase is focused on diagnosing the form of Depression, educating the teens about the illness, and answering questions about their experiences thereof.  Through this diagnostic process, therapists lay the groundwork for treatment, and work with teens to identify the problem areas within relationships, which will be the focus of the remainder of treatment.

The middle phase of Adolescent ITP is characterized by therapists helping teens make connections as to how their relationships affect their mood.  More specifically, therapists help teens address how problematic areas of relationships may trigger the negative symptoms that the teens are feeling.  Then, therapists teach the teens skills and resources to help them better communicate, in order to more successfully navigate these challenging areas.  There are a number of different techniques and ways in which therapists might help the teens to work through, discover, and/or practice the new techniques, depending on the individual teen.  By the teens becoming aware of how different relationships negatively trigger them, and also become equipped to successfully deal with and/or resist these triggers, they become empowered to overcome these challenges, and therefore, gain relief from symptoms.

The last phase of ITP, the termination phase, is essentially a recap of the therapeutic process, in order to help teens transition out of therapy, while continuing to maintain their reduced symptoms of Anxiety and/or Depression.  Therapists help the teens to identify what strategies in dealing with relationships were successful during the middle phase, how to prevent oncoming instances and/or triggers of Depression in the future, and also to discuss what other support systems the teens need, possibly including other types of treatment.  It’s expected that by this point in treatment, the teens will be feeling significantly better, and as such, therapists discuss with teens ways in which they’ll successfully maintain and build upon the progress they’ve made during treatment.

Within the scope of the three different phases of treatment, there are also four major stressful areas of relationships that the therapy focuses on which consistently tend to be the greatest causes of stress which people can experience.  The four areas in relationships include: role transitions, role disputes, grief, and interpersonal deficits.

Some examples of “role transitions” include events such as moving to a new town or new school, losing or becoming distant from a friend, or any other event that demands significant adaption from the teens. Because such grandiose transitions are so disruptive, especially to adolescents, these changes can bring about many different forms of stress, which can often bring about feelings of Anxiety and Depression.  Similar to role transitions are role disputes, which might arise from circumstances such as a divorce, diagnosis of disease, or a marriage, in which different familial roles might be assumed and/or lost in adolescents’ lives.  Such transitions can contribute to teens having a confused sense of purpose and/or identity, which can sometimes trigger feelings of Depression.

The third area that Teen ITP addresses is grief for teens who have recently experienced the death of someone near to them, and have continued to feel significant negative feelings of loss and depression, beyond the “normal” time frame of grieving.  In these cases, therapists help the teens to work through their feelings and thoughts surrounding their relationship with the person they lost.

The final context within Adolescent ITP is interpersonal deficit, which is applicable for teens who, for one reason or another, have had difficulty forming lasting relationships in their lives.  In this arena, rather than the presence of relationships (and the struggles thereof) forming the basis for therapeutic attention and work, it is instead the absence of relationships that are causing stress in the teens’ lives.


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